If you’re a mom working from home with kids, your burnout is potentially at a whole ‘nother level. After being your kids teacher, therapist, cruise director, best friend, playmate, nurse. I just want to say, I see you. I honor you. Today’s episode is especially for you. Today’s big idea is that trying to work from home while your family is also home is essentially a recipe for burnout. Particularly emotional burnout. And when you’re in that emotionally fried state, it’s easy to feel like hating your family a little bit.
Listen to the Podcast Here
Personally, I feel like 2020 may have taken a few years off my life. Because I had a ton of work, and I was behind on all of it because my mental capacity was completely reduced by the stress and fear of living through an unprecedented pandemic. I felt like I was constantly holding a mental burlap sack filled with projects that never got lighter.
On top of this, my kids needed help with their school work. Whether that was help with zoom or figuring out what their assignments were. And they were having their own mental health struggles. There were just SO MANY DISHES and messes all over the house.
And the way our house is set up, my husband was working out of the electrical room in the basement. Which, to be honest, is totally gross. And my desk is set up in an alcove of the living room. Which means I am out in the middle of everything and he is hidden away. So that meant I was the one fielding all the kids requests. Simply because I was there, in the open, and he was hidden away.
There were definitely times where just hearing the word mom made me seethe
And times I wanted to just wring my husband’s neck, like Homer Simpson does to Bart. Because no one was interrupting his work when they needed help. One morning it got to the point where I was flipping him off, with both hands, for about 20 seconds straight. Saying, oh what would you know about the stress of covid when you’re in your hidey hole, by yourself, getting your crap done. While I’m up here teaching math, having therapy sessions, and never being able to complete something?
It was a very needed moment of catharsis and luckily we have found a way to express anger in ways where we can still be laughing. And also, be careful what you wish for because then he started working at the dining table which is good for kid coverage but not so great for me being able to go into the zone and focus!
Here’s the thing about having moments of hating your family
It’s an emotional roller coaster of feeling just so done and irritated, followed immediately by feeling guilty that you felt that way about your family. And then trying to make it up to them. And then realizing that, oh crap, you’ve got to get back to work. It’s exhausting.
If this has been happening to you, it’s natural. It’s human. It doesn’t mean you’re bad person. But it’s also exhausting and definitely contributing to your feeling burned out.
Three things I have found hugely helpful are to create space, to lower the bar, and to find a way to make it clear that you are not available in that moment. Even though you are sitting right there, unless someone is bleeding or the house is on fire.
In regards to space
I mean this both literally and metaphorically. You want to things up so that everyone has at least their own place to be. Even if it’s all in the same room. In our house, we all found a different spot in the living room so we could be together but also apart. And trust me, our house is not large. Because I found if the kids were on their own in their rooms, they were watching Netflix and not doing any school work. So my son sat at the dining table, I sat at my desk, and my daughter sat on the floor at the coffee table. And then I tried to make that physical space more chill by playing lo-fi music and running the essential oil diffuser. There were times I’d look around and think, it’s like I’ve started a co-working space with my children!
Lowering the bar may be more difficult
Because probably part of the reason you’re having momentary flashes of hating your family and feeling burned out is that you want things to be going better than they are. You care and you’re trying. Which is honorable, but at a certain point becomes unhelpful. No one can do this for you. But you’ve got to accept that you can’t do all the things well, so stop expecting to. Your kids may not get the grades you think they should be getting, you may not be turning in work that is as high caliber as you normally like to do. IT’S OK.
Especially after a pandemic that taught us the value of health. Doing everything great is not worth the toll it takes on stress and physical and mental health. Your value is not dependent on how much good work you get done. I know most of us think that way. My ego tries to tell me that that is true, but that is the internalization of capitalism and a culture that prizes productivity. Which, frankly, is a false idol.
And finally, find some way to make it clear to your family when you absolutely must work and can’t be disturbed
Unless something very very major is going down. If you have an office with a door, you can hang a sign on it, or put a scarf on your doorknob. I do not have an office with a door, so I will put on headphones. Even if I’m not listening to anything. To show that my attention is elsewhere. Maybe it’s a hat that you put on. I would often find myself saying to my kids, pretend I’m in a bubble because I really have to work right now, and that worked, a little.
You know, I know it feels like it’s forever but honestly this time of everyone being at home all day is a blip. Someday it will feel very far away and you will feel nostalgic for it. You will also likely have some pride at having lived through it, of having survived. The moments of intense feelings, like hatred will recede.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is to sit for 5 minute and think of one thing you can do to make your home family life a little better. Is it figuring out a way to delineate that you aren’t available for talking right then? Or finding a lo-fi playlist so that you can put it on to set the mood tomorrow? Or can you really take on this idea that being basically OK is all you need to aim for, and lower your bar a bit?
Just pick one thing you’re going to try and see what kind of a shift that makes. I know you love those people who are driving you so nuts right now. Even when you kinda hate them. So do what you can to take care of you so that you’ve got more space for love than hate.