Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How Busy Mothers Can Ask for Help


Because moms provide the fuel that makes the world go 'round, moms are extra susceptible to burnout. As a clinical psychologist in private practice, I have learned the hard way about burnout – giving can be wonderful, but it can also be draining. Moms have unique struggles, often carrying the burden of raising the children, running the household, and often even having paying jobs outside the home. I am offering some suggestions to help lessen your load a little so that you can reduce your own burnout.

How often do you ask for help in your daily routine? You’ve got ten million things to do, and you may feel like being a ‘good’ mom means that you should be doing it all yourself. More than that, you may feel that you should be doing it well. I have learned in my own life to use the following mantra and to repeat it to myself throughout the day: “Something always has to give.” When you feel overloaded, try coming up with an expression – a mantra – that you can say to yourself to silence what I call your HIGH STANDARDS DEMONS.

The reality is that everyone – supermoms included – has a breaking point. You can get tired and run-down, stressed about money and how the children are doing, and worried about how you’ll keep up with everything you’ve got to do. The important point is to know that you have limits and learn to realize when you’re reaching your own boiling point. The boiling point often coincides with feeling particularly tired, stressed, or irritable. When you’ve reached this point, it’s time to ask for help.

The first order of business is to call a family meeting. Explain to your family – even the little ones you’re responsible for – that you are run-down and need a little extra help to get you through this phase. You can tell your husband or partner the details, and explain in simple terms to your children that you are overwhelmed. With the kids, say something like “Mom has been doing so much she feels really tired.” This is an important life lesson that you are teaching your children – that you are human and that everyone has limits. In your family meeting, ask your family what they can do to pitch in a little extra with some of the chores and obligations. Ask your husband if he wouldn’t mind doing the grocery shopping for the next two weeks, or if he can put the kids to bed a couple nights or help with homework so that you can have some down time and take a bath.

In addition to your family, call a couple friends and ask if they can help you out a little for the time being. Assure them that you will return the favor when they get a little run-down, too. Ask a friend if she can pick the kids up at school a day or two this week, or ask a friend if she can drop off some food at your house for dinner. Again, something always has to give.

Thinking longer-term, it might be a good idea to start a carpool with other moms if you haven’t done so already. If you already have a carpool set up, it might be worth considering adding another mom or two to the carpool list. Make a deal with a friend that if both of you have to make some cupcakes for an event, you’ll switch off with that responsibility so that each of you doesn’t have to bake for every single event. Finally, when was the last time you asked an extended family member – parent, sibling, whomever – to come stay with the kids for the weekend so that you and your husband can take a weekend off and recharge your batteries? If it’s been a while, get out your daily planner and start setting it up.

Moms, you deserve a break. The problem is that nobody is going to hand it to you on a platter, so you need to put the word out that it’s time for you to get a little help.

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