By Holly Richardson

holly richardson author pic

When I was a little girl, I was kissing booboos on my dollies and pretending to be “the mom.” When I was an older teen and then a young adult, I could not wait for the day when I could marry the man of my dreams and become a mom. I did marry at the ripe old age of 21 and one year later, we had our first child.

Four years later, we had five children ages 4, 2, 1, 1, and 1. I had given birth to three children in rapid succession and then we adopted two from orphanages in Romania. Three of the five had disabilities. Only one was potty-trained. No one was old enough to help carry in groceries or do the dishes or sweep the floor.

To be honest, I have very few memories of that first year with all five. I remember the day the kids found the bucket of flour and made it snow all over the kitchen. I made the mistake of laughing as I went to take a picture. So, they of course decided they should do it again the next day. I didn’t laugh that time.

There’s another day I remember, too. I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes, and I was crying. We had just finished another boring meal in a string of boring meals and for some reason, I started to calculate how many meals I would have to make…3 meals a day times, say, 30 years. That’s when I started to cry, because the answer was 32,850.

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32,850.

That’s a big number but the fact that I was crying about something as normal as eating should have been my first clue that I was, in fact, burned out.

The academic world has just barely started parental burnout, but 30 years ago, the only research was focused on professionals, people who could make career changes, or who could “leave work behind” and de-stress at home. There’s no off-ramp for parenting.

I had “discovered” that mom’s work does not start at 8 am and end at 5 pm. There was always something more that needed to be done. The mom “to-do” list is never finished. All these years later, that is still the case. All of our roles can blur together into one big glob of a day that rolls into one big glob of a week and on it goes.

What I learned all those years ago, and through lots of trial and error, was the importance of what I now call deep self-care, those things that nourish and strengthen heart and mind. Now as a social scientist and researcher, I’ve discovered that there is a lot of science to back up the practices I ended up turning to: a spiritual foundation, mindfulness and mediation, a deliberate gratitude practice, journaling, and working on my own mindset.

Just know that if you are feeling a bit crispy around the edges, it’s not abnormal. In fact, it’s very normal. I see you. And I want you to know, you don’t have to stay there.

For more REAL TALK about mom burnout and how to work through it, check out these past articles:

The Pressure On Mom To BE HAPPY!

Gratitude And Sorrow Can Co-Exist

Finding God In The Trenches

When Momma Is Sick, Slow Down

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