Sometimes I like to play hide and seek with my kids.
Except they don’t know we’re playing. Or that I’m hiding.
The truth is, mothering is just plain hard work. And at times, it all gets too much, and we might feel like retreating away from everyone. Normal? Yes. Healthy? I don’t think so. Feeling this way regularly can be a sign of burn out.
What leads to burn out for mums?
In my experience, feelings of burn out often come from:
Too many things on our plate. You said ‘yes’ when you should have said ‘no’. Or an avalanche of important things have all converged on you in the same week or month and you just can’t take a break.
Serious challenges arising. Things like chronic illness, kids being diagnosed with special needs or job loss in the family all put serious pressure (often for a prolonged period of time) on us as mothers and can lead to burn out.
Lack of vision. Your view of motherhood is squarely stuck on the here and now and you’re having trouble picturing a time that won’t be filled with nappies, mess and endless food preparation.
If you’re feeling burnt out because there are literally too many things on your plate or you’ve had one of the serious challenges I mentioned crop up, then simply changing your mindset isn’t going to make those things go away. You still have to wake up each day and get on with life. Medical appointments will need to be attended. Children will want to be fed – multiple times a day (the audacity!).
But the kind of burn out that comes from a lack of vision – being too stuck in the ‘now’ – can be helped by getting a grasp on your ‘why’; why does mothering matter and why are you doing this?
Here are some thoughts to get you started:
Mothering is not instant
Like sowing seeds in the spring and reaping a harvest in the autumn, we don’t get to see the fruits of all our mothering work instantly. Keep this in mind in your day-to-day life – remember that when your kids are young, you are in the season of sowing. Don’t look for fruit, look for fertile ground!Look for the little teaching opportunities in each day. Look for the times you can sow words of kindness. Look for the moments that will grow into memories. Look for the wounds you can bind up with joy and laughter.
Mothering reaches across the whole of life
For better or for worse, the effects of our mothering now will be felt by our children across the whole of their lives. Our words will come to our kids’ minds even when they are adults. The atmosphere of our home and family life will be felt, remembered and (most likely) reflected on when they decide what kind of family life they want to have. What we did or didn’t allow will be ingrained in their minds (and possibly laughed about).
As you go about the daily work of child-rearing, think – is this what I want them to remember? What do you want to let go of? What do you want to bring in?
Mothering is not a checklist
Living in the information age can make mothering overwhelming.
You think you’re doing a good job? Just hop online and you can read a handy list of 50 things mums should be doing (but aren’t).
But taking the long view of motherhood can be so liberating because it helps you decide what matters and what doesn’t. What matters to other families might not matter to yours. What seems gravely important now, might be forgotten by next year.
At the end of these child-rearing years (and they will end!), we will not be going over some checklist from the internet, fretting over all the things we did wrong. We’ll be looking at our fully grown adult children, seeing the fruit of all those seeds we planted years ago.