Something’s gotta give, or risk burning out

burning out

I feel like every other article I read is about moms burning out, about how overworked we are, about how depleted we are. There was this excellent one about post-partum depletion and the bounce back myth that says we need to stop expecting women (and ourselves) to get back to “normal” after having a baby. Another great read was this one about a working mom who finally put herself first, opting to get sleep and exercise and slow down a bit instead of working insane hours and then giving the rest of her life force to her family. Considering how much I’m seeing these articles shared on social media, I figure I’m not alone in feeling this way.

It’s not meant as a complaint, or a rant, or some sort of feminist tirade, but I do feel that we put unrealistic expectations on women. I know I put unrealistic expectations on myself. I still fully expect myself to be able to work like I did before I had a kid, to perform well at my job. I also want to be a stellar mom, spending quality time with my kid to help her grow and develop and learn. (Oh, and apparently the intensive motherhood that I want is great for baby but leads to higher rates of unhappiness amongst moms.) I still want to be a loving and helpful wife, make coffee in the mornings and dinner at night and be keen for alone time when Harley is asleep. Oh, and I also want to get back into shape, exercise and eat right. Plus, I know I need time to read books, watch series and play games. But there aren’t enough hours in the day, are there?

No really, let’s try to do the math. Let’s work off of me working 8 hours a day. Yes, I might be able to push hard when Harley’s starts school and get everything done in 6 hours, but best we estimate with 8. Then, let’s say that I want to spend a total of… 2 hours actively engaging with my kid? Apparently that’s the new high amount for intensive parenting, although honestly that sounds a bit low to me. But let’s work with two hours. Then we need about an hour per day for cooking, if we imagine 30 minutes for dinner and 30 minutes for making coffee, breakfast and lunch (and packing lunch/snack) combined, with an extra 20-30 minutes for actual eating of dinner (I assume I’ll continue to eat breakfast and lunch while working). I spend about an hour and a half every day on travel at the moment, so that can probably go to 2 hours a day once Harley is at school, just on shuttling Dean and Harley to where they need to be each day (15-30 minutes per trip, there and back). Then let’s not forget a shower, doing dishes and giving Harley a bath. Each of those can take an additional 30 minutes. That’s 15 hours if I’m optimistic about work, travel and time with Harley.

If I hope to get a decent amount of sleep, let’s say 6-8 hours, that leaves me with 1-3 hours to get anything else done. If I want to write a blog or watch a movie, that’s my “free time” pretty much done. If Dean and I opt to sit outside and enjoy a nice glass of wine and chat, how will I also have time to exercise? And sure, I can leave the dishes for a day sometimes, and Dean will occasionally cook our evening meal. Sometimes Harley naps in the day and I’m able to work faster or write a blog while she’s sleeping. But if I still want to have a social life? If I still want to see friends or hang out with Dean and relax in the evening, it means carving time out of something else that needs doing. It could mean cutting into work time, but more often it means giving up any semblance of time for myself, most notably my sleep.

And I know that I’m using up my reserves. I know that I’m using up all my energy giving and caring and doing for everyone else. I know that I need time for myself, I feel better if I get to read before bed, or exercise, or just spend an hour daydreaming and planning and imagining a future for the family. I only have so much to give, and it seems like I just keep adding more balls to juggle, more things to do, more precious time that’s already allocated. Sure, it’s better on the weekends, but when have those two days ever been long enough to catch up on all the things we need to do?

I’m not sure that I know the solution. Sure, I can ask Dean to do more, to help more, but really, how much time can he save me? He could hang out with Harley while I exercise and shower, giving me an hour of the day to take care of myself. But would I still feel like I need to make up some of that time with Harley? He could make dinner while I play with her, which he does a couple times per week, which gives me the necessary time to write a blog or do the dishes. But really, I feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day, there isn’t enough time for me to be amazing at work, amazing as a mom, amazing as a wife and still have any time for myself. So something’s gotta give, something needs to change, but I’m not willing to drop any of those balls I have in the air.

How on earth do women find balance as working moms? Or is this why we are burning out and experience all the mom guilt?


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  • Nick de Bruyne

    We were managing pretty well when it was just out first. After the second, who admittedly needs a bit more care and attention than a usual scenario we have a scenario where I get some free time but am often completely frazzled by everything, and my wife gets almost literally zero time to herself for any personal activities. The sort of situation where a shower is seen as very fortunate. It gets rough at times, but I also know as they grow it evens out, it did with the first one and now albeit tough with two, it will evolve into something different.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      Yeah, when H was a newborn, it was truly a rare blessing to have time for a shower. But still, when I break down the time, I realize just how little of it there is for anything that’s just in my own head.

  • There is no such thing as balance. I think it’s this giant con placed on us because we’re women who want to do more than mother.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      lol, indeed. I’m hoping one day at least the cooking and stuff can be more a bonding experience – exciting to spend time together making food. maybe.

  • laurakim123

    Acceptance of where you are in your life. I can’t get to 2 hours with each kid, I barely manage 5 minutes some days. It is just how our life is right now. I have made peace with it. Sometimes I get to take one to a blogger event with me and we spend a good couple of hours together and its awesome and the next day it’s rushed good night kisses as granny drops them off at 19h00.
    I balance MY life to fit with OUR schedules and what we need to do.
    I think acceptance though is the key to the balance. Accepting that some times the see-saw will be leaning more to the left and being ok with it.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      yeah, obviously things will vary from day to day, but lately been feeling like doing all the things to the level i want isn’t possible. suppose i need to accept this new normal

  • Naxie

    yikes – this is one of the only moments in my life where my inability to do math turns out to be a plus!!….you’ve logically broken it all down but the thing is, there is NOTHING logical about any of this. it’s a time in your life where the best you can hope for is to have some days where you can grab a bit of time for yourself – and other days that will just remain a blur and you won’t have a clue where the time went. maybe it’s helpful to have goals for the week vs for any particular day. and for sure, when dean came pick up some of the bits – taking care of harley, cooking dinner or anything that will give you a wee bit of time to do something else, that’s great….and when you move to the States, you know i’m ready, willing and able to do ANYTHING to make things easier for you. until then, maybe that expression that i don’t really like, is the one that makes the most sense – to just BE in the moment – this time will pass – think of what it was like when harley was a newborn and you experienced chaos MOST of the time – and this particular kind of time-management/juggling everything – will end, too… helps, so does chocolate. i love you so, so much.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      LOL, yeah, lots and lots of wine and chocolate. I’m just really looking forward to the time when Harley and I can do stuff together and it will be bonding PLUS something else – even if it’s just playing games together or getting into a series together. And for sure, it will be great when she can spend time with her Omi – win-win-win all around.