7 Ways to Fill Our Mama Cups

by Sonya Feher on May 28, 2009

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Movies with your partner–no conversations about the household, nothing stressful. Just popcorn, a coke, and all the action of the new Star Trek.
  4. Saturday Morning Mama Sleep In– Daddy and child(ren) get the chance to reconnect and Mama gets to recharge.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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Sonya Feher (29 Posts)

Sonya Fehér is mama to Cavanaugh True. She is the leader of the S. Austin chapter of API and is a professional organizer with spaceWise Organizing where she helps individuals and families create space for how they want to live.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber May 29, 2009 at 11:20 am

When I am at my wit’s end we turn on music in the living room and we all dance. Including me. We all feel better. I wouldn’t call it a break, but it changes my attitude.

And I do a lot of knitting. It’s something tangible that I can look at and see progress on. Even when my house is falling apart and each day seems the same. I have made a hat, I have done something!

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annie May 29, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Thank you for your follow-up post. I could have written the first part for sure. I have a lot of trouble expressing my feelings, especially negative ones, and tend to keep them bottled up in hopes that they will go away.

With regards to what I do to refill my cup, I play team sports. I play basketball in the winter and ultimate frisbee in the summer. It gives me a chance weekly to connect with friends without the kids being around, to get some exercise, and to go for a beer afterwards. It provides for a lot of physical and mental needs and since the team is counting on me, I can’t just say “oh, I’m too tired” and not go.

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Johanna June 2, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Feels good to know other moms feel this way from time to time. I’ve been feeling guilty about how tired & overwhelmed I can feel from day-to-day. I don’t want to miss the smiles, the cuddles or the big beautiful eyes that look up at me with such love while being distracted by just feeling burnt out.
I love your suggestions! It reminds me of a sign my mother had hanging up in our kitchen, while I was growing up. It said “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy”
Taking time out to refill my cup isn’t selfish, its a must to keep myself & my whole family happy.
Thanks!

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Rebecca June 7, 2009 at 8:32 pm

I have three kids (ages 9,6, and 3) and it is worrying me how burned out I am right now. I have become so impatient. We have always shared a family bed and now I am beginning to insist that my kids go to bed in their own beds (which is against what I want in my heart). I just feel “over touched” and I do not want to feel this way. My dh does not take the kids of his own accord unless I tell him to. We are in financial crisis (having to sell our house to get out) now and I am also very concerned about our relationship. I could use some encouraging words. I know I will regret all the cuddles and smiles we are all missing right now because of how I feel):

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sonya June 15, 2009 at 11:37 am

I totally understand feeling all touched out and I’m sorry that you”re having to struggle with burn out right now. Rather than looking at moving the kids out of the family bed as a permanent change, maybe you could just give yourself permission to take the break you need so that you’ll be able to receive and provide more nurturing touch once you’re feeling better. We have also struggled with finances and strain in our marriage since our son was born. It’s hard to have your child(ren) climbing all over you or even just sleeping next to you when you’re near tears or feel angry or scared. We are mamas, but we are also human. Our modeling how to deal with obstacles and struggle is an important gift we can provide for our families. Your ability to meet your needs can show your kids how to meet their own, to take space when they need it, acknowledge their own feelings, and not feel like they’re supposed to just put on a happy face and struggle on through. You said your husband doesn’t take the kids unless you tell him to, but would it be possible for you to arrange at least one time out a week that’s just for you? You could go for a walk, read a book, have a cup of coffee, see friends, or something else that would allow you to refill your own cup. If the family car is out of gas, we don’t expect it to run errands or take our kids where they need to go. We fill it up. It’s just as important to do so for ourselves. Good luck.

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