Updated: Oct 22
As I face Monday with an equal dread towards a packed work schedule and the routine responsibilities of getting my small children in a clean, fed and presentable state from A to B to C to D and back round again, I realise that I am less "burning the candle at both ends" and more "the withering embers of a wildfire that has left little evidence of a former bountiful, energised life-sustaining force".
I have burnt out several times in my academic life. I sit at the nexus of a dangerous combination of unrelenting imposter syndrome, a tireless work ethic and a system that purports to reward hard work and merit, but actually exploits labour in a glorified pyramid-scheme. What I hadn't expected, was that the traits that give me a proclivity to burnout in my work-life also feed burnout in my family-life. In fact, those tendencies are magnified as a mother. A persistent sense of inadequacy in my parenting, means I push myself to constantly keep the kids happy and entertained and to be available, no matter what. This often comes at the expense of my own happiness. Any time I have available, I spend making up the work I couldn't do because I had to pick my daughter up early to treat her to a day out without her brother demanding all my attention. I take annual leave just to clean the house, organise themed parties, make gift bags and sew costumes. I buy my daughter new dresses, shoes and accessories, because she loves to dress up, rarely buying myself anything new because I know I will be covered in smears of paint and yoghurt.
How do I find a balance? An unremitting guilt at not spending enough time with my kids, managing my home, doing enough at work, or seeing enough of my friends and family, leaves my own needs right at the bottom of the list. Most weeks, I tell myself that it is only now, while they are small that things will be this tough. I am constantly reminded that this time goes so quickly, I should embrace every moment and not wish them to be old enough to dress themselves or play without my constant attention. I promise myself everyday that I'll do something for myself, but most days I break that promise. And so I add more guilt, that I am not selfless in giving to my children, that I might feel resentment in not caring for myself or being appreciated enough. If you are hoping I will offer a solution here, you will be disappointed. I have not found one. And by the way, guilt at having so much privilege and yet feeling exhaustion above gratitude, has not escaped me.
a side note
These posts serve partly as therapy for me, and partly in hopes that the words will resonate with you and help build a community of parents and friends that can support each other. Take a look around the website, and join if you want to see more.