Mom Burnout is Real, Here Are 5 Ways to Avoid It
Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, a new mom, a seasoned mom, a mom of one, or a mom of multiples, burnout can affect us all. It’s common for moms of any stage to experience very real mommy burnout regardless of if your little ones are home with you 24/7 or in daycare or school. Let’s take a look at what exactly mom burnout is and how best to avoid it.
More: What Real “Mom Brain” Looks Like
What is Mom Burnout?
Sheryl Ziegler, psychologist and author of Mommy Burnout, states that simply put “Mommy burnout is the emotional and physical exhaustion that you feel from the chronic stress of parenting.” She goes on to explain that “no matter how much sleep you get, you’re always tired...there’s always something else. You lose your motivation and passion. Mommy burnout is not an extension of depression. You can be burned out but not depressed.”
These days a lot of attention is being drawn towards maintaining good mental health, particularly after a year of living through the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with moms, in particular, a lot of the attention on mental health is lifted after the postpartum stage has worn off. We place unrealistic expectations on ourselves to accomplish everything and be a supermom while letting our own mental health suffer. From the moment we wake up to the time we finally fall asleep, the pressure is on to be a good mom and provide everything we can to our children.
There are many ways to avoid this sense of overwhelm and chronic stress, while still being a great mom. Here’s how to maintain your sense of self and your relationship with your kids while avoiding burnout.
How Can You Avoid Mom Burnout?
Find a Support System
Finding your tribe of people who can step in and be supportive can go a long way towards helping your well-being. This can be loved ones, family members, a good friend, neighbors, or others you feel close to. Licensed Marriage and Family therapist, Kristen Arquette, says that a great way to “take a small step towards building or re-establishing a support network is by making eye contact and saying hello to the people in your daily life. Invite someone to join you the next time you do something for yourself.” Once you have a solid support system in place, you won’t feel embarrassed asking for help. Whether you need help with a new baby, help with little things around the house, help with childcare, or just a chance to take a break, those who are close to you will gladly step in to lessen some of the burdens that come with motherhood.
Make Time for Self-Care
More often than not, we feel like our world revolves around our kids. School drop-offs, after-school activities, healthy meals, never-ending laundry, quality time together, play dates, it really never ends. But where does the sacred mom time fit into an already jam-packed schedule?
Self-care can look different for everyone. The point is that you designate time just for yourself to relax, unwind, take a breather, and recharge. Some simple self-care suggestions are to take a walk outside, read a book in the sun, pop on a podcast, relax in the tub, or indulge in a piece of chocolate you don’t have to share. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, as long as it fills your own cup.
A social media break is a great form of self-care. If you stop comparing yourself to the perfectly curated social media feeds and instead focus on mindfulness and what makes you feel fulfilled, you will likely be more at peace with yourself.
If your schedule is jam-packed, it’s okay to literally schedule a block of self-care into your routine. Make a point to wake up before the kids, relax after they’re settled for the night, or rely on a partner in order to check out for a mental health break.
Spend Quality Time With Your Significant Other
Setting aside specific time to spend with your significant other is a great way to manage mom burnout as well. When it feels like you’re spiraling through a life filled with kids and household chores, quality time with your significant other is just as important as alone time for yourself. If you’re not able to get out of the house, set aside an evening after the kids have gone to bed to unplug together. Try to put your screens away and push the household chores to the back burner. Quality is more important than quantity, so if you’re only able to carve out small moments of time, make them count!
Practice Saying “No”
As someone who feels like she needs to do it all, I’ve always had a hard time saying no. And I don’t mean saying no to your kids, but saying no to taking on more things. When you’re already juggling a lot of different moving parts, activities, and schedules, one more thing might tip the scales. Arquette says that it’s important to “set and hold boundaries by expecting others will be inconvenienced. Remind yourself beforehand that you might feel guilty after. The guilt doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong or made a bad decision. You’re allowed to say no, and they’re allowed to feel disappointed or frustrated.” Practice is important because this is definitely a learned skill for many of us.
Your wellness needs to remain a priority, and spreading yourself too thin is not going to help. Evaluate what are the most important things, delegate if you’re able to, and say no to the extras. If you feel like you have a handle on your stress, have created time for yourself, and still feel confident in taking on more, then start to build in those extras.
Recognize Your Stress Triggers
In order to prevent stress from building up to the boiling point, it’s important to recognize what causes the most chronic stress and can tip the scales. Arquette says it’s important to “prevent stressors from building up by identifying the daily “drains,” or areas of life that bring you down, and make small changes to the things that you can control - they add up to more positive perception of life.” She also recommends “identifying a healthy way to manage stress that works for you, and make sure your children see you doing it. Let them know that by taking care of yourself, you’re better able to manage your big feelings, and encourage them to pursue a self-care practice as well, so they can too.” Our kids watch everything we do and learn from the way we handle ourselves. As we work to equip ourselves with ways to handle stress, we can also take a moment to pass on what we are learning as well.
Motherhood can oftentimes feel overwhelming and isolating, but it doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. The best mother for your children is you! In order to remain the best version of you, it’s important to recognize and foster what you need to remain connected, happy, and healthy. Arquette says that “moms suffering from burnout are more easily upset. They double book appointments, get sick more often, have more aches and pains, and have a hard time thinking clearly.“ Our five above tips will help you to clear your mind, free your emotions, and tackle the hardest, but most rewarding, job of being a parent.
If you’re experiencing burnout and could use a little self care, check out these 10 Self-Care Gift Ideas to Treat Yourself To.
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Jennifer is currently working for a US-wide health care system, Jennifer has worked professionally for 13+ years in the fields of early education and leadership, including in the role of Director with the international edu