By Francesca Pinzone, COO and Co-Founder at Umbo
Burnout, exhaustion, emotional extremes, feeling like you’re not coping or not good enough. I think these are all feelings and processes we go through as Mums. It’s like an additional delivery to you with the baby and when you leave the hospital, not only are you left alone with a newborn thinking “hmmm, what do I do with it now”, you are also often left alone with these feelings.
It’s been a while since I had a newborn with my third child joining us four years ago. Life was chaotic with three kids under four, and it is still chaotic, but in a different way. Now I try and manage work and home, as a co-founder of a social enterprise – Umbo – and lecturer and project manager at university, whilst raising three small and very noisy people!
But I have a couple of things I try and do to ensure there is some level of control and I don’t reach for the vino each night or simply burn out.
Over time I have developed some ways to manage the chaos and to thrive, rather than just survive, these early parenting years.
Chaos is like a rip in the ocean. Don’t try and swim against it.
Instead – embrace (or surrender) in some form to it. Sometimes you have to let it take you where it wants and hopefully you will pop out the other side. Embrace motherhood and all of its loveliness and challenges – don’t try and return to your previous life because life, no matter what, is different now. The water can still be pretty rough, but can also be endlessly refreshing and rewarding.
Control what you can, and let go of what you can’t
Depending on your personality type or the way you are hard wired, you may feel anxious around trying to achieve the hundreds of things you need to get done in a day, or week or month. This is often amplified when you go to work and come home to Shift 2 . You know that feeling – you walk into the living room, see the toys, plates and mess everywhere and start to feel so overwhelmed and anxious. My way to deal with this situation is to ask myself one question – “is this something I can control?”. If the answer is no – then I try to not get anxious or worried about it. If it is – then I work out how it can be tackled. Just asking this question and determining this answer is a great leveller to any feelings of stress.
Taking this situation into the current COVID-19 environment of home-schooling our kids and attempting to work is a huge stress on our families, but it is not within our control and we can only do our best. Remembering this eases the anxiety somewhat…. especially when I looking at my third grader’s English work thinking “hmmm, remind me what an adverb is”?!?
Take time out.
It is hard to shake the guilt of taking the time out to refresh and enjoy some quiet time, or meet up with friends. You know 1000% that not only is this good for you and you need it to function well (and you are fully supported to do so – thanks hubby), but it can be hard to shake the guilt. It’s taken time but I’ve learnt to remember that I need these moments to recharge.
So for me – give me a book, or trashy TV (like really trashy Outlander and RHONY) or a good podcast and a nice coffee/glass of wine, and that is pretty good self-care for me.
You can’t have all the balls in the air at the same time.
The ongoing juggle of work and home and relationships – You just can’t have everything 100% all the time. Work may be fabulous, but homelife and kids are not so great, and vice versa. Something often has to give, and won’t get your 100% focus, and that’s ok.
Surround yourself with good people.
My husband is a calm, kind and entertaining man. I have very strong relationships with my parents and siblings and some very close friends. This may not be the same for everyone, but my tip is – keep the good ones close to you – they will be the ones to pick you up when the balls drop, bring you coffee, take your kids to football practice and be a shoulder to lean on. The ones you couldn’t do without – bring them in for a big (now virtual) hug and don’t let go!
Francesca Pinzone is passionate about bringing health services to children in rural communities and removing social inequalities, She has an MA in International Public Health from the University of Sydney, a Graduate Certificate in Social Impact from the University of NSW, and a Bachelor of Science, Nursing from the University of Technology Sydney.
Francesca has over 12 years of experience working in non-profit organisations and in international development, having previously worked with Medcins Sans Frontieres in Pakistan, UNICEF in India and Can Teen in Australia, and also currently teaches Creating Social Change: From Innovation to Impact at UNSW Sydney with the Centre for Social Impact.
She is also the mother of three young children, one of which has received speech pathology.
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