Sunday, February 16, 2014

Respecting Your Limits: Avoiding Mama Burn-Out

mama burn-out

My daughter, Claire, and I engage in all kinds of kid-friendly activities on a daily basis. We read books, do puzzles, make play-doh, sing songs, wash her baby dolls, bake cookies, occasionally, we enter a land of make-believe.

When I say occasionally, I mean that this morning I said to my two year old, “I don’t want to play castle and princesses right now.” I also mumbled under my breath, “Imaginative play just isn't my favorite thing.”

The mumble part was directed at no one in particular, but my husband, George, piped in with, “But it’s her favorite!” His tone was filled with implication or, at least that’s how I heard it.

What I heard was that I was guilty of depriving my daughter of a vital experience that was essential to her very being.

My husband’s no dummy. He knows just how to get to me. He had appealed to an insidious side of myself. -- the part that desires to be all things to all people at all times, especially my daughter. I almost bought into it, too. I almost succumbed to the "perfect mommy" myth.

But then I remembered something about my husband. I remembered how George flat out refuses to indulge in sensory play with Claire. I'm talking the second I even mention the word "cloud dough", he practically alerts the press about his refusal to get all messy and stuff.

Sensory play is considered mom's domain. I graciously abide.

So I’m taking a cue from my husband. I do not need to be all things for my daughter. It's fine if she sees that I have limits. It's fine if she learns that people have tastes and likes, and that they don’t always jibe with hers. It’s fine if papa is the one who wears the crown around this house.

In many ways, I am serving all of us by saying "no" imaginative play and to other things as well. I’m letting my husband have his own unique relationship with Claire. I’m showing my daughter I'm human, I'm teaching her some valuable things about being authentic in relationships, and I'm modeling how to respect her needs. I’m also protecting us all from mama burn-out.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I can’t occasionally don a crown and hold a staff in the name of my daughter's continued development. It also means I don’t have to buy into my husband’s attempt at a snow job either.

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Check out this week's fab features:

Finding Ninee, My Future Dreams

Don't Chew on the Dinner Table, From the Mouths of Babes


  1. I agree that we all have our own preferences and it is sorta a give and take even with playing with your toddler. I always feel that they need to have some free play and learn how to play independently too.

  2. Oh Rachel... I just LOVE this post. You are SO right about this very point and principle- we can't do it all!! And that is simply okay. I set boundaries with my kids often- too often for them, but I can't CAN'T do it all! You walked right into the heart of every mama here.

    I am SO glad I am FINALLY (sorry for all the caps! Just feeling it, ya know?!) delving into your gift here. I just adore you. XO

  3. Oh how true this is! I don't know why I always felt so guilty if I said no to playing the game or watching the movie for the 5000th time. I do so much for my kids and it never seems like enough. One day I figured out (and this was very recent) that I am not just their Mom, I am still an individual person. They may be unhappy for a moment but they aren't going to put me in the Bad Mom landfill if I don't play the game or watch the movie this one time. I have to set boundaries for my own peace of mind. Great, great, great post!

  4. Good for you! You're protecting your sanity while showing your daughter that everyone has their own interests and strengths, and that it's OK to say no when appropriate and necessary. These are important lessons for anyone. We put too much pressure on ourselves, and others. It's nice to be free from the guilt! (Thanks for the reminder. ;))

  5. So true and thanks for the reminder. You are doing an amazing job for you little girl. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I totally get it. As you read in my last piece, I'm sort of pitiful on the creative front (except maybe when it comes to writing?). I am so thankful that I only have to do it a few days a week. I love hanging out with him and reading together, especially, but the whole make-believe thing? Wow. I give you a lot of credit....

  7. Good for you. I don't like boy games...running around wrestling, hiding, shooting (yeah, hubby and the boy play Army shooting games). Heck, I feel apologetic writing that my husband and son play shooting games. It's just not my thing. They love it though, and like you said, it's their special thing, and that's not a bad thing.

  8. YES! Amen to this! I love how succinctly you put this- often when I write about my dislike for imaginative play, it comes out as as a blubbering mess that sounds half worried and half defensive. I think you hit the nail on the head. Brilliantly written.

  9. I really don't like the imaginative play either - I love me some coloring, or board games, but princesses? no. I was just reading the other day about how mothers are in such a bind in that we are expected to be able to be infantile and childlike one minute, and then adult and in control the next. You've nailed it perfectly - we can be everything!

  10. I never have been able to buy into that imaginative play. On the upside at 10 Abby will play in her room for hours designing the perfect Barbie with a horse life. I think it is even better that you didn't let George snow you. So like a dad to try though :)

  11. So very, very, very wise. I often wonder how come that the same me who used to enjoy imaginative play SO much cannot stand it now. Then again at some point the same me also watched Sesame Street and coloured colouring books for fun. I'm hoping that understanding that you're right on an intellectual level and that this is a much healthier approach than begrudgingly succumbing to imaginative play will prove enough for me. I do not want to keep making guilt-based decisions.

  12. Amen Mama!!!! I think there's another piece to this, as a fellow mom to an only child, our children expect us to be everything to them. If there was a sibling, they would have someone else to torture, even if it meant enduring fighting over what game to play, or who's the queen and who's the princess, WE would not be the Everything. I also dislike imaginative play, mostly because ours involves running around the house and being a burglar or a cop. I always tell him that's why we have a babysitter. And then I encourage him to play on his own. Because there will not be a sibling ;-) And so he needs to learn to play on his own, which I think will be a really important life skill someday. Just like you said!

  13. I can't believe I didn't comment on this. I think I read it from my phone (sorry). I'm SO with you on dividing and conquering - each of us is better at certain things than the other. If your husband is great at imaginative play, let him have it! I do think you're right that it teaches Claire about each of you as people.
    I'm actually okay at imaginative play but only when it's a game I like. You know - one that doesn't involve chasing, or wearing a blanket on my head. So maybe I'm not very okay at it after all. I do wonder when it became a chore though because as a kid, that's all I really did. It's kindof sad that we're not wired to actually enjoy it more as adults. But well, it's boring. ;)

  14. Rachel, this is so me. I have a lot of trouble maintaining focus during imaginative play but I'm outstanding at other things. I'm writing a post about this for April and need to remember this one to link back. Love this.


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