Dear Dr. Yael,
I am an overwhelmed mother who works and tries to take good care of my children, my husband, my house, etc. I just feel so tired all the time. Having young children and working is so difficult. I know that I need to take care of myself, but I just can’t seem to do it all. I do have a great husband who tries to help. However, he also works hard. Please give me ideas how to take care of myself. I feel that I am falling apart.
An Overworked Mother
Dear Overworked Mother,
In order for women to be good wives and mothers, they must first take care of themselves. Obviously, as Jewish women, we are used to putting most of our children’s needs before ours; however, if we do not take care of ourselves, we will not be able to perform to our best abilities. How can children be happy when their mother is not? How can a husband enjoy his marriage when his wife is discontented? So, when people ask me what are the most important things for a woman’s mental health, I respond, “Bread, water, cleaning help and babysitting.”
Though I may sound somewhat facetious, I mean this in all seriousness. Cleaning help and babysitting are so important for women. When a child spills something after you have spent 20 minutes sweeping and mopping, you will understand exactly what I mean. Did the child do something so terrible? No. So, just imagine how great the anger will be if the child does something terrible. And ask yourself, how much of the anger is really frustration and fatigue?
Another important aspect to mental health is finding something that you enjoy doing outside of the house. Whether you are working or are a stay-at-home mother, it is imperative to have an outlet. Stay-at-home mothers are even more susceptible to “burn out” and should make an effort to get out of the house and do something for themselves. This is not to belittle working mothers who have the double burden of working outside and inside the house. I cannot begin to stress how crucial it is for women to ensure that they find a hobby, go out with friends, exercise and/or carve out some alone time at home. Every individual will need a different manner of venting, but all of us need to escape.
Now, you may be thinking, “Ya right, where would I find the time to do anything for myself? I am lucky to be able to take a shower in peace.” Nevertheless, you and your husband must sit down and find some time that is “focus on yourself time.” Maybe take a walk with friends, relax in a hot bath with a book, join a book club, etc. Pick something that will help you relax and expound some excess energy and stress, whatever that may be, and make sure that you do it at least once a week.
I am a big fan of exercise. Swimming, a dance class or any other exercise will help raise your endorphins and serve as a natural anti-anxiety and anti-depressant. I personally like exercise that is a bit social as well.
Lastly, it is essential for your mental health to make time for your marriage. Try to date your husband no less than once a month, and preferably once a week. Life overwhelms us, and it is easy to forget that relationships have to be worked at. Thus, make an effort to spend time with your spouse alone, going out to eat or doing something fun.
In the zechus of working to create a positive state of mind and a productive marriage, may you be zoche to have gezunt, parnassah, nachas and simcha! Hatzlocha!