In this edition of LIFEadvice, life coaches Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham share some ways to take better care of yourself so you feel less drained and empty in your parenting.
I feel like a terrible mother. I find myself resenting my children for just how demanding my job is. I don't think they are more demanding than other children, but I just don't have it in me some days. I feel emotionally drained and can't wait for them to all be in bed, so I can have some me time. How do I successfully balance my needs and the needs of my family without resentment or guilt? I feel guilty taking care of me but resentful if I don't. I don't want to be this grouchy and drained all the time. What can I do?
Thank you for having the courage to speak out about these feelings that we believe most mothers feel, at least some of the time. Motherhood and balancing the needs of a home and family is a tall order and most of us have high, slightly unrealistic expectations that leave us feeling like we are never good enough.
The truth is we all feel emotionally drained from motherhood on occasion. Having the energy to give selflessly to other people day and night, is difficult and unless we learn to maintain a healthy balance and make sure our own bucket is full, we can feel drained or resentful a lot.
There are four ways you can create a healthier balance between caring for other and caring for yourself and keep your bucket full:
Do you allow people to take more from you than you have to give?
Sadly, almost every woman we know, answers YES to this question. Obviously, there are things you must do every day to meet the needs of your family and ensure they are safe, nourished and cared for, whether you want to or not. However, most women give more than necessary and take on extra tasks, which leave them feeling resentful and overburdened.
This over giving can lead to feelings of anger and mistreatment. Over giving may be so behaviorally ingrained for you though, you may even find even understanding the principle of balance difficult. Many people, who are people pleasers, learned as a child that pleasing others and serving was always the "right" thing to do and sacrificing yourself was righteous. But this implies that taking care of yourself at all makes you selfish. Many women and men, who grew up with these beliefs, need help establishing healthy boundaries with their spouses, friends and neighbors.
Boundaries are rules that protect you from your guilt, weakness and people pleasing, which make you to over give. They are not about controlling other people. They are about controlling you.
The first boundary you probably need is a permission rule about saying no. We sometimes have to tell our clients, "We officially give you permission to say no to things that would overwhelm or drain you, and do so without feeling guilty at all. Saying no does not make you a bad person, it makes you a healthy one."
If you want to have healthy relationships, you must give only those gifts you can give freely, without guilt, strings, or sense of obligation in play. When you give authentically, you are love-motivated, meaning you have it to give and actually want to give it. Your giving is not driven by "shoulds" or the need to get approval or validation from others (which would make the service about you not them). If you give to others because you are afraid of judgment or letting someone down, or if you feel guilty if you don't do it, your giving is based on fear, not love.
This week, give yourself permission to create some new healthier boundaries. Could you love yourself enough to acknowledge your needs and make sure they are met, while also tending to the family? This can be hard if you place your value in what other's think of you or if you are trying to look like a "super mom" caring for everyone and sacrificing yourself. But there is no extra prize for the super mom or the martyr.
One of the healthiest things you can do as a mom is model healthy, balanced self-care, showing your kids it is right and healthy to take care of yourself because you are as important as everyone else. You will also find people tend to appreciate what you do for them more if you say no on occasion. When you always sacrifice yourself for others, they come to expect it, and their appreciation goes down. If you are completely taken for granted, it's a sure sign you are over giving.
This may be another bitter pill to swallow if you are a people pleaser who feels safer being the giver. But being good at receiving is just as important as being good at giving. Unless we allow others to reciprocate in our relationships, we don't experience a truly healthy, relationship dynamic. Think of how good it feels to give a gift to someone you love. Now, think about how you would feel if they rejected your gift. You see, receiving gives the other person the same fulfillment you get when you give to them.
It's essential this balance of giving and receiving is established in all the relationships in your life. Without this balance, you easily slip into over giving and other people either take advantage of this or walk away because they are not receiving the feelings they want.
Many relationships breakdown because, over time, the imbalance of giving and receiving takes a toll. Allowing your children to help around the house, give you a foot rub, be patient while you take a bath, or take time from their day to sit and listen to you, are easy ways that you can correct the imbalance.
Not asking for and accepting help from children may be why you have some resentment. Ask your children to pitch in around the house, allow them to cook you a meal, even if it's cheese on toast or cereal. It's fun for them and it's essential for you, so drop the high expectations of doing it all and make life a team effort.
Your needs are just as important as the other members of your family. We know this may be hard to get your head around, but your needs being met is essential to the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being of the entire family.
Asking for what you need, in a loving way, is also much better than holding resentment and anger that your needs are never met. Learning how to facilitate conversations that allow you to ask for help is easier than you think. Start by asking them questions about how they feel about life in your home. Really listen and be open to some things you could do better or different. (This makes children feel very loved.) Then, ask if they would be willing to help you a little more by doing this or that for you.
We think you will be surprised at how much your family wants to love you through acts of kindness, service and support. Many of our clients feel angry that they don't get more help, but they aren't asking the family to help either. Start by asking for what you need without feeling guilty.
Mothers are the queens of guilt. We feel guilty about not giving enough time or energy, about not being enough, about not being a good enough role model, provider, housekeeper, confidante — we feel guilty when we are working and guilty when we aren't — we feel guilty about everything.
Let's drop this now. You always do the best you can with what you know in each moment, and you often give when you don't even have it in you.
Your value does not change if you are tired, grouchy or drained. Your value is the same as every other person no matter how much you struggle. Your love is one of a kind and it is exactly what your children need.
You are not a perfect parent (because that's not possible), but you are the perfect parent for your children (or you wouldn't have been given the job). Your guilt doesn't serve anyone or anything. Get over it. Let the past go and do your best to stay present and love yourself and them today.
Keep working on your ability to receive and create some healthy boundaries for yourself this week. Figure out what you really need to keep your bucket full and make a plan to do those things.
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs we have in our lifetime. By showing greater compassion and understanding toward yourself, especially in times of fatigue and emotional exhaustion, you will honor your value and show up as a love-motivated parent.
You can do this!