Does taking a break feel impossible? The sheer thought it makes you anxious or uncomfortable?
Motherhood can feel all consuming, and when you add all the other responsibilities you’re carrying, there just doesn’t seem to be time for a break.
I’m not even necessarily talking about a large amount of time, like a weekend away. A break can be much shorter. Regardless of length, a break is dedicated time where you don’t have to worry about other people’s needs. It’s time when you can tune into what you need and enjoy and do something for yourself. Feel like your own person. Recharge and restore yourself.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? So, why don’t we do it more often?
Yes, time is limited. A lack of time is a readily accepted and seemingly reasonable explanation.
But lovely, for many of us, there’s something deeper going on.
When things are important to us, we make time for them. If your child was sick, you’d make sure you took them to the doctor. If your bathroom was leaking, you’d prioritise getting it fixed before you had a flood on your hands.
So what’s really getting in the way of us taking a break?
While it can be tempting to blame circumstances and external factors, it’s our beliefs that create our reality.
There are a number of beliefs that commonly make it hard for mums to take a break. I’m going to introduce you to 6 of these here so you can identify if any of them are getting in your way.
Let me just quickly mention that in some seasons of life you genuinely may not feel like you need or want a break from your children. That is totally ok. I felt like that for a while when my son was young too. Make sure you are meeting your other needs. Stay tuned into how you’re feeling so that when you do feel like you need a break, you can make it happen.
1. You believe you don’t deserve to take a break
“I haven’t done enough yet.”
“I don’t work as hard as other mums.”
“My needs aren’t as important as everyone else’s.”
“I’m not enough as I am. I have to do more to prove myself.”
So many mums are stressed out, doubting themselves and worrying whether they’re doing enough, whether they’re keeping up or whether they’ll ever be enough. As a result, we keep pushing and doing more. We don’t allow ourselves to stop.
Everyone deserves a break. There are no universal criteria for deserving a break – no standard of enoughness, no measure of how important your needs are, no specific amount of work that needs to be done (although I’m absolutely certain you’re doing A LOT).
Breaks help you function and thrive. They help you return to your responsibilities motivated and ready to give your best again. Breaks help your brain and body work better. Regular breaks mean you won’t end up breaking.
You’re doing immense and important work. You give and do so much. You are allowed to take a break. In fact, it’s better for everyone if you do.
What would it be like if you believed that everyone deserves to take a break, including you?
2. You believe you’re a bad mum if you take a break
Perfect mum doesn’t take need breaks. She cares for her children 24/7, or if she’s not caring for her children, she’s doing paid work. She doesn’t need any help. Perfect mum doesn’t require any time to herself, because her children completely fulfil her and she’s always focused and full of energy. Besides, if she did have any needs, perfect mum would always sacrifice them for the needs of her family. Right?
Lovely, this is fiction. Perfect mum is an unattainable ideal of motherhood that has evolved in society over decades. It is deeply ingrained in our thinking and we subconsciously measure ourselves and other mums against it. It’s a lot of pressure and we may not even realise where it comes from.
Consider these questions:
What does taking a break mean about you?
- You’re not coping?
- You don’t enjoy being with your children?
- You’re selfish?
- You’re not maternal or nurturing enough?
- You’re a bad mum?
What does it mean if you need to ask someone to help by caring for your children while you take a break?
No wonder mums feel guilty and judged for taking a break and doing things for themselves.
You don’t have to believe in this ideal. It has never been real. Perfect mum doesn’t exist because she is unattainable. You get to choose what success in motherhood looks like for you and it can certainly include taking a break!
What would it be like if you believed that great mums take breaks?
3. You believe motherhood needs to be hard for you to be successful
This belief often starts much earlier in life when you learned that success only happens through hard work and sacrifice. If you’re not succeeding, you’re not working hard enough. No pain, no gain.
If you hold this belief, you’ll be subconsciously looking for ways to make motherhood feel harder. If it’s too easy, you must not be doing it right. Denying yourself a break, certainly makes motherhood feel harder.
Is this what you want to believe?
We all want to do our best, but motherhood will feel as difficult or easy (or a mix of both) that you believe it is.
What would it be like if you believed that being successful in motherhood could feel easier? What if it included taking breaks?
(Note: I’m not saying motherhood isn’t ever hard, just that you don’t have to be finding it hard to consider yourself a great mum. Some things are hard, but not everything needs to be).
4. You believe you are the kind of mum who is always overwhelmed and too busy
“I’m the kind of mum who….” is a powerful statement. Whatever you complete that sentence with, will become your reality.
When you believe you’re always overwhelmed and busy, your brain will seek this out as the norm. If you do start to get on top of things, you’ll feel like things are not quite right. You’ll start to create things that bring back your overwhelm. And when you’re overwhelmed and feeling like there’s too much on your plate, it’s hard to take a break.
What would it be like if you believed that you have enough time to do all the important things, including taking a break?
5. You believe everything you do is important
The work you do IS important, but it’s not all of equal importance. It’s likely you’re dedicating time and energy to something that is NOT important, that can be done by someone else, done to a lesser standard, or delayed. There’s probably something on your to-do list that you could drop off altogether without any significant consequence.
If you’re not clear on what’s most important to you (aligned to your values) then it’s really hard to prioritise and everything must be done. Without a way to prioritise, when new demands for your time and attention arise, you’ll be more likely to feel obliged and say yes.
It’s hard to take a break when you’re drowning in commitments and everything seems important. It feels like nothing can be sacrificed to give yourself a break.
What would it be like if you believed that not everything was of equal importance, and only the things that are most important to you, deserved your time and attention?
6. You believe you are holding everything together for everyone
Mums often really are the glue that holds families together but that doesn’t mean that they have to do everything for everyone. If you believe that everything will fall apart if you take a break, then you’re going to experience a lot of resistance and guilt for doing so.
While it feels great to be needed and to be such a critical part of the family, when we control everything, we don’t give others a chance to learn, step up and be responsible. It might be true that right now things don’t get done if you don’t do them. Or perhaps they do get done but not to the standard you prefer. By holding onto this belief, you’re going to create and see more and more evidence of this and you’re unlikely to do anything that will change it.
To be able to take a break, you’ll need to loosen your grip a little, and help your family function without your ongoing presence and oversight. Everyone will benefit.
What would it be like if you believed that by taking a break you could empower everyone in your family to learn and grow?
Which of these beliefs resonate with you, lovely?
If you can choose a more empowering belief, you’ll start to create space in your life for that break that you’re craving. You have the power to make it happen.
If you want to take this a step further, try creating 1 new boundary for yourself this week that allows you to take a break. For example, I will:
- Stop working (any sort of work, including housework) an hour before bed.
- Get up 30 mins earlier on Thursday to do something I love before anyone else is awake.
- Ask my partner to do the bath/bed routine so I can have a break on Wednesday.
- Decline that invitation I’m not excited about and use that time to have a break.
- Go for a walk before I sit down to work.
- Stop working during my lunch break and read my book.
Lastly, if you need some help with finding alone time for a break, when you’re never alone, check out this article.
If you love this but know you need more help to manage your stress and overwhelm, let’s chat!