Filling Your Emotional Tank: 3 Ways to Prevent Mama Burnout

Filling Your emotional tank

I walked aimlessly, not sure where to go. All I knew was that I had to get out of my house, away from my screaming child. My husband was late coming home for our date and I was done. Beyond done, actually. Thank God for my-mother-in law and her willingness to take over. I hastily threw a hotdog on my son’s plate for dinner and I was out the door, walking away. I didn’t care that my husband had our car. All I knew was I had to get out of there. I couldn’t take it anymore… What was wrong with me? 

That was this past summer, when I found myself in a very low place. The demands of moving into a new home, pregnancy, caring for my preschooler and husband as he balanced work and school… all these things piled together left me in a very dry place where I could barely put one foot in front of the other. Most of us have been there at one point or another in our lives.

It was around this time that a dear friend brought me out to visit her in CA. Prior to being a mom, I would never have appreciated a full day of solo travel, sitting scrunched up in a small seat on a plane with limited access to meals and the comforts of home. Post motherhood, I was in heaven.

I got to SIT down for hours at a time!

Someone served ME drinks and snacks!

The only interruptions were reminders to buckle my seat belt and travel related updates!

It was amazing, I tell you. Absolutely heavenly.

Over the course of this trip I was treated to a spa day, slept nearly 12 hours straight, read two books and enjoyed some amazing food. I got time to myself, time with my friends and time for spiritual renewal. My emotional gas tank was full again! I was starting to feel like my old self.

When I returned home, I was so happy to see my son and husband. After a few days away I had missed them and was eager to get back to the business of enjoying life with them. On the plane ride home I had made a list of what I hoped would be different: I was going to try some new parenting strategies with my son, I was going to be more deliberate in appreciating my husband, I was going to take care of myself, I was going to take care of myself, I was going to take care of myself….

And then I didn’t take care of myself. And it didn’t take long before I was operating once again from an empty tank, barely getting by. I was reminded of my college days when, as a poor and penniless student I would often scrape together change and put a few bucks worth of gas in my car at a time – just enough to get me to where I needed to go. My tank was constantly hovering on empty. That’s how I felt emotionally – like I was constantly hovering on empty.

A couple of crash and burn sessions later, I realized I wasn’t doing anyone any favors by not taking time for emotional and spiritual nourishment. As moms we so desperately need this! If we are consistently operating from an empty tank, everyone suffers – our kids, our spouses, friends, extended family, co-workers…For mamas, nourishing the soul is something that is often overlooked in the barrage of the more pressing concrete needs of our families. We’re great at putting our kids’ and family’s needs ahead of our own, which is noble, but can also backfire (as I have been reminded of far more than I care to admit).

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Since my experience this summer, I have taken a few intentional steps in the emotional nourishment department.  I share these with you in hopes that they might serve as ideas for your own “tank filling” in what my friend, Dee, calls “the most precious, amazing and soul sucking season of life” (being at home full time with young kids).

1. Mom’s Time Out/once week

I’ve started taking one night out each week for myself. NOT a night where my husband takes the kids and I catch up on housework. NOT a night where I go to Panera and work on our finances. NOT a night where I grocery shop in peace. A night for ME, doing something that feeds my soul. Most often this looks like me getting together with friends for emotional/spiritual/moral support. Sometimes this looks like me enjoying a hot cup of something lovely at nearby coffee shop, with my computer, doing something I want to do. It’s truly glorious.

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2. “Don’t Mom Alone”

Whoever came up with this phrase is bloody brilliant. The sweet support of other mamas who are in the trenches with you is a healing balm to the soul. Seriously. I am beyond grateful for the women that surround me in this season of life. Join a Mom’s Group, phone a friend, force yourself to go to the park and smile at other moms until someone responds and strikes up a conversation. Do WHATEVER you have to do to connect with other mamas. There is no substitute for this priceless support.

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3. Yoga/Exercise

I started taking a weekly yoga class, led by my dear friend Mary from InjoyYoga. Mary has an amazing way of intertwining the spiritual and physical in her yoga class in a way that feeds the body and soul. I always walk away feeling lighter and more free. While I am unable to take classes with her in this season, I am grateful for her awesome InjoyYoga Bites series, which provides a much needed outlet for incorporating yoga into one’s daily routine in small “bite sized” chunks. (Added Bonus: Yoga helps so much with mindfulness and being PRESENT/breathing through child rearing challenges!)

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At other points in my mom life I have incorporated exercise through Stroller Strides (If you live in the North Shore area of MA, this is a great group!), regular walks/jogs with friends, working out on my own time/schedule or (my current go-to) the YMCA, many of which offer two hours of childcare each day! I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge exercise person; the healthy eating thing comes a little more naturally for me. However, I do notice a difference in my body and spirit when I exercise on a regular basis. It definitely helps nourish my soul!

What about you? What fills your emotional tank? I’d love to hear from you! Please take a moment to comment below.

This post is kicking off a new series on my blog: A Well-Nourished Life. I will be featuring moms from a variety of vocational backgrounds offering their unique perspective on what a well-nourished life looks like for them. Want in? Take a moment to fill out this quick-ish survey. Thanks!

4 thoughts on “Filling Your Emotional Tank: 3 Ways to Prevent Mama Burnout

  1. Bethany says:

    I really needed to read this, Jen. I have an 8 month old and there are days/weeks that i feel like i am stretched so thin. All that comes with being a mom, wife, worker piles up and can feel like I’m floating above water.


  2. awaytoafrica says:

    Thank for sharing, Bethany! Yeah – I hear you. I’ve learned the hard way far too many times… Bless you as you try to navigate this intense season of life. Marriage and parenting is not for the faint of heart!


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