How to Deal with Burnout as a Working Mom — Womanhood Unwrapped

BURNOUT IS NOW A SOCIETAL NORM

According to a recent survey by Motherly, 38% of Gen Z and millennial moms feel entirely burnt out, and another 55% feel ‘always’ or ‘frequently’ burnt out. If you sit down and think for a minute about mothers’ mental, physical, and emotional health, these numbers are pretty staggering and should concern us as parents and people.

MOTHERHOOD EXPECTATIONS ARE UNREALISTIC

Somehow we have become a society of parents either one-up-ing each other or just giving up entirely. There appears to be no in-between. And considering what our children and families want and need is considered secondary.

COST OF LIVING IS RISING

In the past, it was possible for one parent to stay home and the other to work. Aside from the fact that for many women, this scenario is not something they are willing to consider on an emotional level, it has also become almost unsustainable for a family to live on one income. Magnify Money recently reported that the percentage of dual-income families has risen to 53% in the last ten years. Think about that for a second, more than half of all families in the US have parents who both work full time, yet we operate as if one parent should and can stay home with their children, and working is a choice. For most of us, it’s a necessity, not a choice!

So, how should you combat mother burnout with all this disheartening information? I’ve been a working mom since the dawn of my motherhood, and I’ve learned a few things along the way — mainly after crashing and burning out multiple times.

GET COMFORTABLE WITH SAYING “NO”

I distinctly remember the first time I said “no” as a mom and the guilt I felt afterward. If you’re a people pleaser — and let’s be honest, most of us are — you likely struggle with saying “no” to that extra play date or drink after work. But if you’re one trip away from falling into full-blown burnout, it’s time for you to remove yourself from everything that is not completely necessary in your day-to-day life. What’s the worst that can happen? You might make someone mad? They will understand if it’s a real friend, supportive family member, or colleague! If they don’t, you have bigger issues and need to set boundaries in your momming world.

BOUNDARIES ARE YOUR FRIEND

Whether telling your mother-in-law that she can’t do a, b, or c with your children or reminding your boss of your off-hours so that you have time to recharge, boundaries are the key to avoiding or alleviating burnout as a mom. “But it’s just easier to leave things as they are,” you might think, and I get it. For years I allowed myself to be a complete doormat while an ambitious one in my personal and professional life, which worked until my life blew up in my face. Racing at full tilt towards a cliff is where you’re headed if you refuse to set boundaries as a mom. Between the work schedule, school schedule, after-school activities, friendships, family demands, etc., if people don’t know where you stand, They. Will. Take. Advantage. Of. You.

RECONNECT WITH WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY

For some moms, joy looks like baking cookies with their kids on a Friday night, while others may shudder at it. Happiness could mean spending time with your friend-family and nuclear family to recharge. Getting away from your family completely to hike, or take a spa day, could do it for you. Whatever it is that TRULY brings you joy as a mother, not what you think SHOULD make you happy, is where you should focus your time and energy. Don’t feel bad that you don’t have the perfect Pinterest party or say “no” to eight out of ten playdates. It’s your family, your life, and your motherhood journey. The be honest, other moms will thank you!

Do what brings you joy. That’s it.

REMEMBER, IT’S ALL A PHASE

Some phases of motherhood are easier than others. I know you may have heard this many times before, and if you’re in a particularly tough situation with work and parenting at the moment, this may not be what you want to hear, but it’s true. Each time I’ve gotten to a point where I need to throw my hands up, and just surrender to the impossible-ness of the moment, suddenly the moment changes, and we ease into a smooth phase as a family.

RELY ON YOUR PARTNER FOR SUPPORT

Communication is hard. Communication in a marriage or partnership as parents is even harder, but you won’t get what you need if you never ask. There were several years where I was working full-time, doing most of the pick-ups, drop-offs, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc., and the burnout experience from that time was one of the worst I’ve ever undergone. I finally had to sit down with my husband and share what I needed him to take on; funny enough, he had no idea I needed the help. I had never really communicated with him about what I needed, and once I did, he was more than willing to support our family in the areas I was struggling with; I just needed to communicate. Don’t let yourself get to a point where you literally cannot function before asking for help.

LEARN TO SPOT BURNOUT

No matter how often I learn the lesson, I still struggle with mom burnout. It always starts with an extra obligation, or activity I think we can add on, or just one more client, and then suddenly my stress level is rising, and I am no longer able to do it all. I’ve had to get honest with myself over the years, and I’m now capable of spotting when I’m tumbling toward burnout.

  • Depersonalization: Feeling unmotivated, cynical, detached, and disconnected from others
  • Lacking a sense of accomplishment: Feeling unproductive and ineffective
  • Poor self-care: Being unable to do what’s needed to preserve or improve your own physical and emotional health

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Founder of the the Womanhood Unwrapped blog. A platform where women can find content that related to their lives and tell their stories.

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Elisabeth Thomas

Elisabeth Thomas

Founder of the the Womanhood Unwrapped blog. A platform where women can find content that related to their lives and tell their stories.