IN HONOR OF MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH THIS MAY, WE WILL BE FEATURING GUEST BLOGGERS, EACH OF WHOM BRING THEIR OWN UNIQUE EXPERTISE AND PERSPECTIVE TO THE DISCUSSION. IT IS MY HOPE TO HELP EDUCATE AND NORMALIZE THE EXPERIENCES OF ALL MOMS.
Guest Blog Post: Running on Empty
By Anna Osborn, LMFT
I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet a momma that is not a working momma. It doesn’t matter if you’re working in the home or out, the unending balancing act is universal. And quite honestly, as a momma of twins and business owner, I cringe each time I hear the word balance. It’s almost like “balance” starts to feel like an expectation or a “should”. Some way we should be having it all, managing it all or making it all work. I think that attempts at achieving “balance” is a driving force behind mommas running on empty.
So, in the spirit of Maternal Mental Health month, I’d like us all to take a vow to stop running on empty, stop pushing through, and relieve ourselves from the quest of balance.
Ok, maybe that is overzealous, but can you imagine the shift that could take place on an individual and community level if we did this? Even if it was just for a day…a week…an hour. It would be unreal.
I really believe that running on empty is a key factor that causes disconnection in relationships between mommas and their mates. It leads to this gap between feeling completely exhausted and in desperate need of support while also not knowing how to communicate it or have that support actually occur. In my practice, I hear women share over and over again about their mate “just not getting it” or “missing” their needs.
I also believe that running on empty and pushing through happens because of 3 main reasons. Actually more than reasons, they’re barriers that work against us in asking and receiving the support we need. And in order to get the support we need from our mates, we need to remove these barriers. But first, let’s break them down a bit.
Barrier #1: Criticism….both internal and external.
I don’t know about you but the inner critic that likes to take up space in my head during my low moments is quite mean. Couple that with the criticism that comes from the outside world and we end up pretty reluctant to ask for help. We keep pushing through and keeping up appearances as an attempt to run from criticism…even if most criticism is total BS.
Barrier #2: Expectations….either the ones we’ve created for ourselves or the ones that have been placed on us by others.
This is a huge barrier and keeps mommas running on empty. It’s hard to scroll through my newsfeed without seeing expectations glaring back at me. And the more we feel we’re struggling to meet expectations, the less likely we are to reach out for support. And the less likely we ask, they less likely we will receive and so on and so forth.
Barrier #3: Not enoughness….believing our value comes from what we do not who we are.
If we buy into this, we buy into one of the biggest traps out there. Believing we’re not enough keeps us running and running, much longer and farther than necessary. Not enoughness keeps us stuck in an endless hamster wheel and certainly one that encourages us to push through and continuing to run on empty.
So how do we remove these barriers, stop running on empty and get the support we actually need?
Well, first we find our tribe.
We find the people in our lives that support us as women, as mommas, as partners and all the other things that make us whole. We find them and keep them close. We don’t settle for people that perpetuate the myths of unrealistic expectations, that criticize or tell us we’re not enough.
Next, we slow down long enough to share that we’re exhausted and need support, especially with our mate.
We acknowledge the hamster wheel we’re on and ask for help to stop it. We are clear with our needs to our partner. We’re also understanding that everyone is human and that our partner may not understand what we need the first time. We accept that our mate may never “get it” in the ways we want them to, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be there to support.
In my couple’s therapy practice I actually see relief on the faces of the partners when they’re given clear information on how they can help. I have rarely met a partner that wasn’t ecstatic to get direction on how to better help support their wife and family.
And lastly, you show people in your life this article.
You know the ones that need to hear you’re running on empty, but you don’t know quite how to tell them. Yup, those ones. Share this with them as a bridge to start the conversation about what you need. And above all else, you breath and stop pushing through, even if it’s just for an hour.
Anna Osborn, LMFT, owner of My Happy Couple, focuses her work on inspiring individuals and couples to be more intentional and connected in their relationship. She works with folks on improving communication, deepening intimacy, healing from betrayal and changing negative patterns of disconnection in their love relationships. More information about Anna and her Sacramento practice can be found at
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