Despite the admonitions of the smiley old ladies in the grocery store to “Enjoy every moment!” the reality is that motherhood is hard. And it often leaves one with an acute case of mom burnout.
(And spoiler alert: No one enjoys every moment.)
Whether you’re a new mom or a mom with teens, you have a million pressures coming at you every day. You feel pressured to be an engaged and attentive parent, keep up with household duties (which overwhelmingly fall to women, even when they work full-time)…and look fit and cute while you do it all.
But you’re exhausted. Not just a kind of tired that goes away with a good nights’ sleep.
It’s an exhaustion that you feel deep in your bones that makes it difficult to get motivated to do much of anything. And all the while, you feel like it’s YOUR fault.
You feel that you’re falling completely short in life and that if you could “just get it together” things would be better.
But if you find yourself overwhelmed by pretty much everything coming at you…there is a good chance you have mommy burnout.
In this article, we’ll cover the symptoms of mom burnout and also give you realistic ways to fix it and recover from mom exhaustion.
SYMPTOMS OF MOM BURNOUT
While it’s a buzzword we hear all the time, what exactly does “burnout” mean?
According to Amelia Nagoski, co-author of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle (which I highly recommend):
Burnout is the experience of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by everything you have to do, and somehow you’re still worried that you’re not doing enough.
Here are some common symptoms of mom burnout:
- lack of motivation
- low productivity
- sleep issues
- not enjoying kids and family as much
- reliance on caffeine to function
- zoning out with screens
MOM BURNOUT QUIZ
If you’re still wondering if you’re experiencing “mom burnout” you can take the Mom Burnout Quiz below.
But quite frankly, the fact that you’re asking that question that is a pretty good indicator that you are, in fact, burnt out.
But as women, it’s very easy to simply think that we’re falling short. That feeling totally exhausted and unmotivated simply means that we’re not doing enough.
When we hit a wall and suddenly feel completely and entirely inmoatived
HOW TO FIX MOM BURNOUT AND FIND MOTIVATION AGAIN.
So you’re experiencing burnout. The bad news: it’s a terrible place to be as a mom.
(As a working mom or 4 kids all born in under 5 years, burnout and I are old friends.)
But the good news: it doesn’t have to last. And there are things you can do today to stop the cycle of burnout and help you heal so you can enjoy your life and kids.
You CAN get back motivation, energy, and productivity. You CAN recover from mom exhaustion.
Let’s breakdown how:
1. Ditch the guilt, pronto.
The truth is that every mom who cares about her kids is going to overdo it and end up with mom burnout at some point. To say it’s normal would be an understatement.
It’s not just normal, it’s expected given the insane pressure on women and mothers in today’s society to do and be all the things.
As Lauren Brody Smith, founder of Fifth Trimester and author of Why mom Quilt is the Biggest Lie of All, puts it:
If everyone feels guilty, there is no other “better” mother to compare ourselves to. Mom guilt is a sham.
So when the mom guilt soundtrack starts up in your brain, tell yourself a different story. Here are some great affirmations for moms from Military Wife & Mom to get started.
2. SUBTRACT FROM YOUR LIFE, DON’t ADD
If you’re anything like me, when looking for solutions, it’s extremely easy to think about everything you should add to make your life better or easier.
While those are certainly good things…
…When you are in the full throes of mom burnout, you need to first SUBTRACT from your life and to-do list.
Which means no adding.
So after you ditch the guilt, the next step in fixing mom burnout is to clear out space to breath, think clearly, and rest from your exhaustion.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
What are the absolute MUST DO tasks that I cannot let slide?
These are basic tasks that keep you & your family alive and make sure your life doesn’t implode. There are very few things on this list.
- Eating food
- Keeping yourself and your family safe
- Basic housework that keeps your home hygienic & functional
- If you work and need your job, fulfilling basic job responsibilities
Chances are, there’s a bunch of stuff you’re doing (or think you should be doing) that do not fall into this category. Things NOT on this list:
- Making time-consuming home-cooked meals for your family
- Keeping your baseboards clean
- Volunteer work
- …and about a billion other things
Instead, give yourself grace to let go of all the non-essential tasks for a while. Step 4 will give you several ways you can subtract from your stress and to-do list.
3. LEARN TO SAY “NO”.
When it comes to “subtracting,” it’s easy to feel like we’re letting others down. You want to be helpful. You want to be someone others can count on.
But here’s the thing: Prioritizing your mental and physical health isn’t going to let down anyone that actually matters.
But I completely understand your fear of letting anything go. Fear of letting people down or of dropping one of the many balls you’re juggling.
Making more work for myself is a cornerstone of my personality. I’ll raise my hand to take on a task despite having no time or bandwidth to do it.
“Sure, I can be VP of PTO despite that fact that I’ve got 4 tiny kids and am constantly behind on grading! Gimme that binder!”
I make simple things more work than they need to be.
“I haven’t slept in days, but I’ll be darned if this isn’t going to be a Pinterest-worthy birthday party!”
But I’ve learned to say “no,” keep my hand in my lap, and give myself grace for recognizing my limitations.
And remember this: You’ll be best suited to take care of family when you take care of yourself.
4. Make household duties as easy as possible.
Household duties typically fall into 3 categories:
And women–even ones that work full time–do the bulk of this work. And you know just how time-consuming and life-sucking these things can be when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
But if you can reduce the time and stress around these tasks, you can go a long way to overcoming burnout and feeling yourself again.
First, if you have a partner, level with them about how you’re feeling and ask them for help. Talk about how you can better divide household duties.
Once you’ve done that, here are some other suggestions for what you can do:
TIPS FOR EASY MEALS:
- Get paper plates, bowls, cups. AT least until you’re feeling better. This make mess clean up sooo much easier, as even small kids can be asked to throw away the dishes from dinner.
- Get easy breakfasts: healthy breakfast bars, cereal, instant oatmeal, and bananas. Make it as easy as possible.
- Stock up on freezer meals. While you may want to make homecooked meals, relying on frozen foods or takeout for a bit isn’t going to hurt anyone. But it may give you some space to breathe.
- If budget permits, get takeout. See above. Healthy homecooked meals will be a lot easier when you’ve overcome your burnout.
- Just do one load of laundry a day. Seriously, this is all you need to stay up on laundry.
- Don’t worry about folding right now. Clean clothes in the right drawers/closets is enough right now. Or put your kids in charge of folding their own clothes.
- Get your kids to help out. Kids love to feel helpful. And even small kids are good at gathering dirty laundry, helping to divide into loads, and folding/dividing clean laundry.
- Set a timer & just do a little everyday. DOn’t worry about doing it all or getting everything clean. Just set a timer for 10-15 minutes and do what you can.
- Follow a cleaning schedule. This helps you get everything done without doing a ton everyday.
- If you have it in the budget, get a cleaning service. Even if it’s just every once in a while or just for a couple months. Your peace of mind is worth a lot more than money.
5. Practice good sleep hygiene.
When you subtract the unessential from your life, it makes space for the things that really matter. Your kids. Your family. And sleep.
Sleep isn’t just important for your health, it’s the most important indicator of health. And while we’d all like to think we can function well without sleep, we’re like a drunk person thinking they can walk a tightrope.
In other words, sleep deprivation makes us ineffective, unhealthy, and unhappy.
As Dr. Matthew Walker puts it in Why We Sleep (one of the most mind-blowing, important books I’ve read):
The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. The leading causes of disease and death in developed nations…all have recognized causal links to a lack of sleep.
He also states that “The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.”
While one night’s sleep is unlikely to cure burnout, regularly getting solid 8+ hours every night will make a massive difference in how you feel mentally and physically.
Tips to get better sleep:
- No screens in the 2-3 hours before bed
- Create and intentional bedtime routine to calm your mind and body.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
For more, check out 10 Strategies for Moms to Get Better Sleep.
6. Schedule time for yourself. Every. Single. Day.
Once you’ve subtracted enough from your life that you feel excited (and not overwhelmed) at the prospect of adding in some stuff, add in some self-care habits.
And remember: Taking care of yourself is not taking time away from your family. It’s essential.
Because you cannot pour from an empty cup. To have anything to give to the people and things you love, you have to take care of yourself. Which means intentional self-care.
- Going to Target by yourself
- Doing an exercise that you enjoy
- Talking to a friend or sending a Marco Polo
- Reading a book or magazine
- Watching an episode of a show with your partner after the kids are in bed
- Listening to your favorite podcast while going for a walk
- Deep breathing or meditation
- Take a hot bath
(You get the idea.)
Personally, I find that mornings and evenings (before kids are up or after they’re asleep) are really great times to fit in self care.
For more, check out The 3 Essentials to Creating a Relaxing Self Care Routine for Moms.
7. Ask for help
There’s the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” yet when it comes to raising our kids, so many of us struggle to actually reach out to our village and ask for some help.
But before you shrug off the suggestion to “ask for help” consider this:
If a friend or loved one reached out to you and expressed that they were feeling completely overwhelmed & exhausted…you would do whatever you could to help them.
And you’d be so grateful for the chance to help them. Because if you knew that if you found out that they were suffering in silence, you’d feel terrible.
Ask for help. From your partner, friends, family, and neighbors. And when you’re feeling better, you’ll return the favor.
Note, if what you’re feeling is chronic and doesn’t improve with lifestyle changes, please seek help from a mental health professional.
Ten percent of women experience depression each year. You’re far from alone. Talk to your doctor or someone else who can help you get the care you need.
YOU CAN OVERCOME MOM BURNOUT
While completely awful to experience, mom burnout is incredibly common given all the stresses in our life today. But life can get better as you intentionally take steps to reduce your stress and responsibilities and take time for yourself.
Remember, you cannot pour from and empty cup. Taking care of yourself is the best way to be the mother, partner and friend and community member you want to be.
You’ve got this.
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