I was just reading an article titled something like “21 Secrets Midwives Will Never Tell You About Their Job”. The article is written by an American midwife who talks about the love of her job. It’s meant to be a feel-good description of behind the scenes midwifery. But one thing she inadvertently does is brag about how exhausted she gets at work! Yes, hardly a break, hardly a bite to eat or a drink in a 9-12 hour shift. As if it’s something to admire….
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want someone over-worked and on the brink of exhaustion, making split minute decisions about my health or the health of my baby.
It’s one thing to work hard. Working hard is good for us. And sometimes we have no choice. But, working to the brink of collapse, and being proud about it, is pretty wacky. If you’re in a life or death situation and you have to work until you drop, yes, you’re a hero. But, in our society, we’re generally not pushing ourselves to exhaustion in a life or death situation. But we still think being tired is pretty cool.
Soldier on… How about take a break?
You’ve probably experienced that people who are exhausted, make really poor decisions. Their reasoning skills are reduced. People make mistakes and get in accidents when they’re sleep deprived or over worked. It doesn’t take too long for a person who is constantly exhausted to start experiencing poor health. It’s no secret that people who are exhausted and pushed beyond their limits are less productive and less creative than a well rested person carrying out the same activity.
But somehow… We still like to brag about how awesome it is to be walking around with our feet dragging and our eyes falling out of our head. Our employers expect it from us.
It’s not just the work place that sees this glorification of exhaustion. Physical fitness boot camp stuff comes to mind. The exhaustion, the pain… Ohhhh!!! It’s worth it, right? Well, the attrition rate of these extreme fitness regimes seems to suggest otherwise. Do you know the history of the marathon? This guy in Ancient Greece ran 26 miles from a place called Marathon, so that he could relay an important message. As soon as he got there and uttered the important message, HE DIED! Dropped dead from exhaustion. But nowadays, marathons are nothing. You’ve got Iron Mans and Ultra Marathons.
The world of mothers also sees this glorification of exhaustion. Mothers go for years and years without adequate help or sleep, because there’s something maryterish about being a sleep deprived mombie. Mother to mother advice comes a lot as ‘this too shall pass‘. And, it’s true… Things will change. But there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. Being sleep deprived and exhausted means you get angry more easily. It’s hard making a good parenting decision that comes out of frustration.
Sickness is another one. I’ve seen my husband try to walk out the door when he should really be in bed (I used to do the same). He takes some sinus medicine to mask the pain, only to return home a few hours later where he collapses in bed. But, he was feeling too guilty for calling out sick in the first place.
It is hard to NOT over work ourselves. We live in a very busy, overstimulated world. We’re scared of being branded lazy (which I’m sure I will be by a few people who are reading this). There’s no real recipe for making sure that we get enough rest and leisure time, because everyone’s situation is so different. Every person has a different threshold for how much work they can tolerate. But, we need to do something to stop being too ‘busy‘ for our own good. It’s not good for our health and it’s not good for society.
The very first step in stopping the glorification of being exhausted is to be aware of our tendency to think being exhausted is cool. Take rest when we need to. Ask for help when we need it. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you need to be exhausted in order to have achieved something. Be wary of the ‘never ever give up‘ slogans, because depending on what you’re talking about, never giving up could mean you’re doing a lot more harm than good.