You can’t pour from an empty cup. My friend and I were talking last week about the difficulties of motherhood and feeling burnt out and this phrase came up, so I thought I would write out my feelings about it here.
Moms wear many hats. We’re cooks, drivers, maids, tutors, teachers, employees, employers, mechanics, toy assemblers, problem solvers, nurses, and more. We’re almost expected to be all of these things naturally, and to be able to handle additional responsibilities as they come up with ease.
I LOVE being a mom. It’s not a calling I ever longed for or dreamt about, but it’s definitely my pride and joy and gives me so much fulfillment. But my feelings about being a mom don’t make the job any easier. And it doesn’t mean I have to be the sole bearer of the parenting responsibilities either.
I stay at home with my two daughters during the day, and when my husband gets home from work he takes over and I go to work in the evenings. Since I have the kids for 90% of their day, I automatically know more about what they’re going through at the moment, how to handle it, and I’m the one present for most of the situations that require parental intervention. I personally would so much rather have these responsibilities than to work full time, but after endless days of wiping bums, making meals, cleaning spit up, doing laundry, and picking up the same toys over and over again I start to feel the exhaustion.
The funny thing is that I start feeling guilty when I get tired. Like, I should be able to handle this, I’m not the one who has to work all day so I need to step up and take one for the team. And in the middle of the night when the baby is up for the fourth time in five hours, I tell myself the same thing, “all I have to do tomorrow is take care of kids, so I’m the one that needs to get up again.” When truthfully, some days it’s more tiring to take care of kids than go to work, but here I am doing both and still telling myself to get it together.
Last week I came down with an awful case of the stomach bug, I was so sick I can’t remember the last time I felt SO awful. I was up all night throwing up and was so weak I could barely make it from my bed to the bathroom. But I have a 7 month old who still wakes up to eat in the middle of the night, and I was trying to drag myself across the apartment to her room to nurse her so I wouldn’t wake up my husband. It wasn’t until I had been awake and puking for 6 hours that I finally nudged him awake and asked him to go get Elliott and bring her to me so I could nurse her in bed. I had nothing in my stomach, I was exhausted from no sleep and fighting a virus, my body was working itself trying to make breastmilk for a baby, and I was STILL telling myself I needed to do it all.
WHY? Why do we put these pressures on ourselves to be able to handle everything? If I’m a stay at home mom I’m telling myself I need to do everything because that’s my job. If I work full time I’m telling myself I need to overcompensate for being away from the kids all day. And the more responsibilities we justify piling on ourselves the more exhausted and overworked and undernourished we’re going to get.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. We all have different breaking points, amounts that we can juggle before (sometimes literally) collapsing under it all. But why do we push ourselves to that point before taking the time to refill our cups? When we become moms we don’t lose our humanity–we still need physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional nourishment to survive and thrive as much as the next person. I know I’ve adapted to need less of those things, but I still need some way to refuel and refill myself up so I can continue giving to those who need me.
Find someone who understands your needs, and will happily and eagerly make sure that you are taking care of yourself. Talk directly to your husband, have a buddy system with a mom friend, rotate between family members who can watch your kids, just find someone who will give you alone time when you need it.
Schedule your down time. And nap time doesn’t count! I don’t know about y’all but my kids nap times are not something to be relied on. Some days are great and they take coordinating naps and some days they’re boycotting and nobody gets any rest. Schedule time on weekends or at night when you don’t have to be a mom, spouse, employee, or any of the other roles mentioned above. Go have lunch or coffee alone, go shopping (not errand running!), get a massage, get your nails done, or just go on a quiet walk. I guarantee that just 45 minutes of alone time will feel like hours, and you’ll feel like a completely different woman!
STOP FEELING GUILTY. Your husband will be just fine if he has to wake up with the baby once at night. Your neighbors will not report you to CPS if you let your kids cry for 10 minutes before getting them. Your mom friend won’t hate you if you ask her to watch your kids for an hour once a month. Yes, everyone else wants things to be a certain way, but it is not your sole responsibility to appease everyone! It’s impossible to do, and you’ll go crazy trying to make it happen. Take a deep breath, call for some help, and give yourself the attention and love that your body and mind deserve. The more often you’re able to do this, the better mom you will be. You can’t pour from an empty cup.