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Monday, December 15, 2014

Knowing Your Limits and Avoiding Burn Out as a Mom

When my twins were toddlers, I found some other Mom friends who gave me the best gift anyone can give a struggling new mother, HONESTY.  They took off their Super Mom capes, and showed me what real motherhood looked like in their lives.

These brave women were not filled with sense of joy from "being needed” when their child cried for them in the middle of the night.  They didn't rejoice in the growth spurt happening during “cluster feeding”. Some of them even admitted how they would also rather have some alone time on Mother's Day than spending the entire day with their kids (GASP!).

And as my twins got bigger, the my 'mommy guilt' seemed to grow accordingly. The whole parenting thing was a shock to my system.  It didn't feel like what I thought it would feel. 

 It didn't help I went into parenting with an extremely large chip on my shoulder (an extra large cape if you will) of  having an Early Childhood Education degree, and having been a successful teacher at a prestigious college preschool.   I was an amazing parent before I had kids.

I had also grown up in a yelling household, and had sworn I would never be the 'yelling mom'. I found that when I was completely spent and had not more resources to give to my kids, I unfortunately reverted back to my family of origin of dealing with frustration....I became a yelling mom. The guilt was again exacerbated as I knew what being yelled at felt like as a child.  In one of those moments of extreme shame after having lost my temper yet again, I knew I had to be more proactive to prevent these moments of loss of self control.  I found I was able to be proactive by discerning when I was close to reaching my limits.

If you are feeling "crowded", know your limits. In Mark's gospel, we learn Jesus asked the disciples to ready a boat because the crowds were pushing to get to him, sound familiar at all? Please say that isn't just my house that my kids push each other to be the first at just about everything, even hugging me. 

Because of the crowd he[Jesus] told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, 
to keep the people from crowding him.  Mark 3:9

Jesus wasn't 'crowded’ like you feel in the lines at Disney World; he was surrounded by people who genuinely needed him. They needed him so much, they did not realize they were physically crushing him.

We all have people in our life who genuinely need us, and sometimes they are oblivious they are crushing us. But I have had to learn that their genuine need does not negate my need for solitude with God. 

 Instead of shaming myself for the fact they I can be 'a yelling mom', I have had to learn to be proactive, recognizing when I am reaching my limits, to stop the yelling before it begins. There are times when I feel “crowded" and need to take a "mommy time-out". It may not rational, it may even be hormonal sometimes, but laying down the pride to admit I just can not do this on my own is what is best for my family.

Get your 'boat' ready for a break.  As more people needed Jesus, he actually sought more , not less, time away with God, to pray.

"But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray." Luke 5:15-16

I think many work within the assumption that the act of meeting  the needs of other will fill us up all by itself.  And yes, being an extrovert, I definitely receive some energy from serving and being with others.  But not matter how extroverted you are, when you are pouring into the lives of others, you will eventually just plain run out of anything to give. 

Jesus sought refreshment and stillness from the only one who could TRULY refill Him, His Heavenly Father.

Pray and respectfully be honest with your spouse.  Let him know when you feel like you may be reaching your limit (usually BEFORE you reach the limit is best).  Be aware of signs that you are wearing thin, and ask him for a break.  It helps if I tell my husband, "To be the best mom and wife I can be, sometimes this week I know I am going to need a night off to myself. What night works best for you?" When the twins were toddlers, I needed a monthly break.  Now it is has become maybe once every 3 or 4 months.

 Taking a break has taken many different forms in my life. Sometimes I need an hour break to take a quiet bath after dinner when my husband gets home.  Sometimes I need a whole Saturday afternoon at the movies, where I can buy popcorn and put as much butter and salt on it as I want! Maybe you need a date night with your husband, or girl’s night out with friends.  Or better yet, time at a restaurant to do my bible study without six interruptions of my kids bickering.

 If you are a single parent, find a worthwhile activity for your kids that enable you to take a break.  When the boys were younger, MOPS was a my break.  Now I have a built in night off when they attend AWANA each week. 

We Ex-Super Moms give you permission to take off your cape, take a night off to take yourself on a date, just you.  No judgment.   You will come back to your house having had time to miss your kids. And if you go to the movies, don't forget to eat some popcorn for me. 

 Sometimes 'the crowd' may not  be your kids.
Knowing my limits has  meant recognizing that sometimes I need to take a break from the other ‘needy crowds’ in my life; dropping ‘good’ activities that were draining me of the resources I needed to a wife and mother. 

In the end, knowing my limits has meant that I stopping trying to save my loved ones with my own power, and point them to the only True God who can save them.


  1. This is so good! Thank you! My husband and I are going on a date tonight for this very reason. I love the comparison you drew with Jesus taking a break from the crowds that needed Him.

    1. So glad God's lessons for me can help someone else, I have to remind myself often to stop trying to work in m own power, and recharge. Have fun on your date Laurel! I am off to take listen to a Beth Moore Audio Book in a bubble bath!