Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Avoiding Parental Burnout or Why Moms Need Oxygen Too

-- Feature: "Primal Home w/Primal Parenting Magazine"--

Although I don’t fly often, I’ve still managed to memorize the standard safety lecture given prior to takeoff. One line has stuck with me. It goes like this: if you are traveling with small children, place your own oxygen mask on before assisting them. The reason is obvious. If you are unconscious, you’re no help to anyone! I think there’s something there that’s applicable to a lot more than air travel.

As parents, our instinct is to put our children first. Always. If you don’t, then you’re lumped in the dreaded category of “bad parent”. No one wants to end up there! We’re sensitive to the judgment of our own parents, our friends, and society. So, we read Goodnight Moon to our preschooler for the twentieth time, growing grouchier with each word. We agree to run the PTO bake sale, even though we’re already on three other committees. We go the proverbial extra mile even though we’re near collapse. And when we do, we’re rewarded with approving nods from fellow parents for our “dedication” to our children. We might even feel a little smug! The bad news is that sooner or later, “above and beyond” takes a nasty toll. We find ourselves resentful, and start hating Goodnight Moon, bake sales, and parental responsibilities in general.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Tending to our own needs goes a long way to preventing parental overload and all the unpleasant emotional baggage that comes with it. When my third child was born, I quickly realized that I needed some regular time alone. My husband would keep the kids while I took time off from mothering. I left the house (this was critical!) and escaped to a movie, lunch out, afternoon at the park, or whatever… and had some blissful peace and quiet! I made a habit of this at least once a month. When I tell people this, I get comments like, “Wow, are you lucky! I could never do that.” Hearing that always makes me a little sad. I’ve yet to meet a parent who couldn’t work out an hour to themselves now and then if only they would make it a priority. Prioritizing is the real problem. This time was my “oxygen mask”. By caring for myself, I became a better mother to my children. I was able to fully attend to them because I had fully attended to myself.

Look at your schedule. Is every minute spoken for? If so, how can you carve out some time to nurture yourself? What’s truly essential, and what have you been doing from a sense of obligation? Find the time to answer these questions, and then plan for some regular parental R&R. Trade babysitting with a friend. Make a deal with your spouse. Make it happen again and again until it becomes habit. Someday your kids will thank you for setting a good example! You’ll be a better parent if you can grab that oxygen mask before things get critical. One more thing…don’t forget to breathe.

"The Primal Home" column provides insights into living as a "primal parent." The column delivers tips on simplifying your family life in order to create an abundant and joyful home.
Primal Home is written by the staff at Primal Parenting Magazine, a revolutionary new publication seeking to educate and empower families towards a more mindful lifestyle. This weeks feature was written by Rebecca Hecking who is Managing Editor for Primal Parenting magazine.

Rebecca is a freelance writer and mother of three. She holds a BS in chemistry and an MA in cultural studies and equity studies. She is a former home-schooler who writes on parenting, ecology and sustainability topics.

For more information on Primal Parenting Magazine go to

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