What Is The Secret To Resilient Mamas?

What Is The Secret To Resilient Mamas?

Resilience is pretty vital to life in general, but especially motherhood.

Why? Because there’s really no quitting in motherhood.

No matter how exhausted we get, no matter how tough it seems, we must keep going.

What Is The Secret To Resilient Mamas?

But what does keep going actually mean? Does it mean we must never rest? Does it mean we keep pushing through the fatigue?

Science actually tells us the key to resilience is the opposite of continually pushing through fatigue.

It says we need to recharge, we need time to recover, in order to be resilient and stay the course.

What Is Resilience And Why Isn’t Simply Pushing Through Helpful?

So often, when we think of resilience, we think of pushing through something with every ounce of strength.

Busy researchers, authors, travellers, and parents of a two year old, Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan recently wrote about resilience and work in the Harvard Business Review (HBR).

They wrote, “We often take a militaristic, ‘tough’ approach to resilience and grit. We imagine a Marine slogging through the mud, a boxer going one more round, or a football player picking himself up off the turf for one more play.

We believe that the longer we tough it out, the tougher we are, and therefore the more successful we will be. However, this entire conception is scientifically inaccurate. The very lack of a recovery period is dramatically holding back our collective ability to be resilient and successful.”

It seems the definition of resilience we all dreamed up, is actually what’s keeping us from achieving true resilience.

While Achor and Gielan wrote in regards to business, much of what they wrote can be useful in motherhood. Whether we also work outside the home or not, motherhood is a job which one can never really clock off from.

Mothers need to rest, but they also need to recharge to find true resilience. And if you’re a mother who also works outside the home, the need for recharging from both work and motherhood is vital.

Why Is Resilience Important In Motherhood?

Life is always going to have its challenges. Motherhood is always going to have hard days, hard seasons, and may even involve tragedy. When things are hard, we need to be able to stay the course.

True resilience isn’t simply gritting our teeth and getting through motherhood. Resilience is recharging to protect our health, our mental wellness, and allowing us to be the best mother we can in any situation.

Achor and Gielan wrote, “The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again. This conclusion is based on biology. Homeostasis is a fundamental biological concept describing the ability of the brain to continuously restore and sustain well-being.”

Perhaps part of the reason so many of us struggle throughout motherhood is we’re continually trying our hardest with little to no break. While we’re working hard all throughout motherhood, we can’t neglect recharging.

Not taking time to recharge leads to burnout. As mothers, we can’t exactly resign when that happens. When mothers feel burned out, it can greatly impact our mental wellness which also impacts our children.

How Can I Recharge?

Many of us find at least a bit of time to rest. We sleep between night feeding sessions, we may nap when the baby does, and we may even sleep through the night if our children are older. Yet, even with rest, we still feel tired. Why?

Because simply resting doesn’t mean we’re recharging.

“Most people assume that if you stop doing a task like answering emails or writing a paper, that your brain will naturally recover, such that when you start again later in the day or the next morning, you’ll have your energy back. But surely everyone reading this has had times where you lie in bed for hours, unable to fall asleep because your brain is thinking about work. If you lie in bed for eight hours, you may have rested, but you can still feel exhausted the next day. That’s because rest and recovery are not the same thing,” wrote Achor and Gielan.

How many of us spend our downtime reading the latest parenting information? Spend date night chatting about the kids?

I can’t be the only mama who thinks about the most random parenting things, like orthodontics, at 11pm instead of sleeping.

To recharge, you need to take a break from your work, even if that work is motherhood. You need internal breaks, which are short breaks while working. You also need external breaks, which is removing yourself from your work.

As a mama, it can seem impossible to find time for internal recharge and even harder to find time for external recharge. But it is possible.

How Can I Recharge In The Midst Of Everyday Mothering?

Sure, they gave excellent advice in the HBR regarding breaks at work, but how would that help a mama?

One thing many of us can do to find more time to recharge is by limiting tech time. We needn’t spend hours researching every parenting topic, participating in every mothering forum or answering every text within seconds.

This isn’t to say technology is bad. For many new mamas, online adult interaction is a vital part of staying sane. And I certainly wouldn’t discourage researching parenting topics!

However, the average person checks their phone 150 times per day. Even if only for around a minute each time, this adds up to well over two hours every day on your smartphone.

Being conscious of the amount of time you spend on your phone could mean finding more opportunities to recharge throughout the day.

Other ways to find moments to recharge include:

  • Taking a break from trying to put baby down for a nap and putting her in the pram for a walk. It’s a physical and mental break from trying to settle a fussy baby. She’ll likely be distracted by the outside and may give into rest without realising you’re trying to put her to sleep.
  • Hopping into a hot shower while the baby naps instead of folding laundry.
  • Putting on your headphones and listening to guided relaxation, an entertaining podcast, or just a favorite playlist of music while keeping an eye on playing children.
  • Utilising aromatherapy during a quick coffee or tea break.

How Can I Fully Recharge?

It can seem impossible to get a moment away from mothering and house responsibilities. If you also work outside the home, you may have child-free time, but most of that time is occupied by work.

Come bedtime, motherhood worries and career worries are both occupying your mind. The harder it feels to get away to recharge, more than likely, the more you actually need time to recharge.

External recharging according to the HBR article, includes things such as vacations from work, weekends, etc.

For a mother, external recharging isn’t likely to be as long or as regular as weekends or holidays, but there are many ways to recharge, including:

  • A hot bath after the children are in bed.
  • A date night without talking about children.
  • Girls’ night out with friends.
  • Taking time to journal at night or in the morning while children are sleeping.
  • If your children are a bit older, an adult only overnight trip, or even a long holiday.
  • Taking time to pray, read, or meditate.
  • Aromatherapy, massage or spa treatments.
  • Watching movies or reading books that are purely for entertainment.
  • Having “fun only” days even with your children involved (e.g. no chores and a day trip to the beach, park, etc).
  • Get adequate sleep (even if it means putting things off).

How you recharge, both internally and externally, will depend on what you find relaxing and fulfilling. There isn’t necessarily a right or a wrong way to recharge, but the important thing is you make time to do so.

Motherhood, or a career, doesn’t need to simply be a grin and bear it experience. The best way to stay strong, the best way to be resilient, is to find time to rest. It doesn’t make you weak to rest, it makes you human. Science fully supports your need to recharge.

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Maria Silver Pyanov is a mama of four energetic boys and one unique little girl. She is also a doula and childbirth educator. She's an advocate for birth options, and adequate prenatal care and support. She believes in the importance of rebuilding the village so no parent feels unsupported.

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