The Reality of Mom Burnout: Symptoms and How to Avoid It

Here are my 13 tips on how to deal and/ or recover from mom burnout.

To be honest, I never knew about mom burnout until I became a mother. I thought having burnout was just a term used for work-related stress. 

Turns out being a mother (and parenting in general) is a LOT of work. It’s a job with multiple titles and responsibilities! 

And if you’re on the verge of a mom burnout, it feels more and more like a job which you’d like to resign from. 

But you can’t.

So you have to find ways to avoid it or at the very least, cope with it.

What is a Mom Burnout?

If you want a traditional look and strategies on coping with mommy burnout, Dr. Sheryl Ziegler wrote a book about it.

If you want a more modern approach to it, check out Dr. Jazmine’s Instagram about it. She calls it getting “crispy.” (FYI, I just love all her parenting advice, pls do check out her page for more tips.)

Personally, I’ll describe mom burnout as simply having a burnout from motherhood. 

Think of it as a job you hate but you can’t resign from because of your responsibilities and well, because we love our kids.

It’s a little extreme to say it that way but that’s exactly how it is.

Think about your least favourite, most hated job and all the feelings and emotions that you went through when you’re on the verge of quitting.

Mom burnout symptoms can be:

  • Days are blurring together
  • Going through the motions everyday
  • Anxiety and panic attacks 
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Always tired
  • Easily forget things
  • Nothing seems to make you feel better or genuinely happy
  • The stress is all you can think about
  • Quick to anger
  • You carry so much resentment
  • Worst, you can either implode or explode

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Fixing a mommy burnout isn’t that easy. I mean sure, there are quick remedies to it like, taking a break and having a much needed rest.

But most of the time, it needs more than that. 

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How to Recover From Mom Burnout

Have a routine

Habits or routines help with the flow of the day – it makes everyday tasks easier and more manageable because more or less, you know what to expect and what to do with your day.

According to the Azevedo Family Psychology, it helps push through sad and depressing mornings by bolstering your confidence through accomplishing certain small routines, such as showering, getting dressed, etc. 

It also makes decision making less overwhelming.

It gives you more energy to focus on opportunities or surprising situations. 

Such as a day where you’re supposed to go early to work for a meeting but your kid doesn’t want to take a bath, one of your cat vomits in the living room, the other one poops on the bed and our husband just can’t seem to find some pants that’s hanging inside the closet.

Those kinds of surprising situations. 

Routines can give you the mental flexibility to deal with that kind of a day. 

Even if you’re stressing out over getting late for work, you still remember to pack your kid’s lunch, you still know where to find your husband’s pants and you know what to do when the cats pooped or vomited in the house. 

(Ha, take that stress! All because of routine.)

If you already have a routine but you still find yourself tired and stressed almost everyday, then maybe you need to review and tweak your current routine.

Related: A Day In The Life of 12 Moms: Samples of Stay At Home Mom Schedule

Make a to-do list

I used to wake up groggily, wondering how to start my day. Aside from not having a routine then, I would wonder around, thinking what chore or work I should do first and next.

It made me feel so unproductive, so anxious and such a failure.

That all changed when I made the habit of listing down the 3 most important tasks I needed to do for the day and eventually accomplishing them. 

Elmentum Money lists down benefits of having a to-do lists such as: 

  • Brings structure to the day
  • Gives you a sense of accomplishment
  • Less mental strain
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Better time management
  • Better goal setting

Try listing down 3 tasks that you need to finish for the day. You could write it down in  a notepad, have a magnetic white board on your fridge and note it there or just use an app.

You don’t even need to list down major tasks. Just 3 tasks and just focus on finishing that. 

You’ll feel less anxious, you’ll never wonder where your day went and best of all, you will feel proud of yourself.

It will give you a sense of accomplishment to tackle more tasks, lessening the burnout.

Avoid over scheduling

There’s a mentality here in Singapore called “kiasu” which is an attitude arising from fear of missing out on something. 

Most “kiasu” parents enroll their child in various and multiple tuition or enrichment programs, with the intention of making their kid mentally prepared for the grueling school work ahead.

I have yet to take part in all of that madness but I’ve heard dozens of stories of kids having mental breakdowns from the pressure of keeping up with all the school work plus the enrichment programs. 

And that’s what I would like to avoid. 

Hopefully, I’ll be able to stick to my own promise of not overscheduling my kid for enrichment programs or certain activities.

Watch where your time goes 

I used to watch several Netflix shows while snacking at night. 

Then that turned to playing SIMS, a life simulation game, which became addictive. I noticed that I can play for hours and only unplug in the wee hours of the morning.

I also used to scroll through Instagram a lot and next thing you know, an hour or two has passed. 

Those used to be my “me-time.” 

I thought then that I deserved that kind of relaxation since I was up and about the whole day, working, taking care of my kid, cooking and doing the household chores. 

But what I realized about the way I used my downtime is not at all relaxing. 

I’d end up more tired than ever because I stayed up late to do my “me-time” and I’d wake up weary and exhausted. I’d feel that way over and over again. 

And don’t get me wrong, I think it’s perfectly normal to relax and unwind in your own way. And I think we all deserve at one point or another, some time to just numb out in front of the screen and just let our mind be distracted.

But if our downtime is more detrimental to our physical and mental health then we don’t really enjoy that “me-time” and we’re not really getting the relaxation we badly need.

Maybe we could use up that time to genuinely rest (take a long nap) or for self improvement. Which brings me to my next tip.

Get a useful hobby with a goal in mind

I used to read a lot before I had a kid. I thoroughly enjoyed just chilling out in the bookstore or lounging on the sofa, obsessed with whatever new book that I got.

Then I had a kid and well, I just couldn’t focus on reading, what with all the work, errands and chores I needed to do.

Then the pandemic happened. And that finally was the trigger for me to do something that I’ve been thinking of doing for years – blogging.

I noticed when I started blogging, I became less resentful, less stressed and more chill.

I started to have a different sense of purpose. And it went beyond contributing a little financially and trying to manage a household. 

Because of blogging, I didn’t binge watch nor played my SIMS game anymore. 

I also became more conscious of where my time goes. I became deliberate and intentional with my day – I would write down my to-do lists and even include an ETA for it!

Yes it was tiring and even frustrating at times. Most of the time, I didn’t even know what I was doing, especially the first month of blogging.

But then again, I was and still focused with my intention of having a successful blog. A blog that aims to help other moms with the challenging phases of motherhood and eventually, provide a financially rewarding way for me to spend more quality time with my family and less time worrying about work and deadlines.

So I highly advise you to find something that you’ll be passionate about. Or at least enjoy doing without numbing out in front of the screen. But more of the former, with a goal in mind.

Goal setting has several benefits (as listed here by Brian K. Haynes) but ultimately for me, having a goal gives you that extra fuel and motivation to become more resilient and to grind it out. 

Pamper yourself 

Some moms need only an hour (or less!) from their kids and they can come back, recharged and ready to handle another stressful day.

If you’re one of those lucky moms, then pampering yourself during downtime is the best way to destress and turn the dial down of the stress that comes with parenting.

If you don’t have the time to go out and you badly need some pampering for less than an hour or even for a few minutes, you can try the following:

• Enjoying a 30-minute foaming bath with some pure Epsom salt, soothing lavender/ bath bomb, OR some non-alcoholic wine

• Just wine with a fancy glass (you never know when the little buggers will interrupt your bath)

• Having a nourishing facial masks

• Have a DIY massage at home

• A therapeutic “fuck off coronavirus” colouring book or make it a colouring book/ planner

• Napping with a snugly wearable blanket

• Give yourself a pedicure

• Reading a bestselling book (I’ve bought several kid’s books from Book Depository where the books are cheaper, so highly recommended!)

Let your child play on their own 

I have a toddler who always insists on playing with me. I have managed to make her play on her own for at least 20 minutes but most of the time, she will whine and cry if I don’t stop what I’m doing and continue playing with her.

I’ve eventually acquired some knowledge to make my toddler listen to me (most of the time!) and I’ve finally learned to just let go and make her do her own thing.

I don’t want to play and become my toddler’s personal entertainer 24/7. I just don’t have the physical and mental capacity for it. 

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So most of the time, I let her play on her own. I try to prepare some activities for her but when I need to do something or I just need some rest, I tell her about it and I just let her play on her own. Even if she throws a little tantrum, I explain to her what I need to do and I just let her feel sad or disappointed.

I believe in making my kid more resilient by going through and managing their disappointments through these 8 strategies.

At the end of the day, what matters is the quality of your connection to your kid. 

I believe it will not really impact your relationship with your child, if they feel seen, heard, safe and secure with you. 

Know your limits

Some people can do a lot in an hour, while others can just finish one task with that timeframe. And that’s perfectly okay. 

Some moms have a high tolerance for pressures and stress. While others can get easily anxious and overwhelmed. 

We are all different, so we do things our own way, in our own time.

What’s not okay is pushing our limits, ignoring our needs until we either implode or explode from all the stress and the anxiety from now knowing when to stop doing more tasks and when to rest.

We have to be self-aware then and if we feel like we’re reaching our limits then just stop and rest. And probably do the next tip.

Ask for help

If you know you’re already on the verge of a mom burnout, if it’s available and possible, ask for help.

Don’t even think that you’re being a bother, a disappointment or a failure if you ask for help, especially from your spouse, relatives or other loved ones.

If they care for you, they will never think of that. Which brings me to the next tip.

Be kind to yourself 

The way we talk to ourselves manifests in the way we live our lives. 

If we feel like we’re disappointing our family, we’re failing at motherhood, we’re not capable of becoming a good mom, then we will become that thing that we’re afraid of becoming.

So we have to speak kindly to ourselves. This might sound like some positive thinking bullshit but trust me, I have been there, I know what it feels like to have that critical voice saying negative things all day long and eventually believing that voice.

And that will only add to the mom burnout.

We need to think and speak kindly of ourselves.

And we can start doing that by again, being self-aware when the negative talk starts happening in your head, stopping that voice before it continues and replacing it with a positive thought.

Related: Encouragement for Moms: Quotes You Need To Hear

Practice gratitude

Keeping things in perspective seems tough when you’re experiencing stay at home mom burnout or just mom burnout in general.

One way to see the positive and appreciate the good things in our life is by having a gratitude journal. It takes some practice and some getting used to but living a life of gratitude can seriously lower one’s anxiety, stress, resentment and can even help with depression.

It makes you see things in a different way and helps you keep things in perspective. So try to make the habit of practicing the art of gratitude everyday with a gratitude journal.

Related: 80 Gratitude Journal Prompts For Stressed Out Moms

Manage expectations 

I believe gratitude and managing expectations are the two keys to happiness. If a lot of us can really learn how to apply these two learnings in life, the world would be a happier and kinder place.

Much of our burnout comes from outer and inner expectations – what society or other people expects of us and living up to our own expectations of ourselves.

So we must learn how to manage our expectations. If we already expect our toddlers to be having some tantrums during the holidays, then we won’t feel so triggered by it. There’ll be less scolding, less shouting and less crying.

If you don’t expect your husband to help out with the chores, there’ll be lesser fights and less resentments. (Controversial point I know but that’s what I believe in.)

Stay present

I notice when I think about what I need to do when I’m interacting with my kid, I don’t really thoroughly enjoy our time together. 

I get stressed, I get easily triggered when my kid throws a tantrum and worse of all, I would look at the clock, wondering when we can finish playing so I can do the chores.

So I started practicing staying in the present. I started forgetting work, chores and dozen other tasks that I needed to do and just focus on the now, with my kid. 

And I noticed I feel so much relaxed and so much happier. 

Related: 12 Ways on How to be a Genuinely Happy Mom

I just genuinely placed all my focus on my kid and whatever activity that we’re doing and just pushed aside any thought of work or errands. And it felt so good! I feel so much lighter plus I feel like I have more energy to tackle the rest of the day.

I highly recommend just staying present with your kid. Don’t look at your phone, the clock, your watch, your to-do list. There’s always a time to do those things. 

When you have that quality time with your kid, just focus on it and you’ll feel so much better afterwards.

Mom Burnout: Takeaway

Mom burnout is not only exclusive to overwhelmed stay at home moms but also to working moms and generally, to all kinds of moms – single, part time, working from home, stepmom, etc. 

It could quickly lead to stay at home mom depression or worse.

I admit, I still experience mom burnout, especially during the holidays when I’m trying to keep up with work and chores plus making regular days a little bit more magical for my kid.

But I remember to do some of the methods above, giving me the physical and mental strength to push through the day and to thoroughly and genuinely, enjoy my time with my family.

Are you currently experiencing mom burnout? What have you tried so far to overcome it? Share it by commenting below.

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