Self-care is a super popular buzzword. You can’t mindlessly scroll through Facebook or Pinterest without seeing it pop up again and again.
I’m not knocking self-care — I think it’s great. On the other hand, what I am suggesting is that you take a self-assessment, an inventory of sorts, instead.
How are you doing?
Are you in a state of Xanax-like zen or are you one missing shoe from boiling over and becoming your own reality show? Somewhere in between?
Honestly, with three young kids (and another on the way), I haven’t experienced zen in years. However, I can definitely help you identify the signs that you’re touched out and tapped out.
If you’re regularly experiencing any of these, it’s time to book that Mom’s Day Out (or Nap Day — or just Stare-at-the-wall-in-blissful-silence-while-someone-else-watches-your-kids Day)
OMG LOUD NOISES!
When I’m fine, normal noises don’t faze me. It’s always some degree of loud around here, often borderline uncomfortably so.
But when I’m tapped out?
All of a sudden my ears become super sensitive, like an internal Spidey-sense is going off that I can’t shut down. Why are you all talking at once?! What is that tapping sound?! Who left the TV on?!
If you find yourself rocking back and forth in a corner of the room or storming through the house turning off ipads and televisions like a deranged lunatic, you’ve hit your limit. You need to be alone with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, stat!
WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING ME?!
Parenting involves a lot of touching– SO much more touching than I ever envisioned before having children. From the delightful good morning kisses to the incredibly frustrating and awkward hugs while you try to use the bathroom — as a mom of young ones, you’re pretty much never off limits.
By the end of the day, if your husband goes to put his arm around you and your automatic reaction is to jump like Jason from Halloween just walked through your door, you are touched out.
The only cure for a mom who’s touched out is sleeping in a delightful cocoon of solitude. Go to your bed, wrap yourself in 405 blankets, and speak to and touch no one.
Better yet: pass out on the couch downstairs or in the basement, if you have one. This has an added bonus of you being less likely to hear a kid’s middle-of-the-night wake-up call.
Taking a shower seems like a Herculean Effort
The most obvious sign that you’re tapped out as a mom is when you struggle to accomplish the most basic task–and I mean struggle.
When brushing your teeth seems to take all your energy.
When taking a shower seems like it requires a feat of Olympic strength.
When folding the laundry in the dryer seems like it could, in fact, break you.
If this sounds like you lately, you have poured from your cup for too long and now it’s empty. You’re using up the very last drops lingering in the bottom to push your way through the day. This isn’t healthy and it isn’t fair.
You need to take some time for yourself to refill. Waiting until you’re down to fumes before you fill the gas tank in your car is a terrible and unsafe idea (though I’ve certainly been known to do it). The same is true for you and your proverbial tank.
So what’s a touched-out, tapped-out, overwhelmed mom to do?
I’m not suggesting that you apply a face mask or get a manicure— or whatever other frivolous suggestions society seems to throw at stressed-out women everywhere. While those may be nice, and you’re certainly welcome to them, they’re not going to fix genuine burn out.
Instead, you need to acknowledge that you’re tapped out and figure out why. What could you do or change to keep your tank fuller, longer? Often, it involves asking for help, something many mothers are loathe to do.
The fact is, modern motherhood has become a bit of a rat race and moms are struggling under the pressure. Don’t do this to yourself – ask for help and take it where you can get it.
If the break or the help you need isn’t available, if the stage you’re in relationally, monetarily, professionally etc. just doesn’t allow for the pressure to let up, don’t make it worse by putting more pressure on yourself. You’re doing the best you can.
And that is enough.