From chronic exhaustion to isolation, here are some common signs of mom burnout and how to shift your daily routine to feel better.
by Erica Garza
People love to say how rewarding motherhood is, but too few admit the difficulties. From tending to sick kids to paying the bills, parenting duties are extensive and they largely fall on moms’ shoulders, even in two-parent households. This unfair division of labor is one of the various reasons why 2.4 million women are currently suffering from burnout, a term used to describe the fatigue that occurs in common caregiver roles.
It’s no wonder that The New York Times reported at the beginning of 2021 that “American mothers are in crisis.”
Whether you work outside the home or you’re a full-time stay-at-home mother, here are some signs of mom burnout you should know about and some steps you can take to feel better.
Signs of Mom Burnout
Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, psychologist and author of the book “Mommy Burnout,” describes mom burnout as “the emotional and physical exhaustion that you feel from the chronic stress of parenting. It’s feeling like you’re over your kid sometimes.” Some common signs to look out for include:
- Feeling exhausted, even if you’ve slept.
- Resentment toward your child and partner.
- Not feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
- Loss of motivation and passion.
- Feeling “touched out” or needing to be left alone.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Poor self-care.
- Feeling guilty.
And while sleep problems and changes in appetite are also common signs of burnout, mom burnout is not the same as depression, even if symptoms overlap. However, according to Dr. Leesha M. Ellis-Cox, author of “Ditch the Mommy Guilt,” mom burnout can be a precursor to depression. She suggests that if your mood is persistently sad or irritable for at least two weeks and you have feelings of worthlessness, you should get help immediately by contacting a mental health professional.
Why Does Mom Burnout Happen?
Excessive and prolonged stress are the contributing factors to burnout. It happens to caregivers (e.g. moms), when they have maxed out on their capacity to provide physical, mental, and/or emotional support for someone in their care, explains Katayune Kaeni, Psy.D., a psychologist in private practice specializing in perinatal mental health. It isn’t just the lack of support from other partners at home (i.e., dads) that causes mom burnout either. According to sociologist Caitlyn Collins, America’s lack of supportive public policy is one of primary reasons why it’s harder to be a mom in America than in any other developed country.
How To Avoid Mom Burnout (and Feel Better When It Hits)
From resisting the urge to compare yourself to other moms to getting over the resistance to ask for help, there are plenty of ways you can avoid burnout and feel better when it does happen. Here are some tips you can try:
- Know your triggers: Knowing what sets you off, pushes your buttons and maybe even makes you yell is a great first step in knowing what to avoid (or prepare for). For instance, if bedtime is always met with resistance, figure out a bedtime routine your kid will actually want to do, from a cool-down ritual they’ll find fun to a bedtime story or special song they’ll look forward to.
- Practice your version of self-care: If you cringe at the thought of bath bombs and sheet masks, make a self-care ritual that feels like you. You may even benefit from swapping out one thing for another, like trading that evening glass of wine with a tincture that combines ayurvedic essential oils with CBD oil for targeted stress relief, like SLOW from The Root of it All.
- Ditch the comparisons: Resist the urge to compare yourself to other moms, especially when it comes to social media. Despite the seemingly perfect pictures and witty captions, remind yourself that social media is filtered reality. Chances are, they’re struggling too.
- Reach out for help: Isolating may be tempting, especially if you rarely get a minute alone. But it’s important to stay connected. Nurturing relationships means building a support network you can count on when times are tough.
- Give yourself permission to rest: It’s time to put to bed the idea of being a supermom. When you find yourself with time away from your kid(s), let yourself off the hook when it comes to laundry or those last few lingering items on your to-do list. The only way you can give to others is if you give to yourself first.
Erica Garza is a writer and editor specializing in health and wellness. Her articles have appeared in TIME, Health, Women’s Health, Glamour and VICE. She lives in Los Angeles.
Maven Clinic - Parents at the Best Workplaces 2020
The New York Times - The Primal Scream: America’s Mothers Are in Crisis
Dr. Leesha Blog - On the Front Lines: Battling Mommy BurnoutMotherly - Why American Moms Are the Most Stressed Out Moms in the Western World