Mom Burnout: We've all been there, but we can move through it

It's real and it's brutal: Mom Burnout. It creeps up on us a little bit at a time and, before we know it, we are consumed by it. We enter motherhood with an idealized vision of what life will be like, and in many ways motherhood is more beautiful and more amazing than we ever could have imagined. But in many ways it is more challenging and draining, more exhausting and depleting, than we ever could have imagined. After sleepless nights, the demands around the house, and day after day of constantly nurturing everyone else except ourselves, we find ourselves at the end of our ropes. This is Mom Burnout.

When mom is burnt out, everyone feels it: the words are harsher, the sighs are louder, the smiles are fewer. Suddenly everything in the home feels stressful and nothing runs smoothly. Mothers are pivotal, we are an anchor for the house and the family. When this anchor starts to lose its grip, the entire ship begins to drift away.

But these demands aren't going anywhere. Babies may sleep and they may not. Toddlers may wake up happy and they may not. Children may agreeably eat their dinner and they may not. So how do we notice the signs of Mom Burnout before we are consumed, before we are completely depleted? There are things we can do, things that can help us dig our anchor in just a bit deeper.

1. Speak up. Ask for help. Do not hold it in. Ask your spouse, your family, your friends, your neighbor. Reach out to support groups. Remember that it takes an entire tribe, a whole village, the community to raise a child. Reach out and connect. Help is a beautiful thing. Don't be afraid of it.

2. Release the pressure. Stop comparing. Our society has created this idea of a mother who has it all under control, every single day, without any help: a clean house, smart and obedient children, organic meals made from scratch, a never-fading smile, a sweet and gentle voice, and she showered, brushed her teeth and put on heels today. I haven't met this mother yet, not the one who pulls this off every day and on her own. The pressure to become this mother is heavy, so just release it. Stop comparing yourself to other moms. We all have our own challenges and mountains to climb. Let's climb together instead of trying to reach the top first. (Hint: There is no top.)

3. Take breaths, deep breaths, and root down in the moment. Motherhood is constant and it keeps us on our toes. So breathe, take moments to be where you are, exactly where you are. Be present in motherhood, even throughout the challenges. The inhale and the exhale will carry us through the struggles and allow us to experience what motherhood is handing us. We hold so much more strength than we ever could have imagined. And thank goodness for that!

4. Nourish yourself, really and truly. Schedule time. Make time. Demand a morning, a day, a weekend. Motherhood will empty your cup, and filling up your own cup will only give you more to offer those around you. So make it a priority. Make YOU a priority. One of the best things we can do for our kids is to take care of ourselves. Don't spend so much time and energy on everyone else that you forget yourself. You are important.

mom and baby yoga mom burnout

The 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood: The Mama Niyamas

As we continue to climb through the 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood, we move on from the first limb, the Mama Yamas, to the second limb, the Mama Niyamas. While the Mama Yamas focus on motherhood’s social guidelines and ethical practices, the Mama Niyamas hone in on personal behavior and observances. They speak directly to self-discipline and the daily practices of motherhood.

Again, we have 5, so let’s jump right in…

  1. Saucha: cleanliness, purification. With motherhood comes a whole new definition of cleanliness. On one hand, we want to feed our baby the cleanest food, use the purest detergents and soaps to wash their clothes, keep germs and dirt away from them. But on the other hand, keeping a clean house becomes more challenging, finding time to cook meals from scratch can seem impossible, clutter seems to pile up in all corners. The things we welcomed into our lives to purify our own bodies and minds (massages, meditation, sleep, exercise), even these are bumped low on the priority list. The practices and standards we had before motherhood are challenged in every way once we take on this new role in life. But it is so important, both for our families and ourselves, that we incorporate Saucha into our daily lives. We must consider how our daily practices are affecting our family. Is the home clean (not spotless of course!) so that it’s a safe and healthy environment for our children? Are we eating healthy food that will nourish and fuel our bodies? Are we minimizing pesticides and parabens and unhealthy, unnatural additives? Find what is important to you and your family. Figure out what your standards are and where your boundaries lie.
  2. Santosha: contentment. This one sounds so easy, and it can be. But it can also be hard. Before we were mothers, we had goals. We had dreams and aspirations. And then we became mothers and our priorities may have shifted. Our goals may have taken a back seat, perhaps temporarily. Our dreams and aspirations stood to the side while we battled sleepless nights and struggled to find the time to eat a proper meal, ideally sitting down but usually not. And this reality can be jarring and it can be hard. Or maybe we had an idea of how motherhood would roll out. We saw ourselves moving through it with ease and grace, but the reality was something less flowery. Parts of ourselves are put on hold as we navigate this journey. And the journey in itself comes with highs and lows, often times unexpected ones. But this is where Santosha comes in. Santosha is the daily practice of reminding yourself that you are enough, that you are not lacking, that you don’t need to be someone else. It’s embracing contentment and gratitude and turning away from resentment and jealousy. Instead of looking at other mothers and feeling inadequate, Santosha welcomes in presence and peace with your own motherhood journey.
  3. Tapas: discipline. Ah yes, discipline! Just as Santosha teaches us to seek contentment in the present moment in motherhood, Tapas asks us to find the discipline to move towards our goals. Who are we and who are we becoming? What are we creating and how are we building? It often seems that motherhood leaves little time for this, but the opportunities are there. We must have the discipline to find them and the discipline to pursue them. So whether this pertains to goals you are pursing for your family or goals you are pursuing for yourself, it comes down to discipline. Discipline isn’t easy, but it is so important.
  4. Svadhyaya: self-study. The glory of self-study. It’s scary. It’s raw and it’s so revelatory. We find the most truth when we take the time to truly study ourselves in this motherhood journey. How are we responding and how are we reacting to the circumstances of our day? And is this aligned with the intentions we carry into motherhood? It is so easy to stray and to be distracted from the morals and ideals we believe are so important. Motherhood gets busy and messy and stressful. But each day, at the end of the day, we have the chance to revisit our choices and contemplate our actions as mothers. This is self-study and it does not always come easy, but it is very important.
  5. Isvarapranidhana: self-surrender to a higher being or purpose. This one is so personal, it’s so specific to you. But there’s a constant, there’s something we have in common here: We must have courage. We must be brave and understand that there are pieces that are out of our control, and that is ok. In fact, there’s a lot of power and beauty behind this, but it can be hard to embrace. The power comes when we are able to release the idea that we must have complete control, when we are able to lift up our arms and let go of the need to own it all. Motherhood is the epitome of this. We bring life into the world, we nourish and cherish it, and then we watch it go off and become its own glorious thing. It is surrender at its highest point. So let go mama, let go.

How do the Mama Niyamas speak to your motherhood journey and how can this framework encourage you to approach motherhood more consciously? Where is there room to grow and to expand as a mother? Stay tuned for more...

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5 Ways to Practice Ahimsa in Motherhood

We recently took a deep dive into the Mama Yamas, which make up the first limb, the foundation of the 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood. There are 5 of them, so it was a lot of information to digest. But now that you have the high-level view of the Mama Yamas, we are going to spend the next week focusing on incorporating them into our lives, working them into motherhood one at a time. Because talking (or reading) about guidelines and practices is only part of the process, now it’s time to build these into our days as we move towards a more mindful approach to motherhood.

Beginning with the first Mama Yama, Ahimsa, which means non-harming and non-violence, here are 5 ways to weave this into your day and hopefully, eventually your life.

  1. Harm and violence manifest in many ways in our daily lives, and so often this is directed at ourselves. So often the most painful dialogue takes place within our own minds, directed inwardly. But before we can truly make mindful shifts in life, we first need to be aware of what we are shifting. So this week, be aware. Just be aware. Listen to the words you are speaking to yourself. Hear what it is that you say when you look in the mirror, when you make a mistake, when you feel like you fall short of your expectations. Just listen. Tune in. Be aware.
  2. And this internal dialogue also flows out to those around us. So this week, also be mindful of the words you speak. Be mindful of the intentions behind those words. Be aware of the negativity, the passive aggression, the hurt that likes to creep into our messages. Negativity spreads so quickly, but so does positivity. Spread positivity. Spread love. Begin with your words.
  3. Mothers so often harm themselves, completely unintentionally. In our quest to love those around us, to provide for them any and everything, we often neglect to do the same for ourselves. And this happens over and over, day after day. And then this becomes a habit. And then this becomes the norm. And then our entire self is being poured into those around us and nothing is coming back to fill us up again. Soon the well runs dry. This week, allow yourself to make yourself a priority. Start with something simple. Demand 10 minutes a day to do what you want. Read. Write. Walk. Sit in silence. Fill yourself back up again. Soon this will become a habit. Then it becomes the norm. Then you are filling yourself up, over and over again, and you have so much more to give.
  4. Every time we choose to eat, we are making a decision regarding Ahimsa, but rarely do we even notice it. Every time we buy food at the grocery store or cook dinner, we have an opportunity to practice non-harming. Food is the fuel that we live off of. As mothers, we are often so involved in this decision for our families. What are we eating? What are we feeding them? How is this nourishing us? How is this harming us? Be aware. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, but at least begin to be aware of the decisions you are making here. So much of this can become auto pilot, bring awareness back into this. Make these decisions consciously. As you choose food this week, be aware. Notice your habits here. Notice how and why you are making the decisions you are.
  5. Find movement. This body is miraculous. It carries us through our days and provides for us in ways we don’t even notice. But it was made to move. These muscles want to reach and stretch. These joints want to bend. These bones don’t want to sit in stillness for too long. Bring movement back into your life in a way that nourishes your body. And move with your little ones. Let their little bodies stretch and roll and twist and move. If we make this a part of our days and then our lives, it becomes a part of theirs too. This week find 5 minutes each day to move with your little one. Dance to a song, run down the sidewalk, do yoga, play at the park, crawl through the grass. Anything, but do it once a day.

As you begin to weave this into your days, notice any changes, any shifts. Moving away from harm and violence into a life of Ahimsa requires effort. It means we have to shift our routines and change our habits. It means we have to find different ways to view the world and those around us. But it also means that we become a channel of love and peace, and that, after all, is such an important piece of navigating through motherhood consciously and mindfully.

Ahimsa in Motherhood

The 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood

I remember sitting in my yoga teacher training years ago and learning about the 8 limbs of yoga. I found this approach to living a conscious, mindful existence to be refreshing and grounding. It expanded my idea of what yoga was and exploded the possibilities of how yoga could be a part of my life. I committed to fully exploring each limb and weaving them into my existence.

And then I had a child and everything changed. My time on the mat was reduced to a few minutes a day, maybe even just a few minutes a week. My reading material went from books that enriched my soul, to scouring the internet for quick tips on mothering: What should a breastfeeding mother eat? Will I ever sleep again? Are there any meals I can make in 2 minutes? It was survival mode folks.

But one day I was walking past my dusty shelf of long neglected books. Pablo Coehlo was flagging me down. Irving Stone looked at me with disappointment. Even Jane Austen was taunting me. And then I saw my yoga books and I thought surely I had some time to skim a few pages between diapers and tummy time. I randomly opened to a page that discussed the 8 limbs of yoga, the 8 components to living a meaningful and purposeful life. I recalled my dedication to these limbs in my past life as a non-mom and wondered how they fit into my life as a mother. Surely I still wanted to live a meaningful and purposeful life, perhaps now even more than before.

And so began my quest for the 8 limbs of yoga in motherhood. Yoga changed my life 10 years ago and reshaped the way I viewed myself and the world around me. It has been profound for me in many ways. And surely I would want to carry this into my life as a mother. Being a mother has brought new meaning and purpose to my life, but along with that has come the hardest challenges and deepest struggles. As a mother, if ever there was a time for living a conscious and mindful existence, this is truly it.

So stay tuned in the next few weeks as we take a deep dive into The 8 Limbs of Yoga as they pertain to Motherhood. We’ll take on the Yamas, the Niyamas, Dhyana, even Samadhi and much more. Are these words new to you? If yes, that’s totally ok. Really, it is. I’ll walk you through them. Hopefully this journey will support your motherhood journey, lift you up, shift your perspective, challenge you, inspire you, whatever it is that you need right now as a mom. Or perhaps it won’t. And that’s ok too. But for me, this has provided a framework for motherhood. This has been the bridge between my identity as a yogi and my identity as a mother. It’s been eye-opening, inspiring, grounding. I hope you find a piece of this too.

Stay tuned…

Melissa Kushnaryov, Co-Founder Seed & Song

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana with Baby