Ask any mom how they’re feeling right now and you’ll get the same response: Depleted. Parent coach and instructor at Conscious Discipline Amy Speidel explains that even though moms want others to rely on them, “if we don’t recognize that we can’t get through this alone, we’re doing our teens a disservice.”
Finding Help for Overwhelmed Moms
Q: We’re all feeling so depleted right now.
Speidel: This isn’t a sprint it’s a marathon and now we’re starting a new marathon. Despair that we’ll never get out from under this thing and get back to normal. Even if we do, we’re not going to be who we thought we’d be by the end of this.
This is going to end but we have no time frame to put this on. For most of us, we live our lives on a calendar. What we’ve realized in all of this is that our plans mean nothing, time means nothing.
We have to shift our mindset to figure out how to live in this moment. As a whole society, we are being forced to focus on the now. That is hard because our brains are looking for some predictability. Our brains want to know the story and we don’t know what the story is. It’s hard to live in ambiguity. It’s hard to keep our energy around that kind of uncertainty.
Q: So what do we do?
Speidel: Plenty of people have given advice to go for a walk, turn off the tv, and avoid negativity. There is truth to that. It doesn’t require a lot. It does require moments of reflection to build that stamina up again. You do need to have some ways to get your well filled.
However, the other piece of this is to recognize that many of the people who are struggling the most right now are the ones who have always relied more on themselves: mothers, teachers – those people who have been the most reliable are struggling because of the weight of the responsibility. They feel like they have to hold it together because people need them right now.
Here’s your response to that: You have got to use your village. Stop thinking that it’s important that you don’t inconvenience anyone else.
If you’ve got a set of grandparents who watch your kids a few hours a week, double or triple this time. Pull in your resources and get some support. If we don’t recognize that we can’t get through this alone, we’re doing our kids a disservice. We’re not the Giving Tree. I love Shel Silverstein, but that book gets me every time. You chop that thing down to a little stump in the ground and what use is it to anyone? It is important to keep your trunk and your branches. It’s important to feed ourselves. That’s the best parenting model for your kids.
Q: What if taking care of yourself first is the best gift we can give our kids?
Speidel: Do we want to perpetuate what we have now, which is “I need to hold it together no matter what”? We have such a split right now: We have one part of our culture right now that says if it inconveniences me, then I’m not doing it. And we have another part that says I’m going to sacrifice everything to make sure we’re all going to be okay. Somewhere we have to find the balance in the middle.
That’s what I mean when I say that it’s important that we don’t feel like if we say that we require more help right now, we’re putting an unfair burden on someone else. So that we can all find a way through.
The key is to communicate that without resenting the other person or feeling guilt. We have to come up with a reasonable plan that says, “if we’re going to keep doing this, then we’re going to have to share the load.”
The plate was already full when we got loaded up with more during the pandemic. There was already too much on there.
Q: Maybe this is the time to empower our teens?
Speidel: I totally agree with that. Maybe it’s time to empower teens so that they can be “a functional part of this new order.” Maybe they take trips to the store, which may be safer anyway. It’s how you give them responsibility so that they’re not just receiving your care and are now participating. Why would our kids pick up any of our jobs if we don’t tell them that it’s time?
Q: It’s a great time to hand off to your kids, but there’s also a loss.
Speidel: If you defined yourself as that person who took care of everyone, then you have to figure out who you are as a person. What really gets lost if your kid knows how to put their laundry into the washing machine?
Your need to be needed will never go away. You’ll just be needed in different kinds of ways. You’re needed when you get a call at 2 am. You’re needed when a friend is ill. You’re just making room so that you can be there for other things and see what’s on our plate and do it with more efficacy, more care, and more focus. There’s plenty on your plate that doesn’t require you to keep laundry on it too.
Q: We need to reapportion some of the work so that moms can catch their breath.
Speidel: Instead of suffocating in your own list of requirements, it is perhaps about the cultural responsibility that we feel like we’ve got to somehow make this work because the whole world is counting on you. Maybe that’s the part that’s not realistic. Maybe it’s the fact that people think you’re responsible in the first place is what’s out of whack. We are self-correcting all over the place in this culture right now, so maybe this will be another correction that we make about what has been going on for eons. Maybe it’s okay that there are some ripples and that everyone has to pitch in a little more. Maybe we all find out that we’re more capable than we thought we’d be by giving our teens some of the responsibility.