There’s a season for everything in motherhood.
A season for joy in every giggle.
A season for potty training tears.
A season for hiding in the pantry with a Snickers Bar.
A season for cheering loudly in the stands.
A season for saying goodbye to training wheels.
And a season where mama is falling to bits under the weight of stress and needs to seek rest.
If you’re like me, most days you’re simultaneously pretty confident that you are the best mom ever and that you should be squirreling away money for the counseling your child will surely need in the future.
But when the balance starts to precariously tip in the direction of you’re sure you’re winning “the worst mom of the year….” I’m pretty sure it’s time to seek rest.
The last couple of weeks I’ve been ignoring my body and mind’s mental cues for rest. But after spending three days away from most of my mommy responsibilities at rehearsals (rest in an unlikely season of busy), I realized just how important seeking rest is for mamas.
If mama’s cup is empty (and I’m not just talking coffee), then it’s impossible for her to fill the cups of her children and spouse.
So if you’re struggling to seek rest in your mama days, here are some of the things that help me avoid mama burnout.
3 Ways to Avoid Mama Burnout
- Take Time During the Day for What Recharges You.
I almost wrote “Take time for you to be alone each day.” And then I realized not every mama is an introvert like me!
Maybe you need to take the time to let the kids make a mess out of the living room while you call your mom or sister or best friend and share a bit about your day. Maybe you need to lock yourself in the bathroom like I do and just read a little bit of your book or doodle in your journal. This happens best for me during either nap/rest time or scheduled “go outside and play!” time for the kids.
- Do Something Monthly Just for You.
A hobby like painting. A jewelry making class. A rock climbing workshop. A moms night out to coffee once a month. Volunteering with your favorite organization.
A weekly walking date with a friend where you circle the playground at Runway Park (gated for the little ones) or to Cleveland Park (not gated but you can use the Swamp Rabbit trail to get there and then play afterward). Read a book that you’ve been eyeing. Join a MOPS group. Or do something crazy like I did and audition for a musical (or something equally as daring that you’ve always secretly wanted to do)!
I hear so many women say things like, “I lost myself when I had kids.” And I really want to encourage you to find yourself again. Do something just for you!
- Let Others Care for your Kiddos.
This can be your husband (yes, I’m looking at you mama who doesn’t think your husband can handle your brood alone. Let him! He’ll manage), your mom, your mother in law, your best friend, a mother’s helper, or even a babysitter. I know it’s tough to let our babies be cared for by someone else. And I know how hard it is to ask for help when we need a day off. I promise it’s good for both you and your helper.
I used to know the kind of mom I wanted to be.
- I used to want to be the kind of mom who always had homemade cookies for after school snack.
- The kind of mom who never yelled at her kids.
- The kind of mom whose kids never pitched a fit in public.
- The kind of mom whose children were smart, polite, and funny and whose behavior defined the kind of mom I was.
I think by now you can see that these “Kind of Mom I Want to Be” dreams were all before my twin girls rushed into my life in 2009.
I wanted my children’ts behavior and accomplishments to define me and give me meaning. And that’s not fair to them or fair to me. They are much more than walking trophies reflecting my value. They are valuable just because they exist. And I am much more than the sum of who they are becoming. I, too, have inherent value.
Mama, would you link arms with me and vow to be the kind of of mama who is kind?
- The kind of mama who kindly makes cookies when she can and says yes when the time is right.
- The kind of mama who kindly forgives herself for yelling.
- The kind of mama who kindly has patience with her little people growing into the best versions of themselves.
- The kind of mama who kindly reminds herself that her children’s behavior doesn’t define her.
The kind of mama who is kind to other mamas and sees them as real vulnerable people who are not defined by their children’s behavior or accomplishments. The kind of mama who invests in other mamas and reminds her mama friends that they have inherent value.
I’m not sure that I will ever quite be the kind of mama that I dreamed I would be. And that’s okay.
But I am becoming a kinder mama who whispers to that mama whose child is pitching a fit in Target: “Hang in there, mama. You’re doing the right thing for your child. I’m proud of you.”
Join me in being kind encouragers of one another?
Last week was my baby boy’s 5th birthday.
(Yes, Sedryn is my baby boy. I don’t care how old he gets. Don’t argue with me… he’s still a baby… with nasty big boy feet. I digress.)
The day was a busy one for him including preschool and late stay. He didn’t get home to me until 2. We were able to spend a few moments together before one of his sisters got dropped off and before we had to pick up the other. But then it was a normal Wednesday Rush: Coppelia Ballet rehearsal for Bronwyn. Aeralind had an Artios Academies The Illumination of Exonor practice. And I had an Artios Academies parent meeting.
Sedryn fell asleep in the car and then sat next to me drawing in the parent meeting on his birthday.
I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but I started to feel pretty guilty about his “lame” birthday filled with our usual things.
And I wrestled with this guilt until Bronwyn pulled out a poster from her back pack on “Small Moments.”
And I thought, “That’s what I remember about my childhood: small moments.”
You know what Sedryn will remember about his 5th birthday?
He’ll remember how he stuck all kinds of Star Wars tooth picks into a Jelly Roll.
He’ll remember that he had sushi (his favorite) for his lunch at school.
He’ll remember that we all got on the floor and played with K’Nex as a family.
We can choose to focus on our children intentionally for little moments here and there to fill their love tanks.
So, sweet mama, let go of the guilt for all the in between moments and spend intentional time focusing you heart on the little moments that you and your child will treasure.
Cheering you on,
P.S. I may have also almost forgotten to make Sedryn a birthday cake at all. I remembered when I had just 1 hour to spare before the afternoon rush. The following is the recipe I used for this quick jelly roll with things I had in my kitchen.
Cherry Pie Jelly Roll Recipe
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- powdered sugar
- parchment paper
- a clean kitchen towel with not very much nap
- 1 can of cherry pie filling or cherry jelly
- Preheat oven to 375
- Beat eggs on high until foamy and yellow.
- Gradually add sugar
- Turn down mixer and gradually at vanilla and water
- Mix dry ingredients in a bowl (except powdered sugar)
- Gradually add dry ingredients until just incorporated.
- Spread mixture on a parchment paper lined baking sheet
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until set and dry.
- Immediately invert cake onto your kitchen towel and peel off parchment paper. Roll up inside the towel and set it on a drying rack for 30 minutes.
- If using cherry pie filling whir it in the blender or food processor until smooth.
- Unroll jelly roll, spread a thin layer of filling, and re-roll up the jelly roll
- Let birthday child stab fun toothpicks into your jelly roll.
Dear New Mom,
Your baby is sleeping longer at night and you’re finding that you have a little bit more energy. Your brain has space to think of more than just surviving the next moment. You’re a great mom so you start researching some of the decisions upcoming for your baby and forming opinions about where your motherhood journey will take you.
There’s lots of decisions to make and they all seem so significant. The list seems overwhelming.
- Cloth diapers or stay in disposables?
- Traditional vaccine schedule, alternative vaccine schedule, no vaccinations?
- Day care, nanny, babysitter, mom stay at home, dad stay at home?
- Cry it out, Pick up and put down, or respond to every need?
- Introduce solids at 4 months or 6?
- Organic food? Grains first? Meat first? Veggies first?
- Spoon Feeding or Baby Led Weaning?
- Allergens before a year or after?
- Spanking, time out, Love and Logic, permissive?
- Traditional parenting, attachment parenting, hands free parenting, helicopter parenting, authoritative parenting, instinctive parenting?
Some times the choice is easy for you to form an opinion and convictions and stay the course. Other times the conflicting information is overwhelming. Sometimes none of the labels fit at all.
Suddenly the parenting landscape seems like a war zone. Mompetition and self-righteousness in our own choices draw the battle lines.
The carnage of insecurity and pride lay all about the battlefield. Those friendships that you have worked so hard to cultivate begin to shatter under the stress.
The thief of joy is comparison.
Let’s just stop comparing. Look at your mom friend across these imaginary divisions of opinion or research and whisper, “You are a great mom. These choices you’re making are significant and right for your family. They may not be right for mine, but diversity means we will be able to help each other when we struggle.”
New mom, when you say those words and then lean in to understand how what they are doing works for their family, you destroy the weapons of comparison. You build the bridge of joyful compassion.
It’s not easy to be the vulnerable one on the battlefield of mompetition, but, honey, stand strong and soft. Be joyfully compassionate and reach out to encourage diversity.
I’m listening to your diverse story and cheering for you, new mom,
Dear New Mama,
I’ve been writing to you for seven straight weeks now and my blogs to you will start to come at a much slower rate.
You might still feel like a wreck half of the week, but you’re truly adjusting to your new normal. You’ve become an amazing mama and you are the best mama your little one will ever have.
I always find that encouraging so let me say that again: You are already the best mama for your littles. You can only get better.
But I wanted to encourage you to start looking for a tribe of mama-friends with babies of all ages to walk alongside you like I have for the past few weeks.
A tribe of women who can give you sound advice and listening ears, but who will also tell you that it’s okay to “Do what works for you and your baby.”
Look around and invite mama’s in. New ones. Old ones. Mere acquaintances that you admire. Your own mama.
I remember calling an acquaintance on one of those hard days and pouring out my heart and my mess and my ugly and asking her for advice and prayers and just a light at the end of the tunnel. She breathed hope and life into me and became a lifelong friend.
Don’t bottle up your struggles. Share them. Parenting is hard, so let’s talk about it.
I’m here if you need me.
Cheering you on, friend. Let’s talk soon.