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Motherhood is supposed to be magical, enlightening, fulfilling, and filled with purpose. At least that’s what it should be. The truth is that sometimes motherhood can feel mundane, redundant, stressful, and lacking fulfillment. For some moms, those negative waves of emotions come and go. For other moms, those negative feelings spiral until it feels like we’re stuck in a cycle of negativity. Welcome to mom burnout.
I remember when I finally became a stay at home mom. Leaving my job to stay home with my son was a dream come true. I thought, “surely, I’ll love every second of it!”
I will say, I definitely enjoy being a stay at home mom way more than my career. But day after day of changing diapers, curbing tantrums, washing dishes, cleaning house, and trying to enrich my child with semi-educational play started to feel like more than I bargained for. I was sleeping more than before, but still exhausted. Even though I was doing exactly what I wanted, I struggled to find the fulfillment in it. I adore my son, and adored all the time I had with him, but felt totally unmotivated. After a few months of dealing with these feelings (coupled with the delight of getting through a pandemic,) I realized I was experiencing mom burnout.
What Is Burnout?
According to Webster’s Dictionary, burnout is defined as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” Burnout is a term that is typically used when it comes to workplace conditions, but mothers are just as susceptible to burnout as those in the workplace. Working mothers also run the risk of experiencing burnout at home and in their jobs. Mom burnout is simply burnout, but as it pertains to the duties of being a mother.
When burnout is left unmanaged, it can cause a myriad of issues both physically and emotionally. Many times when burnout is left unmanaged, it can evolve into further mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
Being a mother is challenging, but parenting while experiencing mom burnout can feel impossible. Some studies suggest that 14% of mothers will experience burnout at some point in their mothering journey (let’s be real though, it’s probably more than that.) Learning healthy ways to manage and overcome burnout can help us as mothers to feel rejuvenated and prepared to handle the in’s and out’s of motherhood again.
Recognize the signs of burnout
Burnout, like many issues in life, isn’t exactly one-size-fit’s-all. Typically there’s some telltale physical and emotional symptoms that may point to burnout. Some of these symptoms may seem like issues that just come with motherhood, but don’t look at these things like some mom’s badge of honor. If it’s interfering with your day-to-day life, it’s hardly a badge worth honoring.
Some physical symptoms of burnout include:
- lowered immunity/ frequent illness
- Frequent headaches
- Changes in appetite
People will more often experience emotional symptoms with burnout more than the physical symptoms. Some of the emotional symptoms include:
- Sense of failure and self-doubt.
- Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated.
- Detachment, feeling alone in the world.
- Loss of motivation.
- Increasingly cynical and negative outlook.
- Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.
Like I stated earlier, some of these signs are things many moms feel and often state are “just a part of motherhood.” Yes, it may be common for moms to experience burnout, but living with it is not worth the mental anguish. Instead of coining one or more of these signs as “just a part of motherhood,” look deeper into it. Perhaps it’s a part of motherhood not worth hanging onto anymore.
Spot unhealthy habits that may be burning you out
Burnout isn’t just a phenomenon amongst mothers, it’s a phenomenon amongst working people all over the world! Living a life constantly under stress and pressure is not how anyone was meant to live. One of the most effective things you can do to manage and overcome mom burnout is to take a hard look at your daily habits and see if they’re working for your life anymore.
Some examples of habits that can lead to burnout include:
- Not taking time for yourself consistently
- Not getting help at home
- Neglecting your physical and mental health
- Using unhealthy coping mechanism
- Having too much on the schedule all the time
- Having unhealthy boundaries
Some of these habits we’ll talk more about resolving later in this post.
Start taking time for yourself regularly
As a mom, this often feels like an impossible task. Many of us can hardly find time to bathe, eat, and breathe, much less do something relaxing or fun. But if burnout is rocking your world, it is your body’s warning signs that the mom-hustle is wearing you down, and you need to start taking some consistent time for yourself.
This is naturally going to vary from person to person, but I want you to think about something you genuinely enjoy doing. I’m sure the overachieving mom-brain in you is saying “I enjoy snuggling my babies,” or “I enjoy cooking,” or something like that. But I’m not taking about mom-you, I’m talking about you-you. What do you enjoy doing?
It could be one thing, or it could be multiple things. Find those things you genuinely love to do that is separate from your mom duties and make time for that. For me, going to the gym has become my activity I love to do. For you, it may be reading a book, or hanging out with friends, joining a hobbyist club, performing in a local music group, creating art, literally anything not mom-duty related that sparks joy in your life.
Self care naturally goes hand in hand with this. I’ve written a few blog posts about self care that can help you get started on your “take time for yourself” journey:
Switch up your routine
Sometimes changing your routine can help with curbing burnout. Especially as a mom, if your daily routines leave little to no time for yourself, then changing some routines can help.
Is it normal for you to do literally everything around the house, but you have a perfectly functional spouse who can help? Then enlist in their help. Are you feeling the need to have a perfectly tidy home 24/7 and it’s eating away at your soul? Then maybe it’s time to learn to find contentment in the mess.
Maybe you have kiddo’s who no longer nap, and you feel as if you need to be in mom-mode all day long. Then perhaps it may be time to implement quiet time into your routine. Find simple activities for your kids to do independently so that you don’t have to be the constant source of entertainment.
I can’t necessarily be the person to tell you exactly how to change your routine, because the point of a routine is that it caters to your unique needs. But take a hard look at your daily life and see if it leaves any time for you to just be you. If you’re in mom-mode 100% of the time, then perhaps your routine needs to be altered so that you can just be you for at least a little bit of time.
Ask For Help
They say “it takes a village to raise a child” for a reason. You were NOT meant to handle the demands of motherhood alone. When moms attempt to handle the motherly duties completely alone, then burnout more than likely is what will result.
Spouses can be key in alleviating some of the stress you are carrying on your shoulders, so take advantage of it! I got a blog post titled “How To Get Your Husband To Help Around The House,” in case getting your husband to help is like pulling teeth.
You can also take advantage of family, friends, and community providers to help alleviate some of the stress of motherhood. Keep your eye out for “Mom’s Day Out” activities in your community, or have family and/or friends watch the kids while you enjoy some R&R.
Seeking help from a licensed professional can also be key in pinpoint some more exact ways in your life to alleviate burnout.
Recognize the value of what you do as a mother
Many times burnout can happen when we don’t see what we do as valuable. Motherhood in many ways can feel mundane, repetitive, and thankless. Sometimes even society makes it feel like motherhood is devalued. I know in my personal life, telling people I’m a stay at home mom solicits many unenthused “oh,” and “so what do you do everyday,” comments that make me feel awful.
I know in your soul, you know you’re immeasurably valuable as a mother, but it can be hard to remember that in the midst of burnout. Take some time and write down what make you valuable in your role as a mother.
Let me help you with some to help get your mind jogging:
- You constantly provide safety, stability, and love for your family
- you kiss all the boo-boo’s and wipe all the tears
- you solicit the best giggles
- you keep you children’s bellies full, regardless of what that actually looks like
- you guide your children through the challenges of life
- you put so much aside to give to your family
There’s so much more you can add to that, but it helps so much more when you add your own personal twists to it.
Don’t let Mom burnout burn you out
Mom burnout is far from abnormal. In fact, I’m sure about every mom at some point will experience it. When those negative feelings arrive, don’t take them as a point of failure. Take them as your minds cry for help. Listen and lean into the burnout, and analyze what it is you can do to alleviate that weight off your shoulders. When we lean into it, pay attention to the why behind the burnout, and make active changes to our loves to alleviate the stress, we will become better for it.
Need some more help navigating the tough emotions of motherhood? Check out my “Calm Down Checklist” below, and get it for free in your inbox by signing up below!