Expectations and Burnout

Today is my youngest daughter’s second birthday. You might ask me why I’m not writing about rainbows and unicorns then?! Well let me tell you. I had planned to. Today was going to be “special” and I am acutely aware of the mom guilt going on in my mind over this day not turning out perfect. But that is exactly why I wanted to write about this topic today because I am sure there are a lot of people that can relate to the fact that expectations on Moms these days are high! I’m feeling like a lot of those are self-imposed for me. I do think there is a component that comes from our society and this awkward place in time… where Moms have more opportunities than ever before and are often spread thin but important changes to support a different balance for men in the workplace hasn’t happened yet. So the weight of the household and child raising can often still fall heavier on Moms even if they’re also working out of the home, running a business from home, etc.

I read this article this morning that seemed to resonate with where I’m at this week: https://www.mother.ly/life/self-care-is-not-enough-to-fix-how-much-moms-are-burnt-out . Similar to an example in this article, my husband and I had a night this week where we decided to shut off the monitor as we just didn’t feel like we could cope with our 3 year old screaming constantly for us in the middle of the night and yet us going in several times and feeling unable to make anything better. The monitor shut off lasted all of 15 seconds. This feeling has happened before… where as a Mom, I just feel like I can’t do it anymore, I just can’t. And then 15 seconds later, you find a way to push through and keep going, continuing to show up for your kids at all hours of the day and try to be the best that you can - Despite being emotionally drained and physically exhausted. But what is the personal toll on us, as Moms? I have taken a focus on self-care this year, it was a bit of a new year’s resolution here in 2019. Is that enough though? Some hit and miss exercise and the occasional bubble bath just might not be doing the trick. I’m really starting to think the heavy expectations I put on myself need to change before any amount of self-care will help enough. And Farrin’s birthday today was a great example of that. I literally have written in my journal’s to-do list for the day to:

-do something special for Farrin’s birthday

-take a beautiful photo of Farrin by some spring tree blossoms

-write in Farrin’s 2 year journal

-bake a cake

AND, about 50 other things written on the page for what I was planning to accomplish this week. An overwhelming list of work-related items, household chores, kids activities, and other random tasks. Today I am sick, I have sick kids, and the air quality is 10+ in Calgary due to Alberta forest fires. Realizing we’d be stuck inside on Farrin’s special day caused a serious hit to my mood from the minute I woke up. It had entirely to do with the plans I had for a “perfect day” today and thinking the day was ruined because we couldn’t do that. I’d love to say I turned my mood around immediately, but the truth is it took sulking through breakfast, turning on a few too many paw patrol episodes, scrolling through social media, and yelling at my daughter before I felt crappy enough to actually get motivated to take control of my day. This was so ridiculous! How was I letting my unrealistically high expectations ruin my 2 year old’s birthday? She doesn’t care that we’re not at the zoo, eating homemade cake, or smiling perfectly under a tree of flower blossoms. This little girl is happy as can be just building blocks, putting on a ridiculous costume (she dressed herself in this haha), and riding a pink blow up unicorn. Her day is perfect.

Documentary family photography has been so good for me in so many ways. It makes me see beauty in the unplanned, “imperfect”, and mundane day to day. Real life is unbelievably beautiful. It is hard to capture a lot of the real moments in my own family because my role of parenting usually gets prioritized over being a photographer haha. Capturing chaos in other family’s is easier because that is 100% my focus. But I did take a few minutes to snap some photos of Farrin today to document her birthday. Not the posed and perfect portraits I had envisioned, but the more important reality of what her day was actually about - a sick kid, who despite that was finding her own happiness. So today, I’m grateful for my happy sassy little 2 year old that doesn’t need much to celebrate her birthday and who reminds me about what is actually important in life. So this year we’ll be doing storebought cake and no birthday party, but it’ll be perfect as-is. Thanks to a hot latte and a chance to write here, I was able to finally adjust my attitude for the day :)

Shirley Sullivan