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When the Demands of Motherhood Almost Led to a Nervous Breakdown

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As I sat in the parking lot of the dance studio, rain pouring down so hard I couldn’t see 2 feet in front of me, I laid my head on the steering wheel sobbing uncontrollably.

Motherhood was giving me a nervous breakdown.

With my husband working out of town for weeks as a truck driver, I was left with the responsibility of managing my household alone. All three of my girls had been sick over the past week. One with food poisoning, one with pneumonia and the youngest with a raging ear infection. I’d maxed out.

Sleep deprived and with severe anxiety, I knew that I was in an unhealthy place and my own self-care was in a very low place. I was tired. The stress of trying to find some semblance of a work-home life was crushing and I wasn’t sure which way to turn.

So many of my working mom friends were experiencing similar situations and my SAHM friends weren’t far behind. Where was the light at the end of the tunnel? I began to make a list of things I could do immediately to give myself a break.

The mental workload of motherhood, was causing me to shut down. 

I spent the next few weeks looking at our summer and fall family calendars; hoping to carve out time to decompress. My efforts felt futile. My oldest daughter is heavily involved in ballet and her near daily dance schedule and the cost of classes coupled with an hour commute to the studio left little room for what I needed most: self-care.

Here are several tips to encourage moms reading this to make their self-care a priority:

1. Ask for help. 

To many of my family and friends, I’m an expert at juggling my work and home balance. I’d rather do things myself than to ask for help, but it’s gotten to the point where that’s impossible. I’ve had to learn to delegate household chores to my husband (when he’s home) and my kids and to ask for help from my mom tribe with carpool and kid activities. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to a therapist if you’ve found that things have become unmanageable. Therapy has helped me retrain my thinking and to set personal and professional goals.

2. Remove clutter from our family schedule. 

According to an article I read on the Huffington Post, kids are supposed to have three hours of unstructured play outside each day. I’ve had to cut back on our kid’s activities, and in the process, it’s allowed them to explore, create and play with friends in our neighborhood. “Unscheduling” my kids from some of their activities has allowed us to spend more time eating, laughing and spending time together. It’s also taken a great deal of pressure off of me daily.  I’ve also had to carve out time where I can schedule activities that don’t involve anyone other than myself. You can’t pour from an empty cup. There is no shame in needing alone time to recharge.

3. Make rest a priority. 

On a typical day, I go to bed after midnight and I’m up before the sunrises. Making rest a priority has allowed me to recharge and has greatly improved my overall attitude. I have made it a habit to use a variety of meditation apps to help me fall asleep.

4. Make room for time with friends. 

Somehow along the way, I stopped hanging out with my friends. Every minute of my day became consumed with my little people. I’ve now made a commitment to myself that I’m going to carve out one  morning a month for coffee, brunch, or dinner with friends.

5. Take a digital detox. 

This has been the most rewarding experience. I’ve stopped taking personal calls before 10 a.m. and after 8 p.m. I also refrain from taking personal calls on the weekends when possible. I’m an introvert by nature and constantly being available via my cell phone was too much. I’m also working to reduce the amount of time I spend on social media. That’s still a work in progress.

Focusing on my own self-care has had a tremendous impact on my happiness and the happiness of my family. As the old saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, nobody is happy.”

Originally published: August 6, 2018
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