Burn out

I am invincible! Did you know that?

I am that one mum who actually can make homemade baked goods each day, say ‘yes’ to every play date and birthday party invitation, keep my house clean, volunteer at school, be involved in my kids sports and in the community all while working part time. I can also get to the gym three times a week, commit to a mum’s netball team, show up at church looking put together with a tribe of children in tow, and maintain a vibrant relationship with my kids, friends, family and, of course, my husband.

Invincible I tell you!

Except, underneath the facade of having it all together, I was slowly beating myself into exhaustion. I spent the last few months of 2018 walking a tightrope, never fully present, waiting for the wheels to fall off.

By the end of the year, I made some drastic decisions to change because as it turns out, I am actually not invincible! I don’t think I ever really believed I was, but as a mum of a big family I knew that there were things that needed to be done and I had to be the one to do them.

However, burning myself out was not going to make me a better mum, wife or leader.

I needed to find some non-negotiables that were going to be priorities in my life and then learn to let go of everything else. Ironically, I had been to a leadership development day during 2018 where the speaker talked about his burn out and how he recovered. As a middle aged man, his three non-negotiables were;
1. Don’t have an affair
2. Don’t quit my job
3. Don’t buy a Ferrari

As a mum with barely enough time and energy to have a relationship with my husband and no money for new shoes, I decided it was important to come up with my own set of non-negotiables. In the midst of feeling desperate, lonely and like a failure, I wanted to focus on what and who was important and how I could regain a true sense of self. My non-negotiables became:
1. To show up daily for my kids
2. To be available in my marriage
3. To keep providing a safe home for kids in need

Showing up daily for my kids didn’t include homemade snacks or saying ‘yes’ to every invitation. Home days (with the TV on a little more!) were OK while we all regained a sense of balance and tried to enjoy each other’s company. It isn’t Mary Poppins perfect, but giving myself permission to not reach for the stars has resulted in authentic relationships between my children and me, rather than moments filled with orders and directions which ultimately leave us all frustrated.

Learning to do things at the right time of day has helped me reach some short term goals and tick off my day-to-day to do list. It may sound trivial but meetings, catching up with friends, creating and networking make me feel ‘alive’ and productive. Structuring them into my mornings and early afternoons rather than folding the washing or watching TV during nap time has helped me regain energy and purpose. Folding the washing (while watching TV) late at night is a no brainer and doesn’t leave me feeling washed out and useless!

I don’t know if I reached burn out last year but I do know that I felt lost, stuck and far from the woman I knew I could be. Feeling that way made everything seem harder, more dramatic, less urgent and I took far too many people’s opinions personally, when really they didn’t matter.

Intentionally prioritising the three most important things in my home, and learning the best times do necessary jobs has helped me regain my true sense of self, and my family and work are better for it. I know that I am not invincible, and friend, neither are you!

Louise Pekan

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