Ever feel like your struggling to stay afloat? Like no matter how much you accomplish, your to-do list never shrinks? Wondered when you’ll ever have time for yourself or a good night’s sleep again?
I have. I still do some days. And it’s not healthy.
I spent years trying so hard to keep up with everything and eventually ran myself into the ground, physically & mentally. Things had to change quick before I lost my mind (well, I may have actually lost it before I changed anything 😉
I’m a Stay at Home Mom, I’ve Got All the Time in the World
When I decided to be a stay at home parent, I thought I’d have so much time on my hands. My house would be spotless and I’d cook all my meals from scratch. I’d have plenty of time for music & swimming lessons, karate, horseback riding, homeschooling groups, trips to museums and zoos. There would be hours and hours to work on hobbies, go out with my husband, hang with friends, and play with my kids.
What the hell was I thinking?
All the Time in the World is Still Not Enough
Reality set in fast. Surprise, surprise: no one person can manage a house, care for children, plan and pull off homeschooling, chauffeur and chaperone a bazillion kids activities, and still have any time left to just spend on themselves.
I put my emotional and physical health at the very bottom of my priority list. Yes I feel run down. I feel isolated and exhausted. I’m having a hard time bouncing back to myself since my third was born. But I don’t have time to decompress, to relax, even to see my doctor. I’ve got way too much to do. Eventually it’ll pass. I just need to woman up.
I did manage to stay afloat for a while. More than awhile. You can run on caffeine & adrenaline for a surprising amount of time. But no matter how much I did, it wasn’t enough. Stuff like this kept happening:
- I did a million things with my kids this week, but I haven’t actually spent time with them other than getting ready or driving.
- Caught up on my errands, but my house is a hot mess.
- I haven’t kept in touch with someone who doesn’t live with me in…I don’t really know.
- Don’t ask me when’s the last time I had a shower. Eww.
Then baby number three came along, and everything got much more hectic. I was already running out of steam before the baby came, but after? I was spending everything I had on getting through the basics – housework, schooling, getting the kids where they needed to be, getting dinner on the table. I was in total survival mode.
Burnout is Real, People
I was exhausted, irritable, resentful, guilty. The physical toll was catching up with me, too. My skin was pale and dull, and I had bags for days under my eyes, my energy level was in the toilet. I was eating crappy convenience food on the run and not drinking enough water. I lost weight and I lost heart. There just wasn’t energy left to *waste* on myself when there were so many other things that needed to get done.
Somewhere along the line my life stopped being something I lived. Suddenly is was something I needed to survive.
You could see it in me, and you could see it in my kids – their moods, their behavior, their sleep, their immunity. The constant hurry was running us all into the ground. I started to have panic attacks brought on by thinking I’d forgotten things, or on Sunday night at the thought of having to face another non-stop week.
The breaking point came after my youngest simultaneously went through a virus & teething that kept us both up all night for 3 days in a row. I got maybe 4-5 hours of sleep out of 72. I was done.
I’m Losing It! Something’s Gotta Give!
If you’ve ever experienced the effects of sleep deprivation, you understand why it’s used as a form of torture. I was a panicky, emotional mess. Things needed to change, fast.
So I finally talked to my husband, my mom & my doctors. None of my family seemed too surprised, the toll that everything was taking on me was easy enough to see. So together we made some changes and started getting myself back to being myself.
Getting Back on Track
Here’s five things we did to get me on the road back from hot mess:
- Checked in with my doctor and started treating my postpartum depression. I saw my doc and told him about the trouble sleeping, the panic attacks, the stress & anxiety. He gave me a prescription for a low-dose anxiety medicine to curb my nocturnal worrying and let me get some quality sleep. Then he referred me to a women’s behavioral health doc (who I lovingly refer to as my lady bits’ psychiatrist.)
She diagnosed and started treating postpartum depression. something I’d kind of suspected, but I hoped would pass if I gave it enough time. I like to think I’m a mildly intelligent woman, so what the hell was that about? Postpartum depression is common and nothing to be ashamed about. But the depression itself distorted my thoughts. I didn’t have time to be unwell. I stay home with three children, I can’t tell a basically a stranger that I can’t handle it! Wow did I waste a lot of time on denial 🙁
- Hubs and I worked together to get our health back on track–getting back to a consistent, healthy diet, staying hydrated, making sleep a priority. He took over the nighttime shift, and I started a consistent, early bedtime routine. (Hubs is actually great about sharing the nitty gritty parenting stuff, but I try to take nighttime on myself because he usually has to get up & leave for work around 4:30 am – yikes.)
- I accepted help with the house and kids. I am not good at seeking help or accepting it when it’s offered. My answer is always, “No thanks, I’ve got it.” But I don’t, not always. It should be a simple thing, asking for help. But it’s hard to tell yourself – let alone anyone else – that you just can’t do it all. While I was stretching myself thin trying to do everything on my own, things were falling behind – the house really needed a deep clean, the fridge & cabinets needed to get emptied and restocked, I needed to do a massive clutter purge. So I reached out to for help. Hubs took over karate and got the kids out on the weekends, and my mom took some vacation time from work. To gradually cleared all the dust, clutter and old leftovers and got things back into a manageable place.
I need to take care myself – my health, my happiness, my future – just as much as I need to take care of the rest of my family.
- We trimmed the schedule way down – we pared down the kids activities to their favorites (horseback riding & karate), learned to say no to some invitations and outings, and started spending more unstructured down time at home. This & the decluttering together have really helped to simplify our days and allow us the time we need to just be.
- I built my own time into the family schedule along with everyone else’s activities. My husband took over dinnertime a couple nights a week so I could soak in the tub with a book. I got back to the gym with a women’s strength & conditioning class 2-3 night a week. Finally I made time to reach out to old friends to go for a walk after supper or hang out for coffee after school.
Being There for My Family Starts With Caring for Myself
I had to learn the hard way that spending time and money on myself is just as important for my family as spending time and money on activities for the kids. Throwing everything I have into being a wife and mom is just not healthy. Some of that energy needs to be spent on being myself – the me that exists outside of those roles.
If I don’t take time to exist as an individual, then I don’t have all the tools I need to be an effective partner or parent.
Eventually I gained back the weight I’d lost, my skin and hair looked better, the bags under my eyes were shrinking. I caught up on my rest and my energy began returning. Now that I was feeling more like myself, I had more enthusiasm & motivation – I picked up old hobbies like making costumes and spending time in my garden. I smiled more.
It’s still pretty easy to get swept back up into a hectic pace. But I’m more aware of it now, and I understand the steep cost of trying to do it all. I’m much better at stopping, at saying “we need to slow down.” I’ve got one life and I’m not going to miss it in the name of little league or laundry or anything else. I’m going to live it, love it, and appreciate it.
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Comment Challenge: Have you ever felt like you were getting to the end of your rope? Did you get the help you needed? What changes did you make? Share your thoughts and let’s support each other!