As parents, we want to take care of our kids. We take care of our spouses. We take care of things at work. We play so many roles. We are taxi drivers, cheerleaders, nurses, disciplinarians, teachers, cooks, and maids, just to name a few. We make sure the kids are fed and loved. We check homework. We do the laundry. We wash dishes. We clean the house. All of that is in addition to any paying jobs we might have. Work at home parents and work outside the home parents, “stay-at-home” parents, whatever our role, we are just busy nowadays. Add to that the fact that now, more than any time in the past, we are available 24/7 thanks to our laptops, tablets, and smart phones.
Just writing that makes me feel it. BURN OUT.
There have been times, even when I was a “stay-at-home” mom that I was so busy, I longed for an actual day where I didn’t have to leave the house… and I was only raising one child at that time. We homeschooled. I had a job at a Boys & Girls club three hours a day, five days a week and brought my son with me. He had sports practice (different sports at different times of year) twice a week, games on Saturdays. We had church on Sundays and Wednesday nights. It was a very busy time. My son loved it. He loved the interaction with kids, as we were in a rural neighborhood with only one other kid. But I was burnt out. I was so thankful when summer rolled around and we could just stay at home. Back then, I was a single mom, but still had income from my almost-ex-husband. Things changed quite a bit after the divorce, but that’s another post.
When to you take care of you? If you give and give and never receive from others or from yourself, you end up an empty shell. I know. I have been there. I had learned over our years of separation and getting back together and separating again that I had to take time for myself. When my son would spend the night with friends, I would wander around our home, lost. I didn’t know what to do. It took some time, but eventually I realized a few things:
- I learned that I can be a better Mommy if I took a little time for myself.
- I learned that my son wouldn’t die if I didn’t entertain him or keep him crazy busy.
- I learned that my son is a very creative person, given a chance to be bored.
- I learned that taking my son to the park, meeting friends there, gave him the chance to get out some energy and gave me a chance to talk with the other parents. Sometimes, I didn’t talk, but wandered around taking pictures. I love taking pictures and expressing my creativity in photographic form.
- I learned that my son is a very capable person and can help around the house. I didn’t have to do it all alone, exhausting myself. He just needed training. We often worked together to get things done more quickly.
- I learned that I could swap baby-sitting with a friend, so I had a chance to go out alone (even if it was just to the grocery store or to get my hair cut).
- I learned that other parents liked my kid and liked having him over for sleep-overs with their kids. That gave me time to maybe go out to dinner with a friend. Times when we were both broke, we’d just get an appetizer or dessert, maybe even sharing one, just to get away from the kids. Sometimes, I would stay home and watch a movie not made for little people, whether a romantic comedy or a great action flick with too much violence for little eyes.
- I learned that I am a good hostess to my kid’s friends, too. If he is safely in my house, playing with a friend, I can have time alone without even leaving my own home or getting dressed up.
- I learned when my son was just two, that I could actually take a bath alone. He was just outside my door playing, of course. His instructions were not to bother me unless he was bleeding or on fire. A 30 min or when he was older, 60 min bath can do wonders for my outlook. Light a scented candle, turn out the lights, add some Epsom Salts (inexpensive and available at grocery stores and drug stores) to the bath. The magnesium in the Epsom Salts actually relaxes muscles for a great night’s sleep. Works on the kids, too. Figure 1/2 cup per 50 lbs of body weight in an average sized tub.
I also came to realize that the times we just ignored the outside world, together, were fabulous times to treasure and could recharge both our batteries. Covering the living room floor with building blocks and lincoln logs could be great fun (and have the child help put them away properly, too). Board games can be fun and teach them without their realizing it. Card games are fun. Popping popcorn and watching a movie with all the lights out and the curtains closed, surrounded by blankets and pillows or in a homemade couch cushion fort builds special memories.
You don’t have to have a lot of money or even escape the kids to recharge, but you need to recharge. What lights your fire? Are you artsy? Do you need time to work with your hands? Are you a thinker and just want some time to read a new treatise? You can find time. You have to be very deliberate about it, to be sure, but it can be done. Sometimes, you can let the dishes sit. Maybe you don’t need to go to every holiday party to which you are invited. Maybe you just need to take advantage of nap time. You can do it, Mom. You can do it, Dad. Remember the first thing I learned? You can be a better parent if you take care of yourself.
Please leave a note in the comments and tell me what you have learned to do to avoid burn out and take care of yourself.