parenting

“B” IS FOR BURNOUT

 

Let’s set the scene:

A young woman wearing boxer shorts and an oversized t-shirt sits on her couch watching television. A handful of popcorn goes cascading down her front as she misses her mouth entirely. She shrugs, flicks to the next episode of America’s Next Top Model, and slouches back into the squish of her sofa. An irritated look paints her face as she absentmindedly pets the grumpy cat siting next to her. Suddenly, the cat flies across the room in an explosion of screaming as the woman yells at the television “WHAT ARE YOU DOING MARJORIE?!?!?! GET YOURSELF TOGETHER, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS!!!!” A feline death glare containing the rage of a thousand suns radiates from underneath the neighboring table. The woman pats the cat’s head, “I’m sorry kitty, it was important!”

This past weekend, that woman was most definitely me.

I can always tell when I’m reaching the point of burn-out when my irritability is ramped up ten-fold. That, and when I spend an unusual amount of time watching (and yelling at) reality TV shows in my boxers. Self care can be difficult as a doula, but we know that it’s even more difficult as a parent.

Becoming a parent means you are suddenly thrust into a position where taking care of yourself is no longer the priority. And honestly, a lot of the time it’s not even remotely on the radar. Your little ones become an extension of yourself, and caring for them quickly occupies the tiniest nooks and crannies of every day life. Of course we know that you love your kids! But for many parents, not having a minute to themselves throughout the day can feel incredibly draining, suffocating, isolating, and even alarming. Especially for parents whose self-care routines are integral to healing from mental illness or past trauma.

 

If you find yourself snapping at your kids more than usual, feeling guilty/inadequate, or in general feeling floaty/detatched, there’s a chance that you’re approaching or already experiencing burnout. Recognizing burnout ahead of time can be incredibly helpful. Not only so that you can change course for a more sustainable day-to-day routine, but also to conserve energy, and ensure you’re feeling like the amazing parent that your kids already KNOW you are!

Here are a few things you can do to prevent burnout from happening even in the hectic whirlwind of parenthood:

1. Take 5. Even taking just 5 minutes a day for yourself can make an enormous difference. Whether you’re a new mama taking care of your newborn or a seasoned parent who’s been around the block a few times. Everyone meets their wit’s end sometimes. So take a breath, set a timer, and spend that 5 minutes doing whatever you gotta do to center yourself. Sit in a closet for some peace and quiet, listen to music, call someone who makes you smile, or even just lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling (this can be weirdly therapeutic). It’s okay to reset and collect your thoughts.
2. Prioritize. Pick the things that absolutely need to get done today and save the rest for later. Your house doesn’t need to sparkle 24/7, but the baby needs to eat and Jimmy does need clean underwear for school tomorrow. Put your energy where it is needed most.
3. Nix the comparisons. Comparing yourself to other parents is tempting, especially in today’s parenting culture. Everyone wants to be “The Best Parent Ever.” But the secret is, your kids already think you’re the best. Do what is feasible and makes sense for YOU as a parent. Ease up on the criticism and try seeing yourself through their eyes because they already think you’re pretty great! 🙂
4. Teach your kids to do things independently. This one can seem daunting because kids can be so stubborn sometimes. But especially as your children get older, pushing through that resistance can save a lot of time and energy in the long run. Not having to worry about the little things like chores and getting everyone dressed will allow you to save your energy for the things that the kids can’t help out with. Plus it instills them with a sense of confidence and accomplishment!
5. Change your expectations. You don’t have to be perfect to be a good parent. It’s okay to not finish everything on your to-do list, and an extra few minutes of tv-time will not melt their brains into mush. Loosen your grip on those expectations of yourself and tell your self-critic to take a hike unless they plan on paying rent! It’s hard enough to be a parent, so cut yourself some slack.
6. Intentionally set aside time for yourself. I know this one can seen downright impractical, or even impossible. But it is so necessary. Making sure your own needs are met will allow you to feel more calm, collected and present (aka what every parent needs in the face of a tantrum). Your kids need you to take care of yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup. So get out there, hand your kids over to your partner/ family member/ friend/ playdate/ babysitter for a couple hours, and go do something that makes your soul happy. No guilt whatsoever because a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do.
7. Ask for and accept help. Reaching out does not make you weak, and there is no shame in accepting help when it’s offered. The image of “Super Mom” is enticing, but I assure you that she’s just a myth! It takes a village to raise children because no one can possibly be everything for everyone. Communicate your needs with loved ones and ask for help/support when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Being a parent is a full-time job and there’s no reason to make it harder than it needs to be!
8. Spend time with friends. No one can lift your spirits or put you at ease like your friends. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re losing yourself in the everyday life of parenthood, grabbing coffee or calling a good friend for a few minutes can help remind you of all that good stuff that’s already inside of you. Plus, venting and talking with other parent-friends can do wonders for lifting some of the weight off.
9. Be kind to yourself. Turning kindness and compassion inwards toward ourselves is a game-changer. By changing the way we talk to ourselves, we give ourselves room to feel, grow, and exist as people. Instead of berating yourself over the things you “should have” done, try a few of my favorite reminders: “I’ve done my best for today. I will keep trying tomorrow,” “It’s okay that I’m not perfect,” and “I will show myself the kindness and patience that I show others.” And if those don’t work, sometimes a good old fashioned  “No one is bleeding or in immediate crisis so that’s good enough for now” will do the trick 😉

If you find yourself nearing the Yelling-At-Reality-TV-In-Your-Boxers point of burnout, take a minute to breathe. You are human and deserve rest too. Give one or two of these a try every once in a while to see if they resonate with you. Above all else, please remember that you are not alone in this.

YOU CAN DO THIS. WE BELIEVE IN YOU. 

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT LAUNCH

Welcome to our first official Community Spotlight! 🙂 This is going to be a new segment of our blog where we shine the spotlight on some of our community members that are doing awesome work for prenatal/postpartum care! This will be a weekly occurrence, so get ready to meet some pretty awesome people. 

For our first Community Spotlight, it’s only natural that we shine the light on one of our very own doulas, Toni Auker!

To learn more about Toni’s work, passions, winning personality, and the births of her little ones while she busts some common myths about childbirth/ parenting, keep on reading!

TONI AUKER

What brought you to support moms and babies?

I have always wanted to work with women and children, but wasn’t sure in exactly what capacity. When I was an undergrad I was certain that it would be through therapy. I double majored in psychology and women’s studies and hoped to work with families in crisis. Before graduation I realized that I didn’t actually want to do therapy, but I still began looking for jobs working with families. The job market at the time wasn’t easy and I found that I made more money as a server than I would at most of the jobs that would use my degree. I put off the career search for a long time as I concentrated on building my own family. 

As soon as my first son was born I knew what I wanted to do. Although I didn’t have a doula for my birth, I felt extremely supported by my mother. She had 3 natural hospital births, and her confidence in my ability to birth was instrumental in my own confidence. My husband was by my side, but he was nervous and needed his own support. My OB of 10 years happened to be the one that caught my baby, but I felt like I had only seen him for a few minutes throughout the entire labor and birth. The nurses were great, but it felt so strange to me that I had never met them and would never see them again. Birth seemed so personal, and I felt like everyone deserved the continuous support of someone that knew and trusted birth. I knew a little bit about what birth doulas did, and I started to do more research. It wasn’t long before I decided that this was the career I had been looking for. I found a DONA (Doulas of North America) training in Ann Arbor and I took my four month old son with me to the classes. After attending my first birth, I knew that I had finally found my place in the world. Eight years later I have added Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator to my resume and I couldn’t be more excited about where my career is headed. I get to work with the most amazing families at such an exciting time in their lives. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?

There are so many birth myths that I would like to bust, but I think the biggest is that your provider is in charge of your birth. People might not say it directly, but it is in the way that we talk about birth. “My doctor won’t allow…”, “My doctor is making me…” and even “My doctor delivered my baby” are all phrases that I would love to do away with. You are in control of your birth. You birth your baby. Your doctor or midwife simply makes recommendations that you are welcome to accept or refuse. Some of their suggestions will be based on solid research and experience, but others come from habit or fear of litigation. Most of their recommendations come from generic hospital policy with no regard to your personal health or history. I have also found that many providers aren’t even attached to these recommendations, and they are more than willing to support people that ask for alternatives. I am so privileged to work with many brilliant providers and I absolutely respect everything that they do, but I also have amazing respect for the wonderfully intuitive families that take charge of their own births and make the decisions that work best for them

What do you enjoy doing when not working?

I am currently six months pregnant and planning to move, so I am not working much these days. My days seem to be filled with packing and keeping 2 active boys happy. The things I enjoy the most are getting out in nature. I love to hike and camp. Hikes are quite a bit shorter right now, but even just sitting in nature makes me happy. This year we have visited the Hocking Hills and Ocqueoc Falls. We are heading up for a camping trip this weekend, and I hope to plan at least one more adventure before this baby arrives. 

What moment are you most proud of?

I have two moments that I am extremely proud of, one personal and one professional. My proudest professional moment was passing the Lamaze exam. I had already been teaching for someone else, and using their curriculum, for three years. Striking out on my own and passing the Lamaze exam was huge for me. It was like validation that I was on the right path. It makes me a more confident instructor, and I feel like it gives me a bit of credibility in the eyes of the many providers that now send their clients to me.

My proudest moment personally was the birth of my second son. My first birth was amazing and enlightening. I had tried to conceive him for 5 years with the help of 2 fertility doctors. Looking back there was so much I didn’t know, and so many things that I would have changed. Overall though, it was a good birth. With the second I hired homebirth midwives. I rented an inflatable tub for my dining room and asked a doula to be there. From the minute that I hired my midwives, things felt so much different. I felt supported and empowered in a way that I didn’t know was possible with my first birth. Although not everything went as planned (my son was not born in the water as I had envisioned), I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I was in control. I kicked people out of my room when I needed privacy, I pushed when my body told me, and I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. My oldest got to meet his baby brother before we even cut the cord, and I feel like that solidified their bond immediately. I know that homebirth isn’t for everyone, but it was absolutely the right decision for me.

Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.

I would like everyone to know that Lamaze supports every kind of birth and all choices. I teach directly from research and try to lay out all of your options. I will never tell a client that they need to do something or that they need to refuse something. I give them the evidence on both sides, and often help them find the compromises in the middle. Birth is unpredictable and the best thing that I can give you is the tools to communicate with your providers and make decisions in the moment. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I only gave you the tools for an unmedicated birth. This is something that everyone with Tree Town Doulas has in common. We are here to support you no matter what your circumstances and choices are. Whether you plan to give birth at home or in a hospital, with or without medication, vaginally or caesarean, we are here to support you