Battling Carer Overwhelm - A Message To All Parents and Carers.
This month I am writing about something that I feel so strongly about, and is very close to my heart. As a business owner and a mother, with a husband who travels for work, I know first-hand how challenging juggling all the responsibilities of life is. So often I sit opposite exhausted Mums, Dads and Carers, who describe to me their tiredness, lack of focus, feeling of overwhelm, confusion and loss of joy in life and what they do. Too often when I have these conversations, these parents ask me “What am I doing wrong? Help me organise myself! Do I have anxiety or ADHD? What is wrong with me, why can’t I cope?”. When I hear this, I feel deeply moved, and deeply saddened – these exhausted Parents looking for an explanation to explain what they see as the FAULT in themselves.
Do you know what I say to each and every one of these parents? I tell them – “There is nothing wrong with you. You are burnt out. You are trying to manage so many things, with a finite amount of energy and no time to recharge. You have been placed in an impossible situation which no one could manage without experiencing the fatigue and overwhelm that you are”.
Modern life has brought with it a lot of amazing things – but it has also brought with it pressures and isolation. We aren’t meant to be raising families like this, in separate homes, 2 exhausted humans with the modern pressures we have. I have written previously about the importance of community, and I raise this point here again. These exhausted and BURNT OUT parents are having a normal reaction, to a completely extraordinary situation. I cannot fathom at what point we decided 2 individuals, working collaboratively (at BEST), are supposed to be able to raise children, work, and do everything else we are told we are supposed to (school sport, exercise, self-care, socialise, keep the house in order, support others …..the list goes on!). In some cases it’s single parents, in other cases it’s parent(s) of kids with special needs! It’s an impossible task and it’s taking its toll.
I want to make my point clear to you, dear exhausted Parent. There is NOTHING wrong with you! You are amazing, trying to juggle all that you are – but you are burnt out. The expectations placed on a modern parent are NUTS!...and I offer the following suggestions to help…without adding more pressure ;)
1) Be aware of expectations you are placing on yourself. How are you judging yourself? Are you comparing yourself to others? Here is my permission for you to stop caring about what other people are doing or thinking and for you to start making conscious decisions about what matters to you and your family.
2) Understand that your energy is a finite resource and you MUST take time to recharge. This might mean giving away a weekend activity or saying "no" to that family get together on the weekend. Change isn’t always comfortable, but when it comes to taking care of yourself and protecting your time, this is a necessity.
3) Time away from the kids is not a luxury, but a necessity. Reach out to those around you and allow them to support you in having some time for you each month.
4) Protect family time – too often we are DOING so much for our kids, we don’t have time to BE with our kids. We have a rule in our house that we are home on Sundays by 3pm – this is family time, quiet time to be together and prepare for the week. Reflect on how can you protect some time and be with, instead of doing for.
5) Kids love presents – but what they crave and NEED is your presence. Where you can, set limits on use of your phone/social media when with your kids, reduce those MasterChef style meals to wraps or sandwiches some nights, leave the laundry in a pile instead of folding it – whatever you can do to be more present and engage with your kids. Think about what is getting in your way at the moment and see if you can just drop it.
Finally, you don’t have to be the BEST parent in the world – you just have to be good enough. I promise you that good enough makes for a happier you and a happier family. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out and want to talk to someone who "gets it", please don’t hesitate to get in touch and make some time to get some support. I’ll be ready and waiting.
Yours in parenting – Emma.