How To Break the Busy Boredom of Motherhood
Everyone talks about how busy and totally exhausted moms are these days. They are RIGHT! Mamas are hustling their asses off and are freaking tired because of it. I myself have had to literally pry my eyes open in the morning with sticky fingers that smell like yesterday’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we had for dinner. I do this after a so-so night of sleep and immediately hit the ground running after my oldest whispers to me that she “had a little accident” like it is no big deal. Yes, my sugar dumplin’, just how I want to start my day….cleaning up pee…before I can even take a small sip of the sweet nectar of motherhood (aka coffee).
What people are NOT talking about is that motherhood, and the constant, consistent day-in and day-out routine that can be busy as hell, can also be incredibly boring. Once the day gets going, it is a never-ending routine of pick-up, put-down, clean up, redirect, hustle and hurry, hurry up and wait, deep breathing, praying to God to help me not lose it on someone, eating, cleaning up some more, and more deep breathing. It does not stop. It does not let up.
Yes, as momentarily exciting as it can be to clean up someone else’s body juices right away in the morning, motherhood can be monotonous. Routine and structure are crucial for a child to feel safe and learn resilience. Humans are biologically wired to be in a consistent rhythm with time to rest, time to play, and time to eat and digest. As mothers, we are attuned to these needs and meet them well. Yet, at the same time, there may be simultaneous feelings of boredom and fantasies about a more interesting and spontaneous lifestyle. Your intellectual stimulation may be subpar as you review colors, shapes, and letters for the umpteenth time. The pace of your life may now be determined by meal times, nap times, and pick up and drop off times. You guys, it makes sense that you feel like you are going crazy! You are being forced to live on kid-time, which is very different and often slower (yet also faster) than adult time.
One of the hardest parts about motherhood was that I had no idea how much it would feel like I was on a hamster wheel. I am always moving but never seem to get anywhere, be as productive as I would like, or have enough variety. The exciting parts are often interrupted by a diaper change, a sibling rivalry, or the need for snack #783 of the day. I crave a certain level of excitement, spontaneity, and passion for life on a daily basis. The things that bring me the soul-capturing feeling of freedom and awakening are hard to do, if not impossible to do with my little people.
And that is okay for now.
I have come to a certain level of understanding and acceptance that boredom is a part of my life for now. Right now, in this temporary season, one of my purposes is to give and to love these beautiful (albeit sticky and snot covered) children. Sometimes it is disproportionate and I give more than I get, I take care of more than I get taken care of, I listen more than I am listened to, and I am grateful for more than the gratitude extended to me. When you become a parent, you enter a relationship contract that is not give and take; it is give, give, and give some more. Your return on investment may come in the form of a “thank you” once in a blue moon, or a slightly less intense meltdown at Target, or seeing your little do something truly kind for another human being. However it happens, it is less than occasional and it can feel like you are squeezing every ounce of energy you got into a bottomless well of a tiny human.
I fully reject the notion that mothers need to give until their backs break and they lose their ever-lovin’ mind, however. I think it is incredibly important to take care of yourself, especially when you are a parent. I mean, you are raising little humans, YOU need you and THEY need you to be healthy, whole, and well. Unfortunately, no one will tell you to take that break; you will need to decide when to take it. The tendency is to schedule your break weeks out and when it will not interfere with anyone’s schedule or needs. Mama, hear me when I say “Please, don’t wait!” To break a cycle of monotony, spontaneity can be profoundly healing and helpful. See a local event on Facebook that lights you up? Go do it? Want to feel the warm sun on your skin at the beach because it is a beautiful day? Go do it! A friend has a randomly free night? Go out! Get a good book delivered from Amazon? Go read! Find a trail on your morning walk you have not been down? Go down it! The world is STILL your oyster mama, get out there and explore!
Things that Helped Me and Maybe Will Help You, Too:
1. Accept the Season You Are In- Mama, your kids are only at this age and stage for a little while. As their needs change, your ability to be more flexible or more routine changes. Accepting the season you are in can be helpful in letting your body know that the monotony you are experiencing now is not forever. It will shift again. Finding and focusing on the parts that are fun and stimulating are more advantageous to your sanity than focusing on how boring it is to make yet again, another PB&J or box of mac and cheese.
2. Capture Your Own Child-Like Spirit- We all need play, whether you are 2, 20, or 80, we all need a sense of variety and spontaneity in our lives. The ability to play is rooted on our inner child. For some, this may be a triggering idea if you were not allowed to play, shamed for playing, or any other situation that had you think that play was somehow bad, unnecessary, or too out of control. I encourage you to think back to your childhood and identify what was fun for you before you started to think of life as serious. Hunt for the curiosity, creativity, and imagination you exuded. Did you like to color until your hand hurt? Did you like to run and run out in the open? Did you like to pretend? Did you like music? What from your childhood, could you bring into your life now?
3. Let Your Kids Take the Wheel Sometimes- If you are having trouble finding what was fun for you in your childhood, just watch your kids. They will most certainly know how to have fun. As long as they are safe, give them some time and space to just “do whatever they want.” Follow along and play, too.
4. Spontaneous Adventures- This is my favorite! Sometimes, I will just pack the kids in the car and drive somewhere unknown. We hunt around and see what we can find to do that is fun. One time we found a place to swim in our clothes, splash, and giggle. Make ice cream sundaes for breakfast. Get faces painted. Anything! For just a little, don’t worry about nap time or getting 2.5 servings of fruit and 4 servings of veggies in for the day. Just live and enjoy!
Spontaneous times can be with just yourself, with your soul sisters, and/or with your partner. Ditch the regular dinner and movie date or happy hour beer and do something different. I recently, for the first time EVER, scheduled a spiritual retreat that is 3 days away in the middle of nowhere. I feel like a kid going to camp….nervous…excited…gleeful to be away and enjoying myself. Maybe you don’t do the retreat thing, but you can do something that is just for you, that lights you up and connects you to your fun and spontaneous nature.
5. Excite your mind- The effects of routine can be a deep sense of safety and predictability, but can also be quite mind numbing. Turning on podcasts or uplifting music can really give you the mental boost you crave. You can read a challenging book or question a part of life you had passively accepted before. Learn a new hobby that requires your mental awareness. Anything that creates a feeling of focus and motivation can be cleansing for your soul, too.