To All the Burned Out Mamas

Sheer unmitigated relief.

Meg Hutchinson’s dusky indie folk voice serenades through the speakers, entangling with the current of an autumn scented candle.

A mother sits in the peace of her still kitchen. Shellshocked. Teary. Happy.

So this is what it used to feel like? Quiet? Peaceful?

She sips her jasmine green tea and honey and a tear plops into the warm water.

I almost didn’t make it, she reflects.

She’d birthed four souls into the world in five and a half years, joyful with each addition. It was what she’d wanted, prayed for, pleaded for: young minds to mold, hands to hold on the journey, hearts to connect with in love.

She had spent months and years with unwanted periods and pregnancy tests showing only one line. She knew that for her the alternative of not parenting would have been far worse than all the dark days of parenting put together.

But still, she didn’t know the toll it would take. How the diapers, and constant questions (usually at the same time), and laundry, and tantrums, and discords of co-parenting, and appointments, and celebrations, and discipline, and spills—all of it—would spin her around faster and faster until the centrifugal force pinned her to a wall. And even when the floor dropped like in those amusement park rides, the force was so strong her body would stay in motion, in place against the wall. But somehow her soul had dropped with the floor.

She felt empty. Broken. Tired. 

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I can’t tell how exactly how long I’ve been hanging on, not sure if I’d make it to the finish line. Somewhere in the middle of the last 8 1/2 years of raising children, I’ve become severely burned out. There are many potential contributing factors to the burnout. Perhaps it was the seven moves we’ve had since kids, or the two home builds and a reno we endured. Or maybe it was because I’ve clung to fitness, social, and career goals I didn’t want to let go. Or maybe it has to do with a more recent deconstruction of faith–being less sure about all the details I’ve been sure about forever. Maybe it’s because we don’t have family nearby to help support us in the child raising process. Who knows? It’s impossible to sort through an adult existence to untangle the web and pinpoint the exact cause, probably because there isn’t just one.

I know I used to be funny, and lighthearted, and joyful. I know I have been strong for a long time. I have unpacked and set up. I have found babysitters and friends and jobs. I have taken my kids to the zoo and parks and out for ice cream. I’ve set up weekends away with my husband.

But I know that now I’m tired. I don’t feel as strong or funny or joyful. I keep doing what needs to be done, because that’s what you do.

The thing about mothers is that we’re human first. Humans have emotional, spiritual, physical,and mental requirements that need to be met in order for us to flourish. Apparently, some of my deepest needs have been neglected, lost in the sea of life’s logistics.  I’m so anti the mothers-have-to-suffer-at-the-sake-of-all-else-forever mindset. This isn’t healthy, I’m living proof. Even with a decent amount of self-care, humans will meet a breaking point if they don’t listen to the inner groanings along the way.

I finally started listening to the inner groanings last spring and began to release commitments in anticipation of trying to find healing this fall- Bible study, MOPS, writing for a two different organizations, and more. I have said no to many other things and yes to this, where I’m at now, in the kitchen with tea and music. My Bible is next to me.

I have the word ALONE penned in my paper planner multiple times in the coming weeks. That’s my assignment. Reset. Think. Pray. Dream.  A medicinal pause. A rainbow of hope, a promise that healing can come, that my soul and mind will be restored. You have the time. You have the space for the pieces to be put back together.

Connectedness is the word that keeps coming to mind. I want to connect again—with God, with myself, with the present, with others, and with mothering.

What about you? What if you don’t have time yet? What if that’s not what you need? I’d encourage other mama friends to be on the lookout for signs of burn-out along the way and to figure out what you need to keep flourishing, even in the trenches of motherhood. And yes, they’re trenches, and you’re a soldier.

From Psychology Today: burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:

  • physical and emotional exhaustion
  • cynicism and detachment
  • feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

“When in the throes of full-fledged burnout, you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level. However, burnout doesn’t happen suddenly. You don’t wake up one morning and all of a sudden “have burnout.” Its nature is much more insidious, creeping up on us over time like a slow leak, which makes it much harder to recognize. Still, our bodies and minds do give us warnings, and if you know what to look for, you can recognize it before it’s too late.”

Some signs of physical and emotional exhaustion:

  1. Chronic fatigue.
  2. Insomnia.
  3. Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention.
  4. Physical symptoms.
  5. Increased illness.
  6. Loss of appetite.
  7. Anxiety. Early on, you may experience mild symptoms of tension, worry, and edginess. As you move closer to burnout, the anxiety may become so serious that it interferes in your ability to work productively and may cause problems in your personal life.
  8. Depression.
  9. Anger.
  10. Loss of enjoyment.
  11. Pessimism.
  12. Isolation.
  13. Detachment.
  14. Feelings of apathy and hopelessness.
  15. Increased irritability.
  16. Lack of productivity and poor performance.

Daunting list, isn’t it? I have many, many of the symptoms above. That makes me sad, embarrassed, and disappointed I can’t hold it all together anymore.

There’s not a tidy, positive ending for you today. It sounds too hard to find the words right now. But by admitting my current state, I hope to encourage others along the way. You’re not alone if you feel the same. And I don’t believe we have to stay in this place.

Let’s find healing. Let’s find hope.

For our kids, our marriages, and ourselves.

Love to you, mamas.

 

Comments

  1. This is beautiful, Heidi. I wrote about my experience so far, too, last night, and we have both come to the same conclusion: no direct answers, but hope that is found in communion with God. Blessings to you in this season of renewal and rest. You will flourish once again (although you never looked like you weren’t before- you’re amazing)!

    • Aimee, I read your post too, and it was lovely. We really have come to the same conclusion. I’m thinking of you a lot, you have a full plate. XOXO

  2. I resonate with this so much! Thanks for sharing and putting into words for the rest of us. You are not alone.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I can fully relate to the emotional and physical burned out emptiness. I also used to be a fun-loving, funny person who loved life. That person has been buried for so long. I’m praying I can eventually find myself again; I don’t even really know who I am. I’m starting to figure it out.

    • Elizabeth- i hope you can find the time and space to heal, to reconnect with your inner self. I believe there’s hope and pray you find what and Who you need. Hugs to you.

  4. Beautifully expressed, Heidi. I like the spinning until pinned to a wall, and then your soul drop out from under you. What a great metaphor of burn-out. I’m so sorry you are burned-out. I’ve been there, and it’s really, really tough. You’re doing the right things! Carving time out for yourself, alone. Love you. You’ll make it through.

  5. Lindsay Luecht says:

    I had started a comment after I first read this post last week but never finished it. #momprobs

    Thank you for sharing honestly about where you’re at, and inviting others along on your journey. Praying you find that healing you’re seeking in those ALONE times you have set aside. Praying for that sweet, irreplaceable, clarifying, joy-bringing, healing revelation straight from the Lord.

    Can’t wait to hear more.