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Thursday’s post on why I am no longer homeschooling brought many comments on the blog, on Facebook and through email that were very supportive of doing what I need to in order to heal my health so my kids have a Mama for the long-term. I want to tell you all that I greatly appreciate the support and the interaction.
I was recently talking it all through with a friend and it hit me that I burned out because every day I pour myself into my husband, my children, my home, my clients and my blog but I just don’t have anything to refill myself. I have no margin, no space, no down time, no hobby, no way in which to rest and re-charge. The end result is an unhappy mama. And you know the old saying, ‘If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.’ Mama is officially burnt out and unhappy, and the truth is that I have been for a while. And judging by some of the emails and comments I received, I know that some of my readers are in the same boat.
So last week I made the decision that I need to take care of mama, because if mama isn’t taken care of, she can’t take care of anyone else. That’s why when you’re in an airplane and they give that whirlwind tour of what to do if an accident should occur, they tell you to put your own mask on before helping someone else. You’re no good to others if you’re incapacitated or unavailable. Martyrdom doesn’t help your children or your family.
Our culture teaches if a Mom doesn’t do everything she humanly can or allow her children to walk all over her, she’s selfish. Taking care of yourself and keeping your joy isn’t selfish, it’s necessary for the longevity of the family is a hard lesson to learn. I’ve seen woman after woman in my life drive themselves ragged and make their family miserable in the name of taking care of everyone. They fussed and moaned and never sat down to rest because they had to do it all, wanting to keep up appearances. They work hard, yes, but their martyred attitude comes at what cost to their children and their marriages?
Why wreck a good life with a bad attitude?
The selfish mom is the one who gives all now and has nothing left to give later. As mothers, our tendency is to put everyone first, all the time, and then take any leftovers (assuming there are any). The desire to sacrifice for our children, family and home is right and good- until it hits the point that Mom isn’t getting her needs met, too. If a relationship or a situation isn’t working for all of the people involved, something needs to change.
When my kids were nursing, I quickly learned this lesson. A nursing baby with no boundaries can make his Mama miserable. Pinching, biting, digging nails into flesh, twisting into uncomfortable positions are all par for the course until one day the Mom wakes up and realizes that the nursing relationship is no longer working for her. Unfortunately, many women wean at that point instead of teaching the child some manners so the relationship continues to be good for both of them and not just the good of the baby at the mother’s expense.
The Mom’s tendency is to sacrifice until she suddenly becomes fed up. At that point, she makes a major change, sometimes one she will come to regret, such as weaning her toddler. But the easier and gentler route would have been to fix the problem early by teaching the child some nursing manners to again make the relationship work for both people. To make that happen, something has to change. The child has to be taught to not pinch or dig, biting isn’t funny and the like. It is some work to restore a relationship to a two-way street, but not nearly as much work as what will happen if the problem isn’t fixed.
Children are natural takers- they will take as much as you give. They have no concept of margin or personal space for an adult. It sets a good example for both our sons and our daughters to see their Mom set some limits to ensure she is able to take care of herself and maintain a happy attitude. I don’t want my daughter to think sacrificing her long-term self for a short-term need is a good idea. I don’t want my son to expect that from his wife. And I don’t want either of my children to have to put up with a grumpy mother. I want my children to see the example of balance set before them.
Marriages can be the same way. When a couple marries, the men tend to stay the same and it’s the woman that changes to fit the man. I’ve watched some very close friends loose themselves in trying to become what their husband wants, only to find themselves and their marriages lacking any joy. Yes, she changed to suit him, but often the end result is that both people in the marriage are unhappy. She’s no longer the woman he met, fell in love with and married. Something is missing. The happiest marriages I know are where both partners stay true to themselves AND their spouse. Trying to change your basic nature to meet someone else’s desires only leads to unhappiness.
Somehow along the way, through unemployment, pressures and expectations, client needs and raising children, I lost my ability to see that two-way street in some of my relationships. It’s easy to see when physical pain is involved like the nursling with no manners, but somehow it’s easier to loose sight of it when it’s crowded out by other things. It’s time to find balance again.
Finding My Balance
I made a list of all of the things that I have done in the past or want to do in the future to take care of myself as a way to help me come up with ideas to pick out what I need to have that rest and re-charge so my creativity can be refilled. I also made a list of things I need to do to better care for my physical body. Then I put a plan in place to make sure I have margin and downtime.
On the blog I’m going to cover the ways I’ve started taking care of me again. Some of them, such as skin brushing, you’ve heard me discuss before. Others are new to me. Some are things that I have done but I’ve never blogged about. I’m going to pick them back up again and discuss them with you. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to take hours. It doesn’t have to require that you spend beyond your means. You can find peace and contentment in small things.
I hope this series will be a springboard for you to consider whether or not you have enough downtime and margin in your life. If you don’t, I hope you will consider where you can make changes to give yourself that needed space before you do burn out. Finding ways to nourish yourself, even small ways, can keep your batteries charged and a smile on your face.
If you’re already burnt out or dealing with adrenal fatigue, there’s a way out. Rest, relaxation, mental space and some margin built into your day will all help to give you what you need to find your way back out of burnout.
Question: What do YOU do to refill yourself? What would you like to see covered in this series?