Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Burnout. A noun- meaning "the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing, through use or combustion." Also meaning, "physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress."
When you're just quit of it. (A phrase my daughter coined when she was 5.)
I've decided that when you're a mom, motivation comes and goes like an ebbing tide. You can be super motivated on Wednesday and see your messy house as a canvas for you to work a creative miracle, only by Thursday to feel like if you have to cut one more chicken nugget into bite sized pieces or fish one more blade of grass out of a messy mouth, you'll just lay down in the fetal position and bawl.
You know why? We never stop.
I've blogged many times about the cataclysmic difference between life before a baby and life after. But the fact remains, it's a comparison you can't describe until you experience it. And the fact remains that when you don't have children, you can lie down and go to sleep and never wonder if you'll be woken up by a hungry baby at 3:00 am, or even question whether or not you'll have enough time the next day to watch those new shows that every one has been anticipating. You never wonder if your dinner will be eaten while it's hot or remotely warm, or ponder how many cups of coffee are legitimate before you have what a normal person would consider a drug addiction.
My point is-- there's not much time to catch your breath. And what used to be messes you or your husband would make once and you'd clean up once becomes a mess you literally clean up 27 times between 5:00 and 8:00 pm.
I love my family. Not like a "I-love-you-because-I'm-committed-to-you" love. I'm talking about a drooling, celebratory, fluttery heart, bawl my eyes out kind of love. They make me laugh from my toes. They make me squeal with delight. They make me count the minutes until I see their faces. They make me run my race with excitement for what's coming next. I almost always feel appreciated and valued-- even by my little squishy 11 month old boy who smiles with his eyes with sheer love and thanks for me.
But burnout happens. It happens when you're folding teeny tiny socks that never have a match and are impossible to find because of their microscopic size. It happens when you're picking up child A to take her to one location, while child B is screaming for his balloon that he threw to the back of the van. It happens when you volunteer to do math centers (again) while there's dirty dishes in your sink at home. It happens when you're working through a nap time protest, or an eye-rolling session from a moody 3rd grader. It happens when you look at the clock and realize it's an hour past when you had hoped you'd be in bed and you still have 3 major things that will stop your family's functionality tomorrow if it's not done tonight. It happens when you tuck in a sweet baby or send a cheery 8 year old off to brush her teeth for the night. It happens when you are listening to your kids screaming at each other out of anger. It happens when your beautiful family is sitting on the couch and you're gathering up 38,922 toys the size of a pack of raisins from under the kitchen table and you're green with envy because that couch looks so comfy.
It. Just. Happens.
And you know why it happens? I don't know about why it happens for dads... (and dads, I'm not saying that us moms are the only thing doing anything for the family.) But I know why it happens for women.
We were created with a strength to nurture. And that strength easily and frequently becomes our weakness.
We were created with a womb. To nurture another human being for nine months. And whether you bore a child from your womb or not, the fact remains, you were created with the make-up to do so. Every fiber in your being was imprinted with compassion, sensitivity, wisdom, and intuition. Over time, the way we were raised, life experiences, and our own choices either develop or stunt the growth of those God-given gifts inside us. We aren't just checking off a to-do list like our male counterparts... to us, our to-do list equals nurturing our families' needs at a heart level. Every meal we cook equals full bellies and happy hearts for our loves. When we put clean sheets on our baby's bed, we sleep better ourselves that night. When the laundry is folded and put away, we feel like we've prepared our husbands and children for a successful week... a clean slate to choose from.
But truth is-- though our motives are great and our hearts are open, we get bogged down in the day to day because our own programming works against us--
We give until we give out.
To borrow the definition again, we "reduce our fuel or substance to nothing due to use or combustion." See, to a man, a task is a task. To a woman, her task is her heart's display- especially when it comes to her family.
My husband is extraordinary. In just about every way, he's unusual. And I guarantee you, there isn't a woman on earth more thrilled with her marriage than I. I feel loved, I feel cherished, I feel valued, I feel equal, I feel seen, I feel heard. But fact is, when I enter a stage of burnout, I feel like no one appreciates what I'm doing, no one notices I'm there unless I don't do my routine, and I'm the only person in the house who knows where anyone's stuff is. The "real" me knows that nothing could be farther from the truth. But the "burnout" me is selfish and likes to throw pity parties.
The other day, one of my very closest friends on this planet said to me, "God wants to do things for you because you're you. He wants to do things for you that has nothing at all to do with your marriage or your children, but things just for you."
I hear this. I teach this, for crying outloud. But in the day to day, I forget this. That the Maker of me is so deeply proud of my existence and so full of gracious kindness for me, He wants me to experience little glimpses of Heaven on earth that have nothing to do with anyone in my household except for me. A cup of coffee alone in Target. An hour to read a book by myself. A morning to sleep in. A day in a bookstore alone. A new pair of pajama pants. A chance to sit in my hammock and listen to nothing at all. Two hours to watch DVR shows without anyone needing to be held or fed.
Here's the deal. If you're waiting on someone to make these things happen for you, you'll just live in burnout. You have to create your times of refreshing. Sure, my husband will on occasion say, "Let me give you a foot rub," or "I'll clean the kitchen tonight." Fact remains, he is tired too... he works too, he parents too, he loves and nurtures and plays too, so to expect him to give to me what only I know I need is unfair and builds resentment.
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION. To:
Take a nap if you're sleepy every once in a while.
Read a book while your littles watch TV. (**gasp** TV????)
Say, "When Daddy gets home, I'm going to Target. Alone. And I don't know when I'll be back." And leave your watch at home.
Stay in the shower a little longer.
Sit on a bench at the park while the kids play and call your mom.
Say no sometimes when they say, "Mommy, play with me."
Leave the dishes and head to bed early.
Find five minutes to read a little devotion/Bible verse in the day.
Go out with girlfriends once a month. (working on this).
Be glad when your kids are: gone overnight, napping, or just out of your sight for a few minutes.
Say no. And for no reason at all.
Ask for help. Beg for it if need be.
216. That's how many months we have them. 216 calendar flips. That's a mere 18 Christmases, 18 birthdays, 18 Valentine's Days, 18 summers. May sound endless at times. But when I think that I am 108 months down, 108 to go with my oldest, I find the urge to keep burnout away at all costs. I can't afford to lose even one precious day. Because she matters. I matter. And if I'm not at my best for me, I won't be at my best for her.
I think I'll sit on my couch tonight. ;-)