Jun 19, 2014

motherhood burn-out

It happened one day. It snuck up on me quietly, stealthily, cornering me with no remorse. And finally, I had to take pause, and admit that I was burned out. A raw, bleary and teary eyed, angry mama. Helping Julie to learn how to use the toilet at this time had only further chafed my already exposed nerves. At almost two years old, Julie is still completely unpredictable when it comes to sleeping. After nursing, she will often thrash around on the bed, until she finally falls asleep. But we are never guaranteed a set number of hours until she wakes, and the cycle begins again. Sometimes it's four hours, sometimes it's just one. Up until recently, I would fall asleep, sitting up against a pillow, cradling her in my arms, as I was just too exhausted to stay awake until she fell back asleep. I would wake up achy, unrested, weepy, and generally a grouch. James wasn't sleeping deeply either. Add to this, the fact that I can count on one hand the times that I have truly set aside for just myself since she was born, and the deep frustration and depletion that can come of ignoring our own needs, and there I was with nothing left to give. Clearly, something had to change.

In general, we try our best to follow Julie's cues when it comes to sleep, eating/nursing, and play. It's not always convenient. It gets criticized almost as much as it gets praised, but it works for us as a family, and we feel pretty strongly about how we are raising our little one. I am still learning so much everyday, and one of the biggest lessons is in loosening the need for control that I often feel. There is nothing that feels more frightening than the idea of not being in control, whether this is flying through turbulence at 30,000 feet, musing on all of the accidents that could befall the loves of my life, or feeling like we have completely lost our structure. In this way, having a child has been, and continues to be the biggest learning experience in my life.

Usually when I am fighting so hard against something (in this case, the lack of sleep, and the loss of balance in my life ), it's an indication that I need to do the opposite, and let go. Rigidity does not serve anyone. An unhappy mama makes for an unhappy family. Our little ones are so tuned into our energy, and they pick up instantly on this internal discord. When I am burned out, I have nothing left to offer my loved ones. I admitted to a friend the other day that I had forgotten to care for myself somewhere along the way. I read this recently, and it rang so true--"sacrificing oneself on the altar of motherhood". And as proud as I am most days by how how I parent her--following my gut, nurturing positive attachments, nursing her mostly on demand, being available and close at night--there comes a point when I have to pause and take stock of how I am caring for myself. Through this self care, we model it for our children--that they must love themselves enough to realize that their needs, too are important! That self-sacrifice can tip the scale of balance, if done with no replenishment of our own body and soul. Lesson learned. Although I'm sure that it is a lesson that I will learn and re-learn all through my life.

One night, I lay down next to my little love, rather than hold her until she fell asleep, so I could put her back in the crib in our room. She rolled into the crook of my arm, cheek nestled against me, dainty hands squeezing me tight, and fell straight asleep. Within seconds, so was I, and I awoke after the most restful sleep I had in almost two years. About a week after this change in sleeping arrangements, I talked to James about getting out to do things for myself. He was so excited for me, as he had been worried, and had been waiting patiently for me to start taking this time. I'm working on it--catching myself when I want to keep pushing, taking solo walks in the morning, going to classes, REALLY enjoying that cup of tea or wine, indulging in that long and decidedly silly book that makes me feel happy and carefree while I read it. It's the little things, isn't it? They add up to fill our soul reserves, to put that spark in our step, so that we can then give back to the ones who mean the most to us.

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