Holidays can sometimes fall into a predictable pictures: soap suds and dirty dishes at the end of the feast, with everyone relaxing – or snoozing – talking about being overly stuffed (just like every other year!)—and you, mom, utterly chocked again at just how fast the feasting goes when the prep took….days! You’re trying not to overanalyze all of the pieces behind the scenes that seemingly “fell into place” allowing the Holiday to happen.
To those relaxing in the other room, Of course, few people celebrating that feast realize was that nothing "fell" into place. In fact, if your family is anything like mine, several emergency trips to the grocery store is the only way we can actually have a meal, ingredients for stuffing, the secret ingredient for mashed potatoes (it's cream cheese), and a few pies. But, as those soap suds rise with every plate, maybe the classic Alicia Keys song, "Superwoman" could blast on the playlist:
Cause I am a Superwoman
Yes I am
Yes she is
Even when I'm a mess
I still put on a vest
With an S on my chest
I'm a Superwoman
...and maybe it will resonate for you. It probably should resonate for you. Because it’s very likely the Holiday magic and meal happened only because of you.
We really do it all, don't we? We make sure the backpacks are checked, the gym shoes are packed, the fridge stocked with something other than ice cream, go to work, and otherwise hold our respective families together, often with our own sweat, tears, and blood.
The part of this that is so difficult, though, is that our families often don't see it until we stop holding the family; until we begin to break beneath their weight and begin failing to be the glue that binds everything together… It seems that nobody realizes what it is that we do.
Maternal Overwhelm and Emotional Labor
A term has been coined for this: emotional labor. It’s also starting to get called “maternal overwhelm.” It's knowing the names of the teachers, knowing which doctors go with which members of the family, when to send birthday cards, what gifts would be tactful for which occasion, and a million day-to-day decisions. It is generally unpaid work - but paying someone else to do it would be astronomical in cost. And many of us do this work in addition to working outside the home in some capacity.
Is it any wonder some of us are drowning? Is it any wonder you and I experience burnout? Is it any wonder that sometimes we need help?
But, of course, nobody needs to tell you that you have a mountain of responsibilities and a diminishing number of hours in the day. The big question is simple: how do we get the help we need?
Here are some simple steps from a Chicago Therapist to get you moving towards the direction of mental health help:
1. Pause to identify how you are doing.
Reflect on your thoughts, feel your feelings. Use honest language, and don’t move on too quickly from that honesty. If you find yourself desperately trying to disassociate from those feelings and thoughts, that can be a red flag that something is off with your mental health. If you find yourself unable to really follow a coherent line of thinking - or you lack the concentration to really focus yourself, this might also be an indication that something is off.
2. Talk to your primary care provider with concerns.
Schedule - and go - to the appointment. Answer questions honestly. That doctor will likely ask questions about your sleeping habits, your diet, and other questions. Answer them honestly. Your doctor may also run some labs or have some insight about anything that could be contributing to feelings of tiredness, lack of focus, sadness, irritability, etc. They may also be able to prescribe an anti-anxiety or anti-depression medication; they may suggest therapy; etc. But it is important to get a look at physical health while assessing mental health.
3. Decide what you are looking for in terms of your mental health.
Is it insight about who you are in this “mom life”? Is it strategies to increase fulfilment and happiness, but also productivity and efficiency? Or is it more a relationship boost you need and a couples’ therapist would be more appropriate? Are you realizing there are issues from your childhood or other parts of your past coming up that you want to explore, process, and resolve?
You don’t have to have ALL of the answers to these, but some general beginnings of where you want to go with therapy and goals you have can help you find the right fit!
For other tips on how to find a good fit, check out another blog we wrote on:
4. Create small, quantifiable, and achievable goals.
Also called “SMART” goals, this type of goal setting can create realistic, attainable change. It also can increase momentum, discipline, clear perspective, and sustained change.
For example, you could very well have a goal of landing a million-dollar contract tomorrow - but if you are not in an industry conducive to that, while that is a quantifiable goal, it might not be attainable. Similarly, you could have the goal, "I want to be happy." That is wonderful, but because it is not quantifiable (unless you define it), there is no real way to say if you were successful or not - thus skewing achievement. Therefore, one goal might be, "I want to make it on time for every session for a month." This is small, attainable, and quantifiable. You might have a goal, "yell at my child less often" - you might need to quantify that more specifically. If you said, "On average, I yell at my kid once a day; I'd like to reduce that to once every 72 hours." This is a small, attainable, and quantifiable goal.
And remember: your target can always shift! Especially after you pick up some momentum. So, even if you want to “yell less” and start with going from daily to every 72 hours, you can then shift that to once every 5 days. It *is* possible mommas, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now!
One of our STL Therapists wrote a great blog on Goal Setting you may also want to peruse! Click Here for our 7 Tips for Goal Setting Blog!