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One of the most common questions I see among work-at-home moms is how to avoid burn out and make time for yourself. Ultimately, there is no easy answer, but it’s a question you certainly need to come to terms with and find an answer for.
The responses I see other moms give these burnt-out moms is “you can’t avoid burn out.” I disagree. Now, that’s not to say I don’t have my days where I feel tired, wonder what in the heck I was thinking leaving my cushy corporate job and feel like I was the wrong person to become a mom. But then I ground myself again with me time, fellowship and a network of other moms who just get it.
Early on in motherhood, I felt like I had lost myself. I gave it all up to become a mom. And honestly, things started to change once I became a work-at-home mom because both my husband and I have more time because I work at home.
So while I’m not perfect and I’m still trying to avoid burn out just like you, here are ways I try to remember that I can’t pour from an empty cup, which means I must take care of myself too.
Make hobbies a priority
Before I had my son, I was a crazy triathlete who had just completed Ironman 70.3 Ohio. No, I didn’t win it or anything, but I was respectably in the middle of the pack and I had a great time. I met tons of awesome people through the sport and was a regular at my company’s corporate fitness classes. It was such a great way to burn off steam after a long day.
And then I had a baby and not only did my schedule change but so did my body. I’ve fought plantar fasciitis since month 8 of pregnancy. My son is now 18 months old so you do the math on how long my feet have hurt…a long time…too long.
But fitness is a part of who I am, so I blare “E-I-E-I” (as my son likes to call Old McDonald) and we get the heck outside for a run when the weather is nice enough. And I start my day with strength training in front of the TV. Yes, my toddler discovered the button on the back of the TV that turns on and off. It’s super annoying and I stop my workout a million times before actually finishing it. And yet, I’m still me and I’m still getting the stress relief from doing the workout.
There is more to life than fitness though. I also set aside time to read. I aim for two books per month. Some months I exceed that, and some months my Kindle collects dust. You’ll have those times, but remember to get back into what you love regularly.
I’m also pretty darn good at Candy Crush and it’s sort of my guilty pleasure. I’m on level 1,589 and started in August when I left corporate life. My husband is a doll and gives me space to play it as he puts our son down for bed at night. And he even indulges me and asks how things are going “in the crushing world,” as he likes to call it.
I realize this is another screentime activity, but I also really enjoy the challenge of Swagbucks. It allows my husband and me to try our luck at some trivia with Swagbucks Live Monday through Thursday and especially during this coronavirus stay-at-home order, it’s keeping us with topics to discuss. Sounds sort of silly, but it’s a fun way that I’ve been able to buy toys for the backyard for my son.
Take time off (yes, seriously)
At Thanksgiving, I set my sights on the day before the holiday and told myself there was no way I was working that Wednesday. Yes, I had to work ahead a bit, which meant some busy days leading up to my time off. But wow was it worth it.
My son and I went for a 5-mile run, baked Christmas cookies and spent more time playing together. It was great and it reminded me of the joys of staying at home with him. He will only be small for so long and it was really great to share in some special moments with him.
Likewise, I made plans for a 4-day weekend spring break for my sister’s bachelorette weekend. The coronavirus got in the way and we didn’t go, but I still had worked ahead. So I still took time off and still enjoyed some rest and relaxation. It’s so important.
Randomly, my husband likes to take off a Friday to relax as a family. And when he does, I make it a point to take time off with him. Sometimes that means getting up before him and my son and getting work done so that I can kick back and relax with them the rest of the day. That’s the self-employed life, but it’s still important to share in these moments with your family while you can.
Call in childcare help
When I’m feeling burnt out and frustrated with my son, I call in my family and ask for help. My mom is fantastic and always willing to chase after my toddler while I drink a cup of coffee (and bonus, my sister is a barista, so I don’t even have to pay for those swanky lattes at Starbucks). I get the opportunity to talk to adults and my son has a great time.
I know that in the future, I’m going to need childcare help as my son ages and stops napping. I’m fully prepared to call in that help too. In fact, I’ve been planning on it and looking into resources. It’s so important that you have the time and space to get your work done so you can relax in the evenings and take time off. So don’t be a martyr and just tough it out. If you feel burn out coming on, call in the reinforcements.
Go out once a month (or week, if you can)
Maybe it’s date night without your child or maybe it’s a girls’ night. Gee, maybe you even go out alone, sit in solitude, read a book or catch up on your guilty pleasure of Candy Crush (did I just say that out loud?).
No matter what, you have to find time outside the home and away from your child. That sounds negative, but caring for those little ones can really burn you out because it isn’t a 9-5 job; it’s round the clock. And even once your significant other comes home, you’re still there with that little one. So get out of the house alone and enjoy that time. Make sure it’s at least once a month but if you can make once a week happen, do it.
Weekly, my husband takes my son to the grocery store with him and I get the house to myself. (This activity is currently suspended due to the coronavirus but I know it will come back eventually when it’s safe for my son to be at the store again). I sing at the top of my lungs (fun fact, I was a voice major in college until midway through my sophomore year), refill the diapers and wipes throughout the house, clean the floors and go for a run without a stroller. It might not sound like your ideal getaway, but the fact that it’s weekly really helps.
You have it in your power to avoid work-at-home mom burn out. So make the effort now to be a champion for the work-at-home mom revolution and thrive instead of surviving the process.