Tired moms are just that, tired. I recently read a Facebook post where a mom expressed how she was so tired and desperately needed change. She explained how she was a stay-at-home mom and felt underappreciated and alone. While reading the post, I immediately was able to connect with the mom and the 300+ moms who agreed by liking the post and the 275+ people who commented about their own frustrations with mothering and lack of time for themselves.
It was as if someone was writing about me a few short months ago. I felt her sense of guilt for wanting more. Her sense of resentment for a partner who seemingly carried on with work, social life, and sense of self intact. I also felt the shame in her tone as she felt as if she needed to meet all the expectations of what a good mother looks like. I felt the burden of what a good stay-at-home mother was “supposed” to look like. I felt her deep sense of love for her child and the need for her to have a moment to breathe and be.
That post stuck with me several days beyond the day I read it. Perhaps it is because I can relate to her or because I understand the importance of finding oneself in the thick of motherhood.
So, if you have ever experienced overwhelm, underappreciation, or loneliness, I pray this post brings you some relief.
A few months back I was speaking with my therapist and she was helping me craft some new boundaries. I decided to take the work a bit further and purchased Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A guide to reclaiming yourself by Dr. Nedra Glover Tawwab. This amazing book has helped me unpack a lot of my thoughts and emotions around decision-making so that I can maintain a healthy emotional, physical and mental state.
Dr. Tawwab has helped me understand that burnout is a result of unnoticed stress. When we are stressed and do not take heed to the signs, that leads to us feeling underappreciated, frustrated, and ultimately burnout. According to her new book, one way to overcome this feeling is by establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries. She describes boundaries as “expectations and needs that help you feel safe and comfortable in your relationships.”
When I reflect upon times when I was most frustrated, it was because my expectations and needs were not being met. That was partly because I was trying to meet all the expectations set by traditional mothers of the 80s and 90s. I was trying to work, be involved in all aspects of the kids’ lives on a daily basis (school, sports, extracurricular, social, emotional, etc.), be a good wife, supportive friend, maintain an organized house, etc. In other words, I was trying to do too much for too many people and again, I was nowhere on the list of things to tend to.
Dr. Tawwab has helped me learn a few things.
- Clarity in desire is a driving factor
- Setting boundaries is a 2-step process
- Finding lasting inner peace occurs when clarity and boundaries are in place
So, before I really could begin to set boundaries, I had to become very clear on what I needed and wanted in my relationship not with others, but with myself. I had never really thought about my own relationship with me. I knew I needed to spend time relaxing, journaling about my thoughts, and doing things that made my soul happy, but I didn’t think about the type of relationship I wanted to have with me.
When thinking about relationships, we often think about relationships with other people. The one that is most inquired about is one’s marital status: single, dating, married, divorced, in a committed relationship, a toxic relationship, etc. Just as we have relationships with our kids, significant others, friends, club members, etc., we can have the same types of relationships with ourselves.
So, finding clarity and truly knowing your desires starts with knowing what you like, want, need, and expect with and from yourself. Putting all other relationships to the side, it might be helpful to determine how you want to be most involved with you. Do you want to be…
- Active – one who takes initiative and makes decisions
- Passive – one who is disengaged or is run by the needs and desires of others. One who has a whatever happens attitude.
- Acceptive – one who embraces all parts of self (behaviors, traits, needs) no matter how quirky or different they may be.
- Committed – one who continuously and intentionally shows up for self.
- Codependent – one who finds value in oneself based on the value others find relevant and useful.
- Toxic – one who consistently engages in self-sabotaging, self-betrayal, and people-pleasing behavior at the detriment of promoting one’s emotional, mental, or physical wellness.
There are many other ways to engage in a relationship with oneself. For additional relationship dynamics, check out this article and determine how you want to pull up for yourself.
Dr. Tawwab says the way to overcome burnout is by setting boundaries. When most people think about boundaries, they think about saying no to someone that needs them. Well, setting boundaries is just as much about you as it is about the other person in the relationship. But since we are talking about how to help you become less overwhelmed and frustrated (aka burnout), we’ll dive into setting boundaries with yourself.
When I decided I wanted to be in a committed relationship with myself and no longer just let things happen to me, I made a promise to show up for me each day. For me, that looks like, spending intentional time focusing on my emotional, mental, and physical wellness through journaling, prayer/meditation, movement, and nutrition (most of the time). I started small, by making one promise with myself. My first promise was to journal each day for a week. Then, I added doing a quick dance at lunchtime (the toddler joined most days). That eventually became reading a self-help book during lunch or listening to a podcast while my kids were busy eating. Eventually, I landed on a full hour to myself each morning with bursts throughout the day. But, it all started with a promise to journal daily (5-10 minutes).
In order to do this, I had to do two things. First, I had to communicate to myself what I was going to do. Then, I followed up with the action to get it done. Dr. Tawwab shares that in the two-step process, one must communicate then act.
Have you ever stared at someone in amazement because they were not able to discern your needs? No, I’m the only one?! Oh, ok.
I have been guilty of expecting my husband to do something without me clearly communicating my desires. This leaves me angry every time I do it. So, what Dr. Tawwab proposes is to communicate the need and follow up with behavior(s) to uphold what was communicated. For example, when I made the agreement with myself, I could have told my husband that I needed him to make sure I was not interrupted by my toddler when I was participating in my “me time”, but I did not. My husband is pretty observant and kind of picked up on my new routine and would jump in to help with our youngest son when needed. On the days when he did not do this, it left me feeling frustrated, but it was really my own doing that caused the frustration because I missed step 1: communicate the boundary. Once I realized I had more control over the situation, my husband and I discussed my need for more “me time,” and he was able to provide support.
Now, it wasn’t a one-time conversation that led to the perfect outcome. I had to remind my husband of my needs and keep my own negative thoughts about why he wasn’t helping at bay. Had I had Set Boundaries, Find Peace prior to the beginning of this, perhaps I would have followed the two-step process from the beginning instead of hoping for him to realize my needs. I now know that having those difficult conversations can lead to a better situation for all involved. I just had to become clear on my desires, tame the negative thoughts running through my head, and set a clear boundary.
Establishing this simple boundary with myself and my family has helped me remain committed to my own joy, happiness, and peace.
Finding the peace and freedom we all desire, starts from within. Getting to fully know oneself and fall in love with that person takes time, effort, and serious commitment. It is definitely not a one-time journaling, therapy, or other mindfulness practice session type of thing.
I am not sure who came up with the twenty-one days to make a habit rule, but when I started on my journey to reconnect with myself, I stated I was going to do a deep dive into learning more about myself for 21 days. At the 21 day mark, I was still quite committed to the journey, routine, and practice of journaling, meditating, praying, managing my time, etc., but felt as if I needed more time. I remember praying and asking God to help me learn how to keep the level of “Zen” I was experiencing.
I was experiencing something that kept pulling me back to myself so I could be more centered, present, and open with me, my kids, family, friends, etc. While reading Set Boundaries, Find Peace, I made a connection. The type of peace I was experiencing was steeped in…
- the way I used my breath for nourishment and release. Each day, I try to engage in breathwork. You can check out a few of my IGTV “Mindful Sips” episodes to learn more.
- the boundary I set for myself (to pour into me daily through journaling, prayer, yoga/movement, just being with a cup of tea, interacting with nature, etc.). I literally take 15-35 minutes each day to focus on my relationship with me.
- doing things on my terms without outside influences required me to question my beliefs, values, and traditions. I had to determine (and still do) if the decision was mine or something influenced by the media, family, or traditions.
By doing these things, my level of peace has remained. So, finding your peace requires you to focus on your relationship with you. The things that bring you peace will emerge. Just stick with the plan you put in place. And remember, change takes just as much time as teaching your toddler how to eat without the mess. It is an ongoing process.
So, to all the moms who are like me and get to the end of the road desiring more, get clear on what you want, set a boundary or two, and the peace of mind you are seeking will naturally emerge. I pray you spearhead the type of relationship that helps you feel safe, seen, heard, and valued. It is your right! We've got this!
Sip tea and just be,