Preventing Burnout Starts with Boundaries (aka saying “no”) and Delegation
As moms, we value our family life, but also ask a lot of ourselves. Sometimes we don’t ask for help when we should or we turn down the offers that come because we SHOULD be able to do it all. But you don’t have to. And so much easier to avoid mom burnout in the first place.
So instead of pushing yourself to do more and better, create realistic expectations and do what you can. Ask for help sometimes. Talk to your community. Build in the time and space for you to rest and reset so you can be the best mom you can be because that is EXACTLY who your kids need.
I know I’m making this sound simple and I will be the first to admit I’m not great at taking my own advice. So I’m sharing three tips for avoiding mom burnout during before, during, and after pregnancy.
Tip #1: Prioritize what matters most.
This sounds simple. But in life and pregnancy, things are rarely as simple as they seem on the surface. Moms, whether expecting or actively caring for children already, take on a lot. Because as a mom, there is always more to do. But not everything is equal.
Prioritize what most needs to get done and what matters to you. This will look different for everyone, but it’s about finding the right balance to feel content with where you are at and what’s to come.
Currently, I’m working from home with my three girls underfoot. Our nanny has been away as her father is sick. We miss her but know the importance of family. The combination of caring for children, the home, helping with distance learning and working is overwhelming. The girls can create a whole lot of mess during a Zoom meeting. While I’m not an anxious person naturally, it’s hard to operate in a space that feels chaotic. So while a clean house may not be a huge priority right now because no one is going to see it, it matters to me. I need some degree of organization to operate and maximize my productivity.
Perhaps you want a nursery that is beautiful and complete. Then own that nursey.
Maybe you need to wake up in the morning to an empty sink (because it does make the kitchen seem cleaner). Then prioritize the dishes.
Or maybe with another on the way, you worry about quality time with other children in the future. Then take advantage of family time now and know you will find your new normal in the future, and it will feel right.
Tip #2: Ask for help (aka “delegate”)
Such a simple concept yet I am awful at it. Again, I value self-sufficiency but I’m not sure there is much honor in that. Help looks different for everyone. Perhaps you need help cleaning the house a few times a month, or a high school student to stop by a few times a week to entertain the kids and provide a change of scenery. Help comes in all shapes and sizes, but help is essential, especially when it is the help you need and want.
There doesn’t have to be fear in asking for help. Fear of judgment. Fear of failure. Fear of inadequacy. As moms, we commonly put these unrealistic standards on ourselves that asking for help equals weakness and failure. But no one can do it alone nor are we meant to. Asking for help is not a sign of failure. It means you know what is important to you and you are willing to ask for help with the rest.
Let’s think about it differently – you are the CEO of your life and your family. If we look at successful CEOs of large corporations, none of them are running their entire business on their own. They have support staff, team members, and other executives who all work together to run the business. A CEO is not judged or graded on whether or not they are physically doing all the work. Their success is in the work getting done well, which means delegating the work to a support staff. This frees them up to be able to attend important meetings and responsibilities that only they can do. The CEO needs to oversee and delegate all the other responsibilities that need to be done in order to have a successful business, and doesn’t for a minute feel bad or guilt about not completing the work.
So, like I said, you are the CEO of your life and family – what are you delegating to others successfully so you can do the things that only you can do (and by the way, self-care, rest, and managing your health are all activities that only YOU can do for yourself).
When pregnant, there is pressure to do everything right. But what is right? As I’ve had more children, I realize that babies need very little and hindsight is 20/20. Sometimes I wish I knew that so much of what we focus on and stress over doesn’t really matter.
As I find myself in this strange time where much of life is different, I’m trying to prioritize quality time because that is what my girls want. The means mid-day breaks to read a story, going for a walk around the block, playing in the yard and being present… and letting go of the idea of perfection in everything I do.
Tip #3: Give yourself grace.
For women and moms in general, there is so much pressure and that often gets in the way of showing ourselves grace. But grace is exactly what we need. Grace that we are doing the best we can and that is all we can do. Grace that we are the parent and mom our children need us to be. Grace to do what truly matters, even when the to-do list is miles long and growing.
That grace extends to others too because it is hard to ask for help when you fear judgment. Grace is the ability to let yourself off the hook and know that others are doing their best too… even if their best looks different than yours.
Grace is taking care of yourself so you can take care of others. Grace is prioritizing what matters most, instead of letting others prioritize for you. Grace is a belief in yourself. Grace is the knowledge that you care and you care enough.
For all the moms out there – whether expecting, managing your crew while distancing or a combination of both – know that you are doing your best. Despite the pressure to do more and better, you are doing what is right for you and your family. That is what truly matters.
As someone who has always strived for self-sufficiency, I’m going to try to take my own advice. Today, I’m prioritizing what matters most, asking for help, and giving myself a bit of grace in this crazy time. I hope you will do the same.