There’s a new book out that we think you’re going to love. In ‘Work. Mama. Life’ (Wiley, $29.95), author and health and motherhood strategist Dr Ali Young provides an evidence-based guide for working mums on avoiding burnout, guilt and tips on how to thrive.
Sound right up your alley? Ours too.
“Motherhood is a journey through the chaos and the calm, the joy and frustration, the overwhelm and the total fun,” says Ali. “For all women, motherhood is a huge shift in your identity and your plans for your future. But as mums juggle the health of their kids, home and work lives, as well as their relationships, they often put themselves last, resulting in physical and emotional burnout. Something needs to change.”
In her new book, Ali offers an empowering and practical guide for mums looking to achieve a better balance, allowing you to experience the joys of motherhood without losing yourself.
Through a combination of evidence-based research, first-hand mothering experience, and easy-to-follow exercises, Ali gently guides you to help rediscover your joy, self and health in the face of intense challenges working motherhood brings.
To dig deeper, we sat down with Ali and chatted all things work, life and motherhood. Fitting – we know.
Tell us about your family? Kids, ages etc.
My family consists of myself, my husband Pete and our kids Matilda (9) and George (7). We also have my fur baby Banjo, a 13 year old Jack Russell x Italian Greyhound, and I often joke that I had him before the husband and the kids.
How did your Chiropractic career help you write this book?
Studying Chiropractic, and the in-depth neurologic (brain) and physiologic (body) knowledge that I gained over the 5 year degree was key in giving me the background to wade through the research and put it all together in an easy to understand way. Having been in practice for nearly 20 years, and working with 1000’s of mums in that time, bringing in a vitalistic and holistic vision for the health of mums and backing it up with current research was definitely much easier to do with the background knowledge. And having completed a Masters degree in paediatric chiropractic science gave me the extra research-based knowledge that really helped.
In your opinion, can mothers have it all? Can we balance work, family, social life and hobbies and still stay sane?
We absolutely can… we just need to define what all means to us. There is a great push, in my opinion, in society for our ‘all’ to look and feel a certain way. Yet, the mum’s that I know that achieve great balance are carving for themselves how they want everything to look. They sit with their values or what matters most to them, and navigate how that can look like within their family.
The burnout happens, as it did for me, when I was striving to get the idealised version of motherhood that wasn’t actually what I wanted. Finding the balance has definitely improved my health and sense of self.
Why do you think women face that dilemma, more so than their male partners?
In society, we are driven to do all of the things in perpetuation of our perfect mother myth. There is an intensivity to mothering that currently exists that is huge, and it is up to us to change it. Yes, we are getting more support from our male partners than every before, yet we do know that women, generally, do the majority of caregiving and family organising.
We know that in a family where both parents work, working women are 28% more likely to suffer burnout than working fathers. Creating change in this arena is where we will see the greatest impacts on mothers moving forward.
Do you have any practical tips for better balance?
For me, and the women I work with, a strong recognition that to have balance, we need to recognise that it’s a seesaw, rather than a perfectly organised time circle. Sometimes, to achieve balance, we will have a lot more weight in our work cup… we will be working on a deadline or a big project, and it is consuming. This doesn’t make us a bad mum – we just need to acknowledge that our focus is different in that short period. And then the seesaw will swing the other way, and we will pay little attention to work, and focus on our kids, our partner, and our home. Acknowledging that having it all doesn’t mean we do everything well all the time, and there will be times when we are better at certain parts than others is a key to navigating a lower ‘mum-guilt’ motherhood.
I also like using the 5 Pillars of Healthy Motherhood to determine where I can find some balance in the busy with my calmness, my connection, my nutrition, my sleep and my movement. Knowing that it is a rare week where all of these things are perfect, but bringing knowledge to create an ease in my choices is key.
How do you recognise burnout when you’re in the grind of motherhood?
There are many different indicators of burnout, but the key ones that I hear from mums are:
- Disconnection from their loved ones
- Anger at times they normally wouldn’t feel/perceive it
- Continued caffeine/sugar/booze to keep those dopamine levels up so we can get through our day (in excessive amounts here)
- Little desire to do the things you love anymore
- Waking between 2-4am each morning as the core cortisol/melatonin sleep pattern is disrupted due to stress.
- Feeling anxious over small things.
- Significant weight gain or loss.
The key is that if you feel a mixture of these or other things, seek the advice of a health professional to check in and get some advice.
Do you have any tips for the mums who feel like they’re heading toward burnout?
Try to find a way to get by yourself for a good hour at least and breathe in nature, and just listen to what your body is telling you. Giving yourself time out away from your family and your work is the greatest gift when you can feel yourself falling into the hole. Also asking for help without judgement of yourself is key when you are becoming aware of the burnout signs creeping in.
So many mothers feel the same kind of fatigue – what are your tips for combatting it?
One of the key makers of fatigue in mum’s is the inability to stop and rest – and the reliance on caffeine and sugar. Three simple ways to try and get a handle on that bone-aching fatigue mums are so familiar with are:
- Set yourself a bedtime routine – minimise screens one hour before bed and try to keep the time stable – as this helps your brain to get into deeper sleep.
- Stop the caffeine after lunch. Much like kids have a sugar comedown after school, we have a caffeine one – and it impacts on your body’s natural hormonal rhythms. Try to switch to tea, and keep your water up.
- Find a few pauses in your day to do some simple deep cyclical breathing. It doesn’t take long, and is like a reset for your insides. I love box breathing or pranayama.
How do mothers ‘find their village’, especially when being new to motherhood can feel so isolating?
Leaning into the opportunity to connect with other mum’s through mum’s groups that are often established close to the newborn stage is often the best way to create that new motherhood feeling. But if you are not able to jump into these groups, or your kids are older, looking at the things/places/community spaces that align well with your values and then navigating friendships at these also works well too.
Anything else to add?
My hope for mum’s everywhere is that they can gain enough knowledge, support and connection to give them the internal power to choose their own adventure. As a society, we’ve done a disservice to mum’s as they are ever-increasingly engaged in the workforce, and now it’s our turn to support them to make a change that supports the entire family unit – mum’s included. We can absolutely have it all… we just need to define what all looks like to us.