My last API Speaks blog post, Running on Empty, about feeling mama burn out was hard to write. I felt ashamed. I felt like a failure. I felt worried that motherhood was going to turn out like so many other jobs I’ve had: fun and interesting at first, then drudgery. It took me two days to write the post because I kept editing my feelings. If I just cut the words, maybe I could delete the feelings too. I wrote while my toddler son napped in the next room. I kept walking in to look at him, so peaceful while he was sleeping. I kept willing him to sleep longer, give me more time. On the second day, right after I’d clicked the button to submit my post, he woke up sad. He clung to me and cried. Maybe he’d had a bad dream. Maybe he’d picked up on all of my conflicted feelings while he slept. I was sure that if he were old enough to read what I’d written, he would feel betrayed. Maybe all of that was true, or maybe I was just finding one more way to not give myself a break.
I needed a vacation from my mama job, which wasn’t realistic. Getting a vacation from my state of mind, however, was absolutely possible. Just admitting to myself (and those who read the blog post) how burned out I was feeling helped. It helped me to understand what was contributing to my exhaustion. It helped me acknowledge my feelings and give myself some space to actually feel them. The comments on the post offered me some great suggestions to renew balance. I tried those and some more. And I’m really starting to feel good again, having fun with my son, being more creative about how to spend our time so our life together doesn’t feel like the movie Groundhog Day. Maybe some of what has worked with me will work for you.
- For mamas of those still young enough to nap, try No Nap Days — On days when your child is fighting nap, stop fighting for daytime sleep and get the catch up at night. Get up and play, then put them to bed early. The additional hours after they go to bed at night offer you a much longer block of time to yourself or with your partner.
- Mama Happy Hour — Dinner and drinks, crafting together, a walk, book club, personal renewal group using The Mother’s Guide to Self Renewal, or a group movie date.
- Movies with your partner–no conversations about the household, nothing stressful. Just popcorn, a coke, and all the action of the new Star Trek.
- Saturday Morning Mama Sleep In– Daddy and child(ren) get the chance to reconnect and Mama gets to recharge.
- Spending your breaks differently–try leaving the house instead of staying home, taking a cool bath in the middle of a hot summer day, or sitting quietly for fifteen minutes while you visualize being in the most relaxing and beautiful spot on Earth.
- Potluck with other AP families: a great dinner you don’t have to fix all by yourself and a chance to hang out with the whole family so one parent can chat while the other played with the kids, then swap.
- Read Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood. It’s beautifully written with easy to read short chapters. Even though she’s not AP, she offers a way to be a mama and allow yourself to be human.
I’d love to hear even more suggestions for refilling our mama cups and recovering from mama burn out.
Sonya Fehér is a writer and mama in Austin, TX. She blogs at http://mamatrue.com.