Okay, I admit it, the title of this blog is a bit melodramatic but my guess is that many moms have had the thought; “how am I going to survive motherhood in one piece?” Being a parent is hard work, and it can feel that by the time your children are grown and out of the house, you may only be a watered down version of the fabulous woman you used to be. This does not need to be the case!
How can you manage when you’re in the mothering trenches?
- Keep the judgement to a minimum. It is human nature to judge both ourselves and others, so it may be a lofty goal to eliminate all judgement, but let’s try to at least dial it down a tad. We can be so hard on ourselves, especially when it comes to parenting. There will be times when we make mistakes with our kids, there will be times when we’ll have no idea what we’re doing, and then there will be times when we absolutely lose it. That’s okay, that’s what makes us human. Show yourself some compassion when you’ve made a mistake. Let’s also extend that same non-judgemental compassion to other moms. We are all in this boat together and judging each other is not a great or helpful way to spending our time. The next time you see a mom at the grocery store and her kid is freaking out, shoot her a knowing smile or even say “I’ve been there.” You will make her day.
- Spend more time with your own friends. Part of our job description as moms is to help our children thrive socially. We take them to playdates, host playdates, get the scoop on their friendships at school and hope that they are forming healthy relationships. In all of this, we may start neglecting our own friendships which can be so detrimental to our own well-being. We need our friends, their support, the laughter and the sense of camaraderie. I know, the last thing you want to do after the kids have gone to bed is to head out into the world to grab a drink with a girlfriend. Trust me though, you need to, you will enjoy it when you get there, and your future self will thank you.
- Invest time and effort into your romantic relationship. See that person sitting across from you at the dinner table? Remember when you got butterflies just thinking about the next time that you would see them? Remember how exciting the prospect of spending the rest of your life with them was? You picked this person for a reason, and yes sometimes it can be hard to see them as anything other than a co-parent right now, but the person you love is still there. Hang out with them. Make sure to carve out time where you talk about things that have nothing to do with the kids. Invest the effort now so that once the kids left you aren’t left looking at each other and thinking “now what?”
- Integrate “mom” into your identity rather than making it your entire identity. We all have an “identity pie” with various slices making up the whole of the pie. Take stock of what makes up your identity pie. It’s perfectly understandable that the “mom” slice may be the biggest slice right now, but you want to ensure that you continue to incorporate other slices into the pie, whether it be your professional identity, your hobbies, your passion for fitness, your interests.
- Self-care, self-care, self-care. I know, you’ve heard this one a million times and it can get a little old. I hear from women all the time that they don’t have the time, or aren’t sure what to do, or that it doesn’t actually work all that well. I think the most important thing about self-care is that you find something that you actually enjoy rather than just picking something from a list. If you pick something that isn’t a good fit, it can actually backfire. I know that many people benefit greatly from meditation and it can be a core part of someone’s self-care routine; however, for me, it is pure and utter torture. It feels unnatural to me to be that still and quiet, so it’s not good self-care for me. Find something that does work for you.
- Know the signs that you are starting to feel burnt out. Many of us will push through feeling stressed and overwhelmed, because sometimes we just have no choice. However, we will often ignore signs that maybe we are stretched too thin. Many times women will end up in my office because they have ignored their own warning signs and now things feel pretty terrible; they feel emotionally and physically exhausted, their romantic relationship feels strained and unsatisfying, previous ways of coping are no longer working, things feels out of control and they barely recognize the woman in the mirror looking back at them. While it’s definitely possible to emerge from this bleakness, it’s probably a better idea to not get there in the first place. What are some of your signs that you are heading to Burnt Out Town, Population: You? Do you feel snappy and irritated a lot of the time? Are you spending way too much time on the couch? Do you feel that you’re just going through the motions without a feeling of connection or enjoyment to anything?
Once you know your signs, do something about it! Ignoring your stress warning signs is kind of like ignoring the rotting lettuce in your vegetable drawer. Yes, you really don’t want to do it now, but leave it long enough and it will become a liquefied, stinky mess (the lettuce, not you ;). Figure out what will bring your stress levels down to a more manageable levels; getting together with friends, watching a silly movie, getting a pedicure. Or maybe it’s a sign that more significant changes need to made. Maybe home responsibilities need to be reorganized. Maybe you need to make some changes to your schedule. Maybe you need some quality time just hanging out with your kids. Find what works for you.
There will always be moments in your parenting journey that will make you want to crawl into bed, pull the covers over your head and not come out for a week. That’s okay, that’s part of the gig. However, you can do this, and even thrive while doing so! Hop over to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/londonpsychologicalservices) for Motherhood March, for more articles, discussions and information about being a mom and our emotional health.