That was me when my son was five weeks old and I came down with mastitis, an infection from breastfeeding. For those who haven’t been there, imagine the flu plus bodily pain. Unfortunately, my husband was out of town for work and we didn’t yet have any regular childcare coverage.
I looked for a babysitter for the two hours I needed to go to the doctor and pharmacy, but couldn’t find anyone who would come on short notice for a short stint. It was decided: I’d take my son Liam with me when I hadn’t yet figured out this parenting thing and desperately wanted a blanket and a backrub.
The experience was exhausting. It felt like it took three times as long to feel better than if I’d gotten even one solid day of rest.
I think every parent knows what it’s like to feel like you can’t catch up -- on sleep, showering, exercise, and even your health.
Parenthood is a beautiful gift with an invisible tug-of-war. It’s a daily negotiation of how to be a good parent, friend, professional and more, all while maintaining a relationship with yourself. I think mothers, in particular, feel like we need to do it all, and often for others, leaving nothing left for ourselves. One survey finds that working parents have little more than 30 minutes for themselves after work and parenting duties are done.
Extreme stress and fatigue from parenting, what experts call parental burnout, is real. And there are many things that make it harder for parents: balancing different peoples’ demands and needs, lack of flexible and affordable childcare options, competitive employment markets, and social media that promotes perfection to name a few.
"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you." - Anne Lamott
The good news is there’s space to be ourselves. But you have to reach out and grab it. So remember that everything works better when you unplug it.