Mommy Burnout. It’s a term casually tossed around at playdates. Every other meme on Instagram alludes to it. We even joke about it in passing – because sometimes as moms, we laugh to keep from crying.
My name is Meghan, and I am currently suffering from Mommy Burnout. If I’m being honest, I probably have been for the better part of two years.
It began creeping up in about April of 2020. Like millions of other mothers across the planet, I began feeling the Covid Crunch.
I’m a stay-at-home mom. I am used to having my children home – but this sort of staying at home was different. There were no impromptu meetups, no planned park dates, fewer trips to see family, and not even school to give me a break. “Breaks” didn’t exist, and something inside me began to unravel.
My temper got hotter, my fuse got shorter, and my tongue got sharper.
I began growing distant, getting more easily annoyed, and yelling—I mean really yelling—at my kids in a way I would never have dreamt I would.
I was not proud of my behavior, and I felt helpless. Now I realize that the yelling was a cry for help. What I desperately needed was not only time away, but time for myself, by myself. My children were paying the price for me neglecting me.
I couldn’t wait for bedtime. Then the second I put them to bed, I felt guilty for wanting them to be in bed. What I really needed was to sit on the couch alone and get lost in absolutely anything other than Disney Junior. I needed to decompress before my Groundhog Day began anew the next morning.
Asking for Help
Why didn’t I just ask for help? For starters, I’ve never really been good at that (can you relate?). I hate to burden others, and I am a control freak.
Second, I’m very choosy when it comes to who I let into my life. I’m an open book to talk to, but there are very few people I allow down in the trenches. The majority of those people are also busy moms, making it difficult to ask them to help carry my load when theirs is also heavy.
Finally, I wasn’t aware of how desperately I needed my own space.
It took school starting back up a few weeks ago, and three of my four kids under the age of 8 being gone five days a week for me to realize I hadn’t become a “bad” mom. I was a mom in crisis. A mom who loved her kids deeply and needed to have some time away from them, too. There can be both. I am both.
On the first day of school, I felt a sense of sadness and loss as I noted the absence of noise, laughter, and chaos in the house. A new chapter in my motherhood was beginning, and I had to sit with it and feel it for a minute. But as the days went on, I began to exhale. I felt more rested, stronger, less angry, and like I could catch my breath.
I began writing again. And reading. I turned on ‘90s R&B. I drove with the windows down, ate hot meals without sharing a single bite, and put makeup on. It wasn’t instantaneous, but I began to feel some relief. The timing of this was not lost on me.
My composure, my sense of self, and my sanity were returning. Retrospectively, the level of Mommy Burnout I was at was intense. It wasn’t going away after a 30-minute trip to the grocery store solo.
I had reached rock bottom on my “left to give” meter. Only consistent time spent focusing on being Meghan and not Mommy was going to get this train back on track. I needed to get back to me to become the mother my children needed.
I screw up a lot, but I also apologize to my kids. When that happens, I tell my kids mommas are only human and we are all just doing the best we can until we learn how to do better.
Someday, I hope my children look back and see a mom who was honest about her downfalls and leveled with them about making mistakes. One who learned a hard lesson about trying to pour from an empty cup. A mother who loved them so very much that for a while, she forgot the importance of making time for herself, too. One who needed to be reminded that she was her own before she was ever theirs. A mother who will one day be there as a grandmother to step in for them when they need that time to step out, alone.
My name is Meghan Cavanaugh Kalvig. I call Storm Lake, Iowa, home. I have lived in Creston, Iowa, for the past 13 years with my husband and our four kids – and it feels like home here, too. I enjoy trail runs, music, writing, belly laughs, documentaries, sincerity, sunsets, pasta, and honest conversation. My greatest joy in life is family. Coffee is a close second. Like John Mayer, I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.