It's Personal: Burn Out

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The boys were invited to go bowling with a friend Tuesday night.  This was after a very hectic day for everyone in the household.  I was so excited to sit down and enjoy the time I had with the boys, their friend, and their friend's mother.  She is a fabulous person and someone I adore.  Her day time job is such that she understands the needs of my children, the demands of me as a parent, and just how chaotic and crazy our life is at times.  This is such a blessing.

As we were talking and updating each other about life, with a feeling of genuine love and concern, she expressed how she worried about me burning out.  With a smile on my face, I was ecstatic to share that we're doing better than ever.  I feel like I've finally figured out how to do all of this!  That's not to say things might change in the future, but for now, I'm feeling fabulous.

Burn out is not just something parents of special needs kiddos experience.  It can happen to any parent.  One can think they're doing everything right, doing what parents "should" do, and it can still happen.  Sometimes that's how it does happen.  Those "shoulds" can drive a parent crazy.  How does one avoid burn out?  Or can they?

If my friend would have expressed her concerns a year ago, I would have most likely admitted, I was almost there.  Life was insanely crazy.  I was trying so hard to do what I thought I "should" do as a parent.  I lost track of what my kiddos really needed, and what I needed.  Over the past year I have worked extremely hard to make sure I never am in that place again.  Thus far I have succeeded.  As everyone is different, there's not just one way to avoid burn out.  I've read several articles about it, and frankly, the "how to" steps usually don't work for me.  As you read this, what worked for me, may be the opposite of what works for you. Still, I thought it important to share what I've learned.  I must warn you, the process is not a one time deal.  I've had to go through it with each kiddo separately.  I'm almost completely through the process with my youngest, but know I'm not completely there yet.

How do I avoid burn out?

1.  Proper Education-When I was a parent of one, I read every parenting book and magazine I could find.  After child number two, I threw them all away.  Every time I read them, I cried.  My second child wasn't meeting his milestones. No disciplinary advice worked.  With child number three, parenting was like nothing I'd ever experienced before.  To say it was hard is an understatement.  In between child number three and child number four, we fostered over 20 children, several of them infants.  Every kiddo was different.  I learned that it wasn't education about parenting I needed, but education about my child's specific needs that was crucial.  With the help of doctors and a few specialists, paired with observations, therapy, and the practice of trial and error my husband and I learned what was going on with each kiddo.  Once we understood this, we were able to participate in training specific to their individual needs, if it was necessary. For two of my four special needs kiddos, training has definitely been necessary.  Training has also come in the form of books appropriate to what we were experiencing.

2.  Acceptance-It's one thing to become educated about the needs of your child, but another to accept those needs, whatever they are.  Again, this process is not just specific to parents of special needs kiddos.  Too often we want to change our children, and mold them into what we think they should become, or what society teaches us they "should" become.  When I was able to accept and embrace my kiddos for who they are, loving their strengths and weaknesses equally, I found my job as their parent to be so much easier.

I've also had to accept my own limitations as a parent.  As much as I'd like to accomplish more than I do, I can't.  I need sleep just as much as everyone else.  There are responsibilities that I have,related to my special needs kiddos, that make doing other things very difficult.  At first, this was very hard to accept.  Now I just remember there is a time and a season for all things. Right now, my main priority is my kiddos. That won't be the case forever. 

3.  Ask for Help-Pride is so difficult to overcome.  In my case it was because I didn't want others to see how much I was struggling.  We all need help from time to time.  It's important to learn to ask for it.  If you can't ask for it, then start by accepting it when it's offered.  I have found it helpful to keep a "How Can I Help?" list on hand for when people ask what they can do for my family.  Only things I feel comfortable with anyone doing, are included on the list.  If a person chooses not to help out, after they hear what they can do, that's okay.  I try to make sure there are 10 items on my list, but at times, there are less.  

4.  Priorities-I'm a firm believer that my daily life should reflect my priorities.  When it doesn't, I know my daily routines need to change.  During the day, while my kiddos are awake, their care is my number one priority.  If they are playing well together and I have a chance to tackle some house work or work on a post for my blog, I do it. But if they need me, I'm there for them.  If there are chores that need to be done during the day, we do them together.  When my kiddos are asleep, I work and take time for myself.

I believe prioritizing also applies to my children.  My kiddos' priorities are simple.  They need to sleep well, eat healthy, be active, grow, receive an education (both spiritually and academically), and learn how to develop positive relationships with others.  Every kiddo is different and develop at their own pace.  Many things I thought were "necessary" in their development process, or specific to certain ages, turned out to be only desires I had for my kiddos, which may or may not have been realistic.  In other situations it came down to deciding what was "best," not just "better" or "good" for them. 

5.  Simplify-This was a hard one for me and took a very long time.  I find it a continuing process.  Simplify schedules and routines.  In our home, our kiddos traded extra curricular activities for family fun nights and vacations.  We eliminated many therapies.  If one of the kiddos wasn't progressing, we decided it wasn't the right fit.  When therapies weren't focusing on the things that the kiddos really needed, we decided to go a different route, working on things at home.  I'll always remember the occupational therapist that told me my oldest didn't need therapy because I was already doing what they would do, in my home, on a daily basis, using the Montessori Practical Life and pre-writing activities.  School outside of the home was the cause of many extreme behaviors in our kiddos.  We made the decision to homeschool.  Our family qualifies for all sorts of aid and respite services, but I've found the more people we involve with the care of our children, the worse their behaviors are.  Obviously, these were personal choices that work for us.  What works for another may be the exact opposite.  Our kiddos are at their best when they are with us.  When they're at their best, I'm at my best.

Simplify your home.  Say goodbye to anything you don't need.  You'll be amazed at how easy it is to stay on top of housework and pick up.  I've found when there is less mess and clutter, my kiddos function better.  The same goes for my husband and myself.

Simplify your holidays, traditions, etc.  It's amazing how much stress comes to us as parents because we want everything just right for those special days.  In my case, my kiddos can't handle much "special."  They thrive on routine, and when that changes, the meltdowns are endless.  This may mean creating new and more simple traditions, not traveling or joining large family gatherings.  I never feel more close to burn out than when trying to plan or prepare for a large event where my children are involved.

6. Joy in the Journey-I love spending time with my kiddos.  It may not be the case for everyone, or even most, but for me, I find the more time I spend with my kiddos, the less I need a break from them.  During the day, I become the most overwhelmed when I'm trying to get things done for myself, rather than taking care of my kiddos.  Finding joy in the journey has made all the difference. When they're awake, it's their time.  This isn't to say I don't have days where I cry... a lot.  Or have nights when I tell my husband I just need to get out of the house.  It just means that I truly find joy in my journey as a parent and wouldn't trade that for the world. 

7. Confidence-My kiddos are my kiddos for a reason.  I have been given the qualities and abilities to raise them.  Experiences in my past have prepared me to do just that.  No one knows my kiddos better than I do.  Sometimes doctors, therapists, and specialists have tried to tell me what I "should" do, and I've disagreed.  That's okay.  It took me a long time to feel confident in my role as a mother to my kiddos, and realize that doctors and therapists don't know everything.  I make mistakes too.  I am not perfect.  But, I can do this!  Knowing that helps me each and every day.

Being a parent is hard work.  It is the most difficult job I've ever had.  Finding my place in this role, and preventing burn out has been crucial to the success and progression of my children, along with the emotional and physical health of myself.  I challenge you to take a look at different aspects of your life and figure out how you can avoid burnout.  Your solution may be the complete opposite of mine, but if it works for you, that doesn't matter.  I'd love to know how you do it!


12 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for your wise words! This is so crucial and I could not agree more with all your points!

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  2. Very encouraging post! As a full time mother and homeschooler it is easy to feel burnout but these are pretty much the rules I live by! great post!

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    1. Thank you! It's taken me a long time to figure it all out, but once I did, all of these points have made all the difference.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this information. Your words are what I needed to hear. We are struggling after a rough winter. This week we are focusing on our home and family. Taking a break from lessons. Simplifying our household so we aren't so cluttered. Also carefully planning our extracurricular activities so we are not overwhelmed by always being on the go. This just reaffirmed our game plan!

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    1. You're welcome! I wish you the best of luck. Breaks are always great things. :)

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  4. thank you so much for sharing your tips and linking up with the #pinitparty!

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  5. What lucky kids you have - both by birth and those who pass through your life for just a time as your foster children. You sound like you are very understanding and take things are they come. I could learn a lot from this post!

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    1. Thank you Emma! The experiences I've had have definitely taught me many things, but I can't say I always learned them with grace. It definitely took a lot of work, and sometimes I still struggle.

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  6. Replies
    1. Thank you for taking the time to read it in your busy schedule. :)

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