Mom burnout is a prevalent problem in modern-day motherhood. In Motherly’s 2022 State of Motherhood Survey, 2 out of every 5 Gen Z and millennial moms reported feeling completely burned out.
And while we’ll dive into this more in a moment, I want to put it out there that I think that realistically, this number is probably even higher.
Here’s why: That’s because society expects moms to be self-less, as if it is to be worn as a badge of honor.
Being a present + involved mom is high on the list of societal values. Which is why we are often the default parent—the ones to get up in the middle of the night when our little ones won’t sleep, who leave work to pick up sick kids at school, don’t go to girls night because it’s just easier if to be the ones doing the bedtime routine. The list goes on + on.
And while being a present parent is important to our children’s sense of security, attachment + development, I often wonder: what is the cost of being selfless as moms?
When we are in the thick of mom life, we tell ourselves it’s only temporary. That once we have the time, we will focus on rest + repair.
Let’s think about the etymology of ‘selfless’—of lower importance or priority.
When we downgrade who we are as an individual, we are also devaluing what we have to offer to our family. And over time these compounding effects of putting ourselves last + feeling physically and emotionally overwhelmed by parenting wears us down.
And it leads to mom burnout.
Being in this continuous pursuit of society’s expectation for us to be selfless, it clouds the distinct reality that we often are no longer are doing well as individuals. When we buy into the belief that mom life is meant to be exhausting, we tune out the signs that what we really are is burned out.
Which is why I’m taking time today to break down 3 signs that you are a burned out mom:
You are saying ‘yes’ to more than you can realistically take on. And it makes sense that if you struggle to say no (either directly or implicitly—even to your conscience).
Because let’s face it, so many of us have taken on some unrealistic expectations that are hard to say ‘no’ to. You know…the feeling that your home has to always be tidy. Or that you have to be playing with your kids instead of resting. Or making home-cooked meals instead of ordering out once in a while.
We’ve absorbed these ‘badge of honor’ expectations + have bought into this notion that if we aren’t at 100% in all areas, we are falling short. But rather than reframing what is actually a priority, we fire on all cylinders to try + keep up.
And while I think that all of us strive to be a ‘great’ mom, many of us feel…mediocre at best.
I love this poignant quote from Jim Collins, where he deduces that, “The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”
It sums up so well the exact reason so many of us feel mediocre. When you over-commit, you can’t stay consistent.
And you know that I don’t believe you should ever hold yourself to a lock-step system or unshakable routine because that’s impractical.
But what I am saying is that at some point, to be able to feel like we’re doing great as a mom you have to stay consistent in your commitments + priorities.
And I get it. That is far easier said than done. In many ways, that’s because as young girls, we were conditioned be helpful, accommodating, and polite.
We were wired to serve. It doesn’t feel good to set boundaries or say ‘no’ to things that you don’t have the capacity for. It doesn’t feel right. That’s because you’ve been wired to know that this is not what you are supposed to be doing.
It’s going to take some time to rewire. To let your body know that this is an old pattern that served you well as a young girl. But it’s also safe to do things differently now. Nothing bad will happen when you set boundaries that protect your time + energy.
Actually, what would be bad is if you continued to over-commit to habits or efforts that you don’t have the capacity for. According to a study in 2005, overcommitment has been shown to contribute to higher levels of stress and physical tension.
So if you’re someone struggling with overcommitment, I want you to start considering its impact. How its affecting your wellbeing. And how you’re able to show up for mom life with consistency. It’s probably taking a greater toll on you than you’re realizing. let’s talk about the affect that’s having on your sense of effectiveness as a mom.
If you’re not sure where to start, I want you to grab the checklist I put together of 10 Ways to Overcome Mom Burnout. It’s a simple printable list of ideas that you can use right away to start shifting your approach to mom life so it’s feeling less mediocre + more sustainable.
And with enough consistency in putting even just 1 or 2 of these ideas into action, you’ll even see that shift back toward feeling great about how you’re doing as a mom.
Now in addition to overcommitment, something else that’s can absolutely lead to mom burnout is mom guilt. This can take so many forms but more likely than not, all of us feel mom guilt often.
In fact, a poll on Workingmother.com found that 57 percent of respondents feel guilty every single day. And I’d even venture a guess that it’s even higher than that because mom guilt is sneaky.
There are times where I’ve had thoughts like, “This is the second time my kids had hot dogs for dinner this week. I can’t believe I didn’t cook a real meal for them.” or “I think it’s too much to ask Jason to watch the kids while I go to Pure Barre. He shouldn’t have to do that.” that I didn’t even recognize as mom guilt until I checked myself.
So let me dissect these examples with you + talk about how mom guilt can be disguised as thoughts that are helping us be ‘better’ at mom life.
As I see it, the most common types of mom guilt come in the form of feeling selfish when we prioritize on our own wants or needs (such as feeling selfish for focusing on my physical health knowing that it might inconvenience Jason.) or feeling regret that we fell short—that we didn’t live up to that idealized notion of what it means to be a ‘great’ mom.
In essence, it’s the recognition of our own mediocrity. So in the case of the hot dogs, I was letting myself believe that I was a mediocre mom because I didn’t live up to the unrealistic expectation that my kids are going to have a nutritious, homemade meal after a day of work, after-school activities + meltdowns on the way home.
Guilt has become a reflex for moms.
And it’s an unhealthy default that not only worsens our experience in the moment, but can also lead to anxiety, depression + disassociation in the longterm. So first + foremost, I want you to start monitoring for signs of mom guilt in your thoughts.
Filter through them with curiosity—what are my thoughts reflecting back to me? Am I being selfish… or self-advocating? Am I feeling regret when I should be feeling satisfaction for recognizing my limits + working within them?
Another consideration is whether mom life is an either/or existence. Mom guilt has a tendency to be all or nothing. There’s this notion that either you’re looking out for yourself or for your family. When in reality, mom life is so much more nuanced than that. It’s about integrating your individuality with your role of mom, partner, colleague, + friend.
So if you’re ever finding yourself in a position of having to choose between yourself or your role as mom consider whether there’s opportunity to fulfill your role as a present parent while also honoring your individual needs as well. There’s no perfect balance or one right way to do this, but so often we guilt ourselves into believing there is.
If this resonates with you, be sure to grab the checklist with 10 Ways to Overcome Mom Burnout because you’ll find there are a few more strategies there to help you tackle mom guilt that I think you’ll find to be effective in using whenever it comes up for you.
Now that you understand the power of over-commitment + mom guilt in our lives, I believe it’s important to acknowledge one more key contributor to mom burnout.
But before we get to it, I want to share something that I heard a lot when I was pregnant for the first time. Other women always told me, “You’ll never have a moment to yourself again!” Being an introvert I laughed it off because I knew there was no way I was going to let that be my story.
But I do want to acknowledge that so many women say this to first time moms because it’s true. Those women were speaking from real, lived experiences in motherhood.
So if you feel like this is true for you, I want you to know that you are not alone. And this really does come from a continuation of the idea that we, as women, were raised to be sensitive to other people’s needs before our own.
Self-Sacrifice has long been at the core of the quintessential definition of a ‘good mom’. It sounds like, “I’ll workout after the kids go to bed.” …as if working out when they’re awake is selfish or neglectful. or, “I’ll sit down + rest after I get through my to-do list” (Which we know is too long to get through to begin with.)
And I think it’s time we change that narrative. You already know that overcommitment is a slippery slope but so is self-sacrifice.
Foregoing your own fundamental needs or your own wants or even creative outlets isn’t doing you or your family any favors. It’s preventing you from showing up for mom life as your best version of yourself It’s depriving you of much-needed opportunities to feel restored + energized. And it’s keeping your kids from seeing who their mom for who she really is.
I loved how Christine Organ said, “There is no reward for constantly putting your needs last. We don’t get a prize for being a martyr mom. And perhaps, most importantly, our sacrifice and self-imposed hardships don’t help our children.” If we want this next generation to really live their lives to the fullest. To pursue their dreams. To embrace what makes them uniquely wonderful, we have to be their living example. When we but our own needs + interests aside, we are prioritizing self-neglect.
And despite it being well-intentioned it isn’t actually benefitting anyone. Not your kids, your relationships, or yourself. So if self-sacrifice is burning you out, the first step you can take is to reexamine your priorities. What are you putting ahead of your own needs? What are you putting all of your time + effort into? Are those efforts just perpetuating idealized beliefs about being a ‘good mom’ + making everyday life unnecessarily more difficult? Or are they actually important? So take pause before you keep going through the motions.
Ask yourself whether the patterns you’re in are hindering or furthering your progress. And that might mean examining the impact on a micro-, in-the-moment-level but also zooming out + considering the macro-impact they’re having on your overall wellbeing or the family as a whole.
I have a few more tips about overcoming self-sacrifice inside the 10 Ways to Overcome Mom Burnout download so if this is something you know you want to work on, make sure to snag that checklist right now.
Now you know exactly how to identify causes of burnout in your life, but what about tackling the things making you overwhelmed in the first place? I’ve got 3 Ways to Tackle Mom-Life Overwhelm for you to read next to help you with that so be sure to check it out right now.
I’ll be back next week with more lessons to help you make sense of mom life. In the meantime, be sure to check out the resources I’ve shared with you today. Making small, intentional Changes can have a big impact on how you feel about life as a mom. Remember: mom life is complex, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. So let’s take action + simplify mom life—together.
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Mom life is complex,
but it doesn't have to be complicated.
LET'S SIMPLIFY THINGS.