A Mother’s Day PSA: How to Avoid Mom Burnout
“No, I got it.” It’s a phrase so many moms use when family and friends try to help—even on Mother’s Day. In fact, a lot of moms I know think there’s too much emphasis put on this holiday.
Don’t get me wrong: Moms appreciate being recognized and getting help on Mother’s Day—but they’re so used to doing it all themselves, it’s hard for them to accept it. If you don’t make a mom sit down, they’ll just keep going and giving. As a nanny for over three decades, I’ve seen plenty of new moms dealing with sleep deprivation and postpartum recovery and at the end of their rope still struggle to ask for help.
Early in my career, I worked for a mom in New York City who declined help and wanted to be in full control of taking care of her family. She thought it was expected of her and wanted to live up to it. After we got home from the hospital, everything seemed to be on track. Mom was pumping milk and breastfeeding, learning how to bathe and care for baby and exercising and eating well. Everybody complimented her on how quickly the baby weight was coming off and how physically strong she appeared.
Then one morning as I headed to the laundry room, I heard sobbing. I looked into the open bathroom door and found mom curled up crying in the fetal position on the floor. As I helped her to her feet, she began telling me she wasn’t prepared for everything she was feeling. She was having trouble bonding with baby and felt inadequate. She couldn’t understand how her mother raised three children and here she was having difficulty raising one. She worried the world would judge her. Her deep-rooted emotions from childhood mixed with her new emotions of motherhood were too overwhelming, making it difficult for her to enjoy the motherhood bliss she was expecting.
It’s instinctive for a mom to think about baby and not herself. When I had my four babies, I also ignored my own needs. Since she’s thought of as the main artery of her family, many moms believe it’s somehow shameful to ask others for help—and often suffer quietly in a state of loneliness and desperation as a result.
Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” A mom has to realize when she’s burning the candle at both ends. She needs to come to terms with how much on a given day she can offer her family while still having some energy left for herself. We’ve heard for years that sleep is vital to wellness, but it’s advice often not taken seriously. I always tell moms that if they can figure out how to manage their day, nighttime will fall into place.
Nine times out of ten, a mom doesn’t stop to take a break during the day. When ready to go to bed, chances are she’s overtired, which means that night of sleep is about playing catch-up instead of recovering properly. Something I’ve recommended to moms are the “2 x 20 Minute Musts.” This involves taking a 20-minute break twice a day, every day. It’s something a mom should make as a requirement for herself. While one person is with the children in another room, mom can go to a different room, alone and away from the noise. It could be for a 20-minute nap or 20 minutes of quiet time. No phone calls—just her and her thoughts.
I myself keep a full schedule of long hours. Taking my daily “2 x 20 Minute Musts” is the key to me lasting in this line of work—I couldn’t survive with my health intact without them. Whether I take a power nap or just sit quietly with relaxing music, I use this time to recharge so I can continue my day.
If a mom ignores this important piece of advice, she’s bound to burn out. Having these breaks will make her more centered and help her get through the day. But in order for this to happen, a mom must accept help. She has to give up some control so she can be in control of her life. I’ve worked with moms all over the world. Whether they’re celebrities or not, a mom is a mom. No mother wants to miss the little things with their children, but she can’t be there 24 hours a day for them because other parts of her life will suffer. I remind moms that they have to take care of themselves and not feel guilty for taking a break. This is teaching her children by example. And there’s nothing like watching the smile emerge on a mom’s face once she starts to get the hang of what comes with raising a family.
The spirit of Mother’s Day is to take a pause and reflect on the amazing gift of motherhood. We celebrate moms and show appreciation for their undying love and support. It’s a day of gratitude. Moms must take that spirit along with the pampering they receive and use it to remind themselves that it applies to every day of their parenting career.
Some of the popular hashtags we’ll probably see on social media this Mother’s Day are #SuperMom, #Shero and #OnlyMomCan—but #MomsAreHuman is one we should be using more. My wish for moms is to remember they’re only human, and when help is offered, to gladly say "yes.”
Marva Soogrim, “Nanny to the Stars", has over three decades of experience as a childcare and parenting expert. She has worked with Reese Witherspoon, Sheryl Crow, Julia Roberts, Laura Dern, Courteney Cox and Kristin Davis, among others. Follow her on Twitter @MarvaSoogrim and learn more about her at marvalousbabies.com.