On the verge of tears?
Hiding in your closet?
Oh, you too?
Maybe it’s motherhood?
Maybe it’s burn out.
Yeah, there’s a difference.
I don’t remember how it all happened. At first, though I lacked sleep and survived on coffee, I was relatively happy, relatively stable. I didn’t cry so much. At bedtime, I didn’t dive into bed like the Titanic was sinking. I didn’t find any and every excuse to escape to Target, Hobby Lobby or my phone. I didn’t hang onto group texts from my friends and words of affirmation from my husband like an anchor steadying me during a great storm.
What I do remember is the week I yelled at my son every day — escalating from zero to sixty in a split second, flipping out over the tiniest of things. You know, like spilled milk.
I remember telling myself that I wasn’t enough. That I couldn’t do this. That I had failed all the things I loved.
I remember sweeping the same spot under the dining room table for the fifth time in the same day, seeing no fruit from my labor but instead another mess to clean across the floor.
I remember taking on side job after side hustle after playdate after means of validation and after another way to define my identity. What did it matter if I had the time? What did it matter if actually, I was already good enough?
I remember falling asleep staring at my laptop or my phone thinking that the brightly lit screen could offer me something more, something different, or something better.
I remember being angry at my husband for not giving me a standing ovation after doing the dishes or changing another dirty diaper. Seriously, where was the validation for all my efforts?
I remember wondering where the joy was; and honestly, why I wasn’t feeling any.
Suddenly, motherhood had become less like a gift and more like a burden.
We put our energy towards a lot of different things as mothers. We work full-time jobs, part-time jobs and all sorts of things in between. We take care of our homes, we feed our children, we love our partners, we go to the gym, we maintain our best friendships, and we try really hard to incorporate all of our other passions too.
And, though they say Beyonce can — I know that I can’t. And maybe you can’t either. That’s okay.
It’s okay that we can’t do it all.
It’s okay that we’re tired.
There’s SO MUCH GRACE for each of us.
But, it’s also okay that we can take a look at ourselves and admit that maybe, just maybe, we’re actually tired of using our circumstances as the excuse for our attitudes.
If that sounds harsh, that’s because it is. Burn out doesn’t look good on you. Or me. And let’s face it, it probably doesn’t look that great on Beyonce either. And just like I expect my best friend to tell me the honest truth about those skinny jeans I’m squatting my way into, I’m going to tell you the truth, too.
Motherhood is not an excuse for your burn out. It’s not your life that has to change, it’s not your children that have to grow up, and it’s not your husband that has to take notice. It’s you. You have to change.
At its worst, burn out looks like checking out, not caring, and just surviving. It looks a lot like apathy and saying, “I’m just tired” day after day after day. It looks like escaping — our circumstances or even our thoughts. It’s discontent in realtime. Nothing will ever be good enough
We deserve more than that, don’t you think? Our people deserve more than, too. Right?
Maybe it’s time to take a look at our lives and really prioritize what really matters; to ask ourselves what we really have time for. Maybe it’s time to address the posture of our hearts and loosen our grip on the reigns of control we hold tightly in our hands. Maybe it’s time to unplug from that thing that’s distracting us, worrying us, and causing us to think less of ourselves. Maybe we should take advantage of rest when it’s presented to us, rather than playing martyr and passing it by in favor of doing what we think someone else can’t. Maybe it’s time to stop playing victim and start making choices that makes us victors.
Maybe we should stop and see that we’re better, more effective, and actually happier women when we take care of ourselves.
TAKING CARE OF YOU
The thing is, while burn-out has a whole lot to do with taking on too much and doing too much; for some of us, there’s not a whole lot we can change. Sometimes, burn-out has less to do with our performance and far more to do with our expectations for recognition, for approval, or for validation. These things aren’t sustainable and being awarded the proverbial medal of honor will do nothing for us during the hard times, except just weigh us down. Just like dropping in at Target without our kids and filling up at the dollar spot. There’s a difference between filling up our carts and addressing our hearts.
What’s hard is that there is a cost to changing the direction of our expectations from others to ourselves. It requires action. And quite honestly, it requires admitting that burn out actually happens from the inside out, not the other way around.
But I’m here to tell you that in the long run, who you’ll become by changing your focus will actually change your life. When we can relinquish other activities in favor of nurturing our own hearts, we have more to give. In fact, we have to let go in order to grab on, and we have to stop in order to start again. In these ways, we can find joy again – because all along, it resided within us.