Hope For When I'm All Mommed Out
It’s no secret that being a mother is a 24/7 job. Even when you’re sick, which I currently am, there’s no such thing as “time off.” Dinner still has to be made, kids have to be picked up from school, and all the other things must be done that add up to a full day.
So what happens when you’re just not into it anymore? What happens when you hit a major wall and feel like you just can’t make one more dinner, change one more diaper, tie one more shoe, etc?
First of all, let me say that if you are finding yourself in that position of burn out as a mom, you are not alone. I think almost all moms have had those moments (or months!!) of being completely overwhelmed and discouraged. When I was pregnant with our sixth baby, I remember wishing that I could send all five of my other kids to summer camp for the WHOLE SUMMER just so I could get a break, because I was so unbelievably tired. I felt like there was no way I could force myself to sweep the floor or make dinner even one more day, and I knew it would take months of rest to catch myself up on the energy I needed! Other moms no doubt encounter the same thing, because we’re all HUMAN. God was not joking when He said we’re but dust, and there’s no quicker way to prove it than to be pregnant and cooped up in a house with five kids during a heat wave in south Georgia like I was that summer.
Also, I hope you know that the way you’re feeling has nothing at all to do with not loving your children. That summer that I felt totally burned out, I felt an enormous amount of guilt on top of everything else, because I didn’t think I was “supposed to” feel like I needed a break. But again, DUST. No matter how much we love our children, the never-endingness of being a parent can lead us to a place of exhaustion and dryness that steals our joy.
So here are a few things I have found that work for me when I feel like I just don’t want to keep mom-ing anymore.
Set time boundaries that honor my personality.
It seems funny now, but I used to not realize that I was introverted. And then after long stretches where all the kids were home and nobody had napped and I had been around all seven other people in our house nonstop, I would have a giant meltdown for no apparent reason. Except there was a reason, and that was that I had not made space and boundaries that honored the fact that I needed to be alone for a stretch of time every day. Right now I wake up at 5 and have about an hour in the mornings and an hour or two in the afternoons when Charlie naps and the other kids are at school. I try not to watch any television or listen to any podcasts during this quiet afternoon time, because the voices make me feel like I’m still not alone, as crazy as that sounds!
But if you were extroverted, you might not need that alone time. Maybe you need a coffee date with a friend or a dinner date with your spouse? Either way, I think all moms need to build in natural boundaries where we have space from our kids, either to be alone or to be with other adults. We need to recharge our batteries, because those batteries get used a lot when you’re constantly caring for the people in your home.
Closely examine who or what is shaping my priorities.
Sometimes when we reach the end of our ropes and can’t find the motivation anymore, it’s because we were motivated by the wrong priorities. I had to dig really deep and figure out who and what was shaping my priorities. Whose values was I holding onto and measuring myself by?
We were not made to be the same mother as the lady in our Bible study, our sister, our neighbor, or our mother-in-law. If you are holding yourself to their standards, or anyone’s standards but the ones that God has placed specifically on your own heart, you will burn out.
God has given us the resources to parent our children, but only with the personality and heart He has given us. When we attach someone else’s values for how our kids should act or look, or how our house should run, we trade our unique brand of mothering for someone else’s. You have already been given every single thing you need to parent your own children—nobody else was given those specific gifts and nobody else was given those specific children! And the two fit together if we look ONLY to the One who entrusted them to us.
Recognize the season I’m in
To everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn. It sounds so corny because we’ve heard it a hundred times. So why don’t I remember that when I’m feeling trapped!? Pretty consistently in my life, if I’m feeling really burned out and overwhelmed (which leads to the trapped feeling), I can look back and see that I’m not being realistic about the season of life I’m in. Maybe I’ve been trying to drag the toddler who still wears diapers to all-day, walk-miles-on-the-beach field trips. Or maybe I’ve agreed to get my older kids a puppy when I’ve just had a baby. Most of the time it’s some form of me trying to be something or someone that I simply can’t be in a particular season of life, like when you have a baby or a toddler.
For me, help has looked like hiring someone to come to the house one day a week so I can do things outside of the house with the older kids without having to drag Charlie along. But when we couldn’t afford to hire someone, I had to just say no to some of the activities and trust that the kids were still going to be fine.
Sit down, relax, and tell the kids I love them.
Ok this one is probably the hardest when I’m feeling so tired and overwhelmed with being a mom! But words have power, and saying out loud to my kids that I love them does so much to change the mood from frustrated to calm.
Just today, when my toddler was crawling up and down and up and down into my lap in the recliner and I thought I might actually puke, I felt so tempted to just get up. Just walk into the other room and have a break already! But something (thank you, Holy Spirit) made me press my cheek to his and just leave it there. I swear I think it made endorphins for both of us! And with little boys like him, you’re not required to hang in there cheek to cheek for more than ten seconds, because that’s about as long as he sits still!
And, friend, when was the last time you really sat around your house anyway? If you’ve been a mom for any time longer than the newborn phase, I’d venture to guess it’s been a while. It’s so easy to get swept into all the household chores and the feeding of all the people and the cleaning up after the feeding of all the people, that we never sit down and just enjoy these people who live with us! So if you’re feeling burned out, let the chores go before anything else! Sit on the couch! Watch a thousand episodes of your toddler’s favorite cartoon with him and call it good.
Being a mom is so so hard. So hard. It’s tiring and never-ending, and sometimes we feel like we are just totally BANKRUPT of the internal resources to keep going. When that happens to me, I try to remember the story in Matthew 14:13-21 where Jesus turned the five loaves and two fish into more than enough food to feed 5,000 people. This story inspires me because 1) I’m always feeding the multitude and 2) I need Jesus to multiply my internal resources. If we think of our souls as the spiritual food our children feed on, we can see how we easily run out of food for them unless He is constantly multiplying it. But let’s don’t forget that when He provided food for all those people, He could have made an entire banquet with fruit and dessert and sweet tea—but He didn’t. It was the simplest meal ever, and He provided exactly what they needed. When He multiplies our resources, they are simple resources. He gives us an abundance of resources to parent ONLY the way He made us to parent, not to compare ourselves to other moms and parent the same way they do and do a hundred different things outside of our gifts. When I was WHEELS OFF and having the hardest time continuing on with being a mom, I realized it was because I had consistently been comparing myself to other moms and telling myself how I wasn’t measuring up. But when we find our particular brand of mothering that God has gifted us for, we’ll see that just like with the loaves and fishes, He will multiply our simple resources so that we have more than enough to give our kids with overflow for others.