Overwhelmed? Burnt out? Not sure you’re cut out for this whole parenting thing? After repeatedly hearing these themes from her clients, Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, psychologist and mom of three, penned Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Happier Children in the Process. We spoke with Dr. Ziegler about the pressures facing moms today, and got her top two tips on ditching the ideal of the perfect mom.
Congratulations on the release of your book, Mommy Burnout. What inspired you to write this book?
Thank you! I was inspired to write this book by the moms I saw every week in my practice who, despite having different backgrounds, all kept talking about how exhausted they were, and how over being a mom they were. I thought to myself, what if my 3:00 client knew that my 4:00 client felt the same way that she did? The drive behind the book was to uncover the true physical and mental health tolls that stress is taking on us, and then unite women to connect with each other.
Why do you think so many moms are struggling with burnout and overwhelm these days?
In addition to living in a culture that idealizes perfect childhoods created by perfect mothers, we are online and on social media for hours a day, which reinforces unattainable ideas about motherhood. Also, the increase in opportunities that women have today has led us to take more and more on. We feel like we must take advantage of all of the opportunities available to us, which causes significant and chronic stress and burnout.
What can moms do to begin letting go of the drive to be the perfect mom? Or to stop feeling guilty and “less than” if we fall nowhere near that ideal?
There are a couple of easy, research-backed things that can really make a difference. First, get connected with other moms! Befriend other women, whether you think you will be best friends with them or not, and be open to having lots of different kinds of friends. You don’t need to be best friends with every woman you meet— you just need to have a connection point
To help with this, ban busy as a badge of honor! Stop saying how crazy busy you are when you talk to other women. When you do that, it builds walls and gets in the way of connecting with others. Simply changing your language around this will open more doors and invite in women who you could probably really use in your life.
If you could hand off one chore to someone else each day, what would it be?
Cleaning toilets. I have two boys who haven’t mastered aiming into the toilet bowl!
What is your favorite thing to do to relax and unwind?
It depends on my mood. Sometimes I like to drink an amaretto sour and sing along to music in my house. Sometimes I like to take a walk, and other times I like to go workout. I also love going out to lunch or dinner with a friend and talking for hours (or as long as we have)
What is your best parenting hack?
When daylight savings starts and it starts staying lighter longer on school nights, I close the blinds early in every room to subtly set the tone. I am a big fan of black out shades too. On weekend mornings, I have a rule that the kids can’t watch TV until 8:00 am to incentive them to stay in their rooms or go back to sleep, and this has worked out well. Even if they do wake up they usually get breakfast (I use the term loosely— they grab a granola bar and milk) for themselves and they don’t wake me up! My kids are 10, 8 and 5 and we have been doing this for almost a year
What is the best white lie that you’ve told your child?
That the DVD player in the car only works on the highway!
If you could describe motherhood/fatherhood in one word, what would it be?
What’s one moment in your motherhood journey that has made you proud?
My daughter did a segment on the news with me last year for take your kid to work day, and when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said, “A mommy.” In that moment, I thought I must be modeling something joyful for her, and that really filled my heart.
What is one piece of advice you want to pass along to your children?
Take risks. Fail, learn and try again— maybe differently. Choose love. Value experiences over materials goods. Always stay true to your values and who you are even when challenged to be someone who you are not. Trust your gut— it never steers you wrong.
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms?
On those days when you’re feeling lonely or alone, just look up and catch the eye contact of another mom. You will likely find another woman who has been there too. By just giving eye contact a smile, you’ll invite in just what you need.
How do you tackle the work/life balance?
I take things hour by hour. The more overwhelmed I am, the shorter the time frame gets. I no longer say I’m taking things day by day, because I have about eight “shifts” in my day—there’s the pre-morning shift, the getting ready for school shift, the entering into work mode shift, the after-school shift, the dinner shift, the night shift, the work after they go to bed shift and then the sleep shift. Breaking things down helps with the feeling of overwhelm that comes over me on a near daily basis.
What was the last book you read?
How To Raise An Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims.
Favorite Beauty Product:
Alphaeon eyelash serum
Favorite Form of Exercise:
What is on your DVR?
Jotnot (It might sound lame, but this scanner is a savior for me!)
Favorite Kids Store:
Barnes and Noble