Being with baby all day may not always lead to happy, contented mothers. Just like any other job, mothering too can lead to burnout.
You are a new parent and managed to get Baby home from the hospital. He seems to be asleep all the time. What would such tiny person need after all? A feed every now and then, a diaper change and that's it. Can't be too bad, can it?
Baby wants to be fed just when his mother settles down for a nap. He will need a diaper change when she sits down to a hot meal. Baby will decide to be awake at night, and no amount of rocking seems to make him sleepy. He wants to be cuddled when your back aches from walking him around and he nods off to sleep when you get him ready for a stroll around the park.
As the months go by
Soon you will understand when to pick him up, when to let him play and when to feed him. But just when you thought things are falling into a routine, Baby starts rolling and falls off the bed. You decide to leave him on the floor, and before you know it he's started crawling and reaching out to put a squashed bug in his mouth or stick his finger into a plug point.
No matter what you do, even when your child is in his teens and beyond, a part of you is constantly wary, always on high alert. Parenting is not like other jobs - you cannot bunk work, there are no time offs and you cannot switch jobs.
The writing on the wall
When they are small and dependent on you for everything, chores attention and rocking and lullabies are unavoidable and seem never-ending.
Look out for signs of burnout. These can come as a loss of enthusiasm, energy, idealism, perspective and purpose. It is a state of total exhaustion - physical, mental, and spiritual - brought on by too many demands on too few resources. To admit that you are burned out doesn't mean you've failed. On the contrary those mothers that care a lot are most prone to burnout.
The warning sign of an inevitable burnout is when you start feeling trapped and all alone. When you resent the time your husband is not dutifully sitting at home.
Releasing the pressure
Burnout is inevitable unless you set up some "safety valves" to release. Its important to know how you are feeling and know when it is time to get out - for an hour, a day or a weekend.
- Accept that being around the baby all the time is not good for either you or the baby. Enjoy your escapes without feeling guilty - baby benefits occasionally being looked after by someone else.
- Accept that neglecting yourself is not good for either of you. An over-anxious mother may create a cranky baby. Not taking time off for yourself can also lead to stress and arguments within the marriage.
- Don't be unrealistic in your definition of being mother. A mother CANNOT anticipate every need, a mother is not lazy if she takes time off, kids will fall sick no matter how much you protect them.
- Make lists. It helps evaluate your chores - whether you need to do them all, or do them all now.
- Allow kids to be as self-reliant as their age permits. As they grow, don't rush in to do everything for them. When they are old enough, ensure they help you clear up. Teach them to dress themselves- even pulling up pants by themselves is a start.
Steps to start you off
- Go back to the basics of self-nurturing. Are you getting enough sleep? Eating well? Getting a regular massage?
- Create a plan with your husband that allows you to get out of the house on a periodic basis. This may be an hour daily at the gym, a Saturday date with him or an occasional girls night out.
- Value your free time. Use this opportunity to understand what you are missing, what you would really like to do. Frustration can be converted to creative tension.