Rest. What’s that, you say? If you’re a mother of small children, chances are, you are exhausted and anything but rested. My kids are on the go non-stop and keep me on my toes continuously. And come to find out, my tiredness may not be from child-rearing alone. There’s a chance it could be caused from post-natal depletion – meaning, it may be much more physical than you think. Carrying a baby is hard work on the body and the effects can actually last for years.
When I came across this article detailing the physical and mental effects that can linger for up to a decade after giving birth, I almost felt a sense of relief. I sent it to many of my mom friends saying, “Look – it’s not just mental, there’s a reason we feel this way!”
Dr. Oscar Serrallach, a family practitioner in rural Australia, describes postnatal depletion as “…the common phenomenon of fatigue and exhaustion combined with a feeling of ‘baby brain.’ Baby Brain is a term that encompasses the symptoms of poor concentration, poor memory, and emotional lability. Emotional lability is where one’s emotions change up and down much more easily than they would have in the past, e.g. ‘crying for no reason.’ There is often a feeling of isolation, vulnerability, and of not feeling ‘good enough.’ It is experienced by many mothers, and is an understandable and at times predictable outcome associated with the extremely demanding task of being a mother from the perspective of both childbearing and child raising.”
The article goes on to say:
- We live in a society of continual ongoing stress and we literally don’t know how to relax or switch off. This has profound effects on hormones, immune function, brain structure, and gut health.
- Woman are having babies later in life. In Australia the average age for a mother having her first baby is 30.9 years.
- Women tend to be in a depleted state going into motherhood with careers, demanding social schedules, and the chronic sleep deprivation as the norm in our society.
- As a society we tend not to allow mothers to fully recover after childbirth before getting pregnant again. It is not uncommon to see the phenomenon of a mother giving birth to two children from separate pregnancies in the same calendar year. Also with assisted reproduction we are seeing higher rates of twins which will obviously exacerbate any depletion.
- Sleep deprivation of having a newborn with some research suggesting that in the first year the average sleep debt is 700 hours! Reduced family and societal support is very common.
- Our food is becoming increasingly nutrient poor. We are in many cases having “2 mouthfuls of food for 1 mouthful of nutrition.”
This, friends, is why self-care is an essential part of motherhood. And to be honest with you, some days I feel like even the greatest amount of self-care there is couldn’t help me feel rested or ready to tackle what each day brings. Having small kids is exhausting no matter how you spin it.
And so, I have to merge self-care into my daily routine and try my hardest to schedule out breaks in order to rest and rejuvenate. Rest is good for the body, and maybe even better for the soul.
I’ve posted numerous times on how I incorporate self-care into my routine – click here for my Self-care 101 post. I’ve also written on ways to incorporate self-care into your daily life, if a break is not always possible – click here for that post.
And finally, below are some not-so-obvious ways to avoid burnout as a mom:
- Take a break from social media and focus on your personal relationships
- Try your best to keep a positive mindset – trust me, this one makes a world of difference
- Make it a practice to not compare yourself to others. Motherhood is tough enough as it is
- In your “quiet” time, try to have some true silence where you can be alone with your thoughts
- Incorporate contemplative practices like meditation or prayer into your days
- Eat whole, unrefined foods and fit some exercise into your routine