Do you feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions? It’s hard for you to know what task or person to attend to first. You keep thinking that if you could just get one more thing done on your to-do list, you could breathe or take a break. But then there is always more to do than you have hours in the day. It becomes hard to prioritize and by late afternoon, you are completely exhausted and want to crawl into bed hours before bedtime. But doing so, leaves you feeling more guilty and frustrated with yourself and your life.
If this cycle resonates with you, you aren’t alone. This pattern of pushing through exhaustion to get more done only to feel more exhausted and unproductive is a common experience of modern-day parents. While our modern world has sped up, there is increasing pressure on parents to do more for their kids. And if you are a working mom trying to juggle career and family, this pressure to do more with less time, leaves many moms feeling like they aren’t enough.
Research is starting to emerge that shows burnout isn’t something you only experience at your job, but you can also experience parental burnout. In fact, one parental burnout study stated that approximately 2-12% of parents are so exhausted that they are actually experiencing burnout. In my experience, the frequency of parental burnout, especially working mom burnout is actually much higher. And most of the time, these moms are so burned out, that they can only see what others need, making it very hard to get out of the burnout cycle.
Today, I’m going to invite you to clear some space to listen to the signals your mind and body are trying to tell you, so you can get on a path to either preventing or recovering from mom burnout.
Birth of Mom Burnout
It’s not surprising that the concept of burnout is fairly new and was first used by a psychologist in the 1970’s who started studying how helping professionals were burning out by overgiving on their jobs. And then in the 1980’s, a psychologist, Christina Malach, developed an instrument for assessing burnout in individuals. It wasn’t until very recently that researchers have started to recognize that it’s not just helping professionals and those in high-stress jobs that are burning out. Parents are the first line helpers for their families, and if they aren’t aware of how much they are giving others and not reserving energy for themselves, they may find themselves burning out too.
A professor of Psychology from UC-Berkley describes burnout syndrome as having three dimensions:
“The three key dimensions of this response are an overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.” ~Christina Malach
You can see how this could relate to the “job” of parenting. If you are consistently experiencing exhaustion, and like nothing you do is enough, you may then emotionally detach from your loved ones. This is mom burnout and it’s real.
A burned out parent may be putting pressure on themselves, but there may also be the pressure that comes from outside of them. A demanding child, a checked out spouse, or a new deadline at work all lead to the pressure you can feel managing your many roles. Under pressure, some of us get busier, thinking we will feel better once we get more done. Or others avoid more, then feel constantly behind or guilty. Whichever your tendency, the constant mental to-do list, and internal negative commentary are enough to make you want to reach for a quick fix.
Recognize Mom Burnout Symptoms
No matter what level of fatigue or number of symptoms you are experiencing, if you are giving more than you are receiving, you will feel off. When you feel out of balance, your body will let you know. We often cover up these symptoms with busyness, more cups of coffee, lots of chocolate, another glass of wine, mindlessly scrolling Facebook, or binging on Netflix. Symptoms are invitations to tune into ourselves and learn what we need instead of ignoring ourselves, tuning out, or pushing through it.
If you have been feeling out of balance for months or years, I invite you to write down which of the following mom burnout symptoms you are experiencing more days than not:
- Irritable, frustrated, angry
- Muscle tension, headaches, pain
- Anxious, worried, hard to relax
- Controlling, unrealistic expectations, perfectionist
- Fatigue, exhaustion, pushing through
- Depressed, sad, teary
- Withdrawn, isolated, lonely
- Inferior, not good enough, comparing self to others
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping
- More frequent colds, illness
- Trouble concentrating, forgetfulness
Then write down one thing that you think you can do or not do to move you closer to finding the peace and relief you so desire. It needs to be something you can either give yourself or have control over not doing.
An Invitation for You
I’m here to invite you to consider your own needs, to reflect on what you need, so you will continue to be able to give to your loved ones and the job you love. So no matter what level of exhausted, you can give yourself permission to get the help and support you need, so you can be there for yourself as much as you are for others. You deserve to nurture yourself as much as you nurture others.
My body has long told me when I’m out of balance, and I’ve learned to listen to it sooner rather than later. I’ve eliminated chronic pain and listen more to the desire to slow down and take a break instead of pushing through. I’m a mom, business owner, and helping professional, and I get how easy it is to burn out. I also know it doesn’t mean you aren’t enough, but it is a signal that you care so much that you will give until it hurts you. It is possible to find more harmony between giving and receiving. To start putting yourself on your list and to begin recognizing that you can give yourself what you need.
Share how you are going to take a step toward getting the support you need or giving yourself the care you deserve.
If you’d like a space to help you tune into what you need, consider counseling for mom burnout. Marci Payne is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Greater Kansas City area and works with stressed-out Missouri parents both online and in her office in Independence MO. I help you identify what drives you to burn yourself out, what choices you are ready to make, and how to go beyond self-care to really practice loving yourself more so you can be there for what matters most to you. Schedule free 15-minute phone consult with Marci to decide if this is one of the steps you need to take.