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Parental Meltdown: Self-Care is a Necessity, Not a Luxury

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.

parenting stress, postpartum depression

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.

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.

-M

I share regularly at these link-ups.

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!

 


16 Comments

  1. Lynne Lynne

    Well done on putting this out there. It’s hard enough to deal with these issues, never mind admit to them and actually do something about them. I think it’s safe to say every mother has experienced these feelings, issues and moments, on some level, especially when the kids are little and the most demanding of your time and energy. So very glad you’ve gotten yourself back on track and into a good groove again💗

  2. YES YES YES!!! Big believer in self-care here! Yet it so rarely happens. I was thinking the same thing you were when I first started staying home. Big eye opener!

  3. Have you seen the new movie “Bad Moms”?? It trivializes some things since it’s primarily a comedy, but I think you’d benefit from it right now – even if just for a good laugh at how we women sometimes can’t just do it all, and that is TOTALLY ok. <3

    -Clarissa @ The View From Here

    • Megan Megan

      I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m putting it on my list – love watching comedy from/for women!

  4. Great post! This is basically the reason I started my blog. Burn out is real! I thought SAHM would be less stressful than lawyering, and it is but it has major just different stressors. Thanks for sharing!

    • Megan Megan

      So true – I really was in for a rude awakening as far as how easy SAHMing looked from the outside. Different set of stresses, plus the on duty 24/7 thing…wow!

  5. So, so true. And it’s hard to admit! Even harder in practice. I was awful with my first born, but once my second came around I realized that there was no way I could do it all, nor should I. And that I was important too. If I’m crabby and short tempered, how does that look to my kids? What does that do to them?

    • Megan Megan

      Exactly, Catrina. Taking care of yourself is such an important part of being a good parent – so that you can have strength and healthy mood to handle your family’s needs and to show your kids what it means to take good care of themselves. I don’t want to be a moody mom, and I don’t want them to learn to ignore their own needs in the name of getting things done.

      How do you make time for yourself – what’s your favorite way to unwind?

  6. SAHM, WAHM, working mom… I think family life with young children is stressful and often with NO time for mom to be a person, or at least it is very difficult for most moms to choose themselves over their children – even if we should for an hour or two to be able to be good parents! Good to hear that you are on track now. 🙂

  7. Love the honest writing. Stay at home moms get a bad wrap sometimes. The brief time I did it years ago I thought I was gonna lose my mind. I needed grown up time badly but I agree healthy attitudes and balance are a must. Thanks for sharing 😀

  8. Denise Denise

    Every mom needs to read this and take heed. We are caregivers by nature but too often we are too busy taking care of other people that we forget to take care of ourselves. Thanks for bringing this to light!

  9. I just blogged about caregiver burnout about 2 months ago and am about to create another post. I can so relate to your post. Thanks for sharing! It’s not always easy to show it all and address these very real aspects of parenting (and/or caregiving).

  10. Mary Roballo Mary Roballo

    I wish more people were open about postpartum depression. I know so many people who struggled in silence. Thanks for putting it out there.

    • Megan Megan

      Thanks Mary ❤️ it’s not an easy thing to write about but hopefully it’ll reach someone who needs it.

  11. We could be the same person. I too was diagnosed with PPD and was put on a mild anti-depressant. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was either nurse the baby or spend an hour trying to get to sleep, only to sleep for another hour and do it all over again until I exploded. I didn’t trust myself. I felt terribly alone in my own house, even though my husband was begging me to let him help. I was such a tool. Thanks so much for this wonderful post.

    • Megan Megan

      So glad you’re getting the help you need now! PPD is something we all hear about, but when it’s actually happening to you it’s so hard to recognize for what it is. Thanks for reading ❤️

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