TLDR: Mom burnout is common enough that most of us have probably felt it at some point. Common symptoms include emotional and physical exhaustion, feeling like you are losing who you are, feeling fed up with everything, and starting to feel disconnected from your kids. Three ways that you can combat it (that go deeper than what most people recommend) are reclaiming ownership of yourself, taking time for genuine self-care, and managing only what’s yours to manage. Here are some ways to do that.

I remember the first time I really lost my patience as a mom. My toddler son and I had driven to a city about an hour from where we lived in Madison, WI to complete a project I was working on. If I remember right, I was pregnant with my second at the time and my husband was living out of town for work for about 6 weeks. With all this happening, my patience was stretched thinner than usual.

We made the trip down to the store just fine but on the way back, he screamed and screamed and screamed. We all know just how delightful it is to sit in a car with an inconsolable kid…

I remember being angry and stressed by the whole ordeal and getting mean and nasty with him. To be completely honest, I don’t remember what I did or said, I just remember that I felt awful about it. I was shocked at how I could lose my cool so easily with someone I loved so much. Someone who relied on my for love and care.

It felt gross.

Just thinking about these times still brings a sick feeling to my heart. That’s not the mom I wanted to be.

The sad truth is that these moments have happened again in my mothering, more times than I wish.

Feeling Burned Out

Feeling this way is not uncommon and I’m willing to bet that you’ve had moments like this too. Moments (or even days or weeks) like this often happen because we feel totally drained by all the daily tasks on our plates, the caring for young children or older children, the mental load, the lack of sleep…all the things.

And then we find ourselves behaving in ways we dislike, feeling unhappy with what’s happening in our life, and wishing for a way out of what can feel totally daunting.

Parental burnout can happen to anyone: a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, a mom with young kids or one with older kids, moms who longed to have kids and moms who were a little uneasy. (And it can happen to dads.)

Mom Burnout Symptoms

I want to emphasize that if you experience burnout, you are in good company. It happens to most of us to some degree at some point. But there are ways to cope with this and improve how you feel about motherhood, your kids, and yourself. In this article we will look at 4 common symptoms of mom burnout and 3 ways you can combat it.

Symptoms of Mom Burnout

What Does Mom Burnout Feel Like?

It’s interesting to consider some of the symptoms of mom burnout and how they compare to general job burnout. Because here’s the thing, it’s one thing to be burned out with a job that you work for maybe 20-40 hours a week and another thing to be burned out with motherhood and parenting…because it’s not going anywhere. You can’t just take a vacation from being a mom or stop connecting with the people you work with because, in this case, they are your kids.

There are 4 major areas of mom burnout, each with its own set of symptoms and they can all go hand in hand. As in, you’re likely to feel a lot of these at least to some degree, though some areas might be worse for you than others.

No matter what kind of burnout (mom burnout or job burnout or any other kind) we are talking about, exhaustion is the biggest and most common symptom.

I’m assuming that if you’re reading an article about burnout, this is something you’ve felt. And we’re talking the kind of exhaustion that means you not only feel exhausted at night when you go to bed, but you also wake up feeling unrefreshed and like you’re dragging into the new day. It’s like you can’t escape your exhaustion and it’s not just physical, it’s a mental and emotional exhaustion too,

Add to that babies who don’t sleep through the night, preschoolers who wet the bed, kids who have a nightmares, or teens who come home late and only then are ready to share their deepest thoughts and feelings…and it’s just a recipe for disaster.

A very tired disaster.

Here are some things you might experience when you’re exhausted:
  • Irritability (because who isn’t when they are exhausted?)
  • Difficulty sleeping (you’re totally bushed but your mind just won’t stop)
  • Starting the day already feeling exhausted
  • Feeling overwhelmed by the mental load you carry (why do you have to be the one to keep track of everything?!)
  • Running out of patience easily
  • Feeling like you’ve got no energy for anything
  • Living in survival mode

Raise your hand if you’ve felt any of those. I sure have! These are some of the biggest signs that burnout is happening for you.

Another really big sign that you’re burned out is when you feel like you’re different than you used to be. This is pretty common for moms, who get so used to taking care of other people that they sort of forget who they once were. Or feel like they just aren’t that person anymore.

This might also mean that you remember that you used to have hobbies, but who’s got time for those now?

Or maybe you have a hard time making decisions about things because you’re so used to taking care of everyone else that you can’t quite remember what you like or want.

These are really common feelings when you’re investing a lot of time and energy in your kids. (Not to mention that when you’re exhausted, it makes feeling like you’re you extra difficult.)

This might also look like:
  • Losing confidence in your parenting abilities
  • Not feeling like as good of a parent as you used to be
  • Feeling wistful about life before kids
  • Not feeling like yourself when you’re interacting with your kids

For me this one often has to do with making dinner. I am so tired of figuring out what to have and spending time making it (often to have the kids turn up their noses or miss dinner for another activity).

Or cleaning up the dishes in the sink that everyone swears weren’t theirs. All the little things like that.

But just like a lot of things in mom burnout, it can go deeper.

The “fed up” symptom of mom burnout can also happen when you feel:
  • Like you’re not enjoying being with your kids in the way you expected to (Maybe you’ve got a really hard baby, maybe your kids have special needs to attend to, or maybe, like many of us, you underestimated how hard being a mama would be)
  • Like you’re a completely empty bucket with nothing left to give
  • Or even like some days you can’t stand your role as mom

If we thought of mom burnout as a spectrum, some of these feelings go a lot deeper than just feeling exhausted and are signs that your mom burnout is getting to a point that you really need to address it. This is also true of this next batch of symptoms.

When you are completely exhausted, when you feel like you’re losing who you are, and when you are fed up with all the things on your plate, it’s not unreasonable to think that you might not feel as warm and fuzzy towards your kids anymore.

Like you love them, you just don’t have the extra to give, so you draw away a little.

Here are some common ways this can happen:
  • Doing only what you are “supposed to do” for your kids or family, but nothing more
  • Not paying attention to kids’ feelings anymore. You’re more focused on physical needs than emotional
  • You stop putting in any extra effort on things
  • You feel like you’re just going through the motions
  • Your children feel like a source of anxiety for you

Now, if you feel any of these things, you’re not alone. This type of intense mom burnout happens to at least 5% of us at any given time. And some level of mom burnout is happening to at least 50% of us (and I suspect it’s more).

So, if you’re feeling any of these things, what do you do? (Keep reading…)

You Deserve Better Than This!

    How Do You Recover from Mom Burnout?

    Now, there’s a lot to mom burnout recovery and it won’t happen instantly, but there are some great steps you can take to start feeling more like yourself in motherhood. Let’s dig into a few of those.

    Here are 3 things that are a little unconventional but are likely to help you tackle this mom burnout and start to feel better in your interactions with your kids.

    This suggestion might not be one that you see in other resources about mom burnout, but it’s at the very heart of what is going on here.

    Having autonomy means that you feel like you get to call the shots in your life and like you have ownership of who you are. This would mean that you get to make choices about things that matter to you and that you don’t have someone else telling you what to do all the time.

    Think about it: how many of the things that drain you as mom feel like they are out of your control or are things that feel like they are forced on you in your role as a mom?

    Like I don’t want to do the dishes or the laundry or the 5th grade math homework and all the other household chores, but no one asked me what wanted, and someone’s got to do it.

    But there are a lot of ways that we lose our autonomy that are a little less obvious:

    • For example, so many of us are so used to trying to live up to the things we think we are “supposed to do” as moms that we don’t even realize how that strips us of our autonomy.
    • If I think I have to have my kids in organized sports because that’s what everyone else is doing, isn’t someone else actually calling the shots in my life?
    • Or if I feel guilty that my kids had chicken nuggets or cereal for dinner, isn’t that because I have the idea that someone out there is judging my parenting actions? And isn’t that giving some external source control over me and how I run my family?

    Take some time to write down all of the things that weigh on you on any given day. Scribble out a long list…just dump it all on there. (I’ve created a guidebook that you can use for this if you’d like. Grab it here.)

    Then I want you to take a minute to consider which of those things on your list have at least some element of abandoned autonomy to them. Like a detective, spot small (or big) ways that you are letting other people dictate what you are doing.

    Ask yourself: Are there things on my list that I’d happily cross off if I was claiming ownership of my own motherhood? (I mean, I know that I’d happily cross off grocery shopping and that’s not necessarily possible, but I can sure cross off signing up to bring treats to a team dinner on a week that I feel stretched thin. Even if I feel like I “should” do it.)

    Get down to the nitty gritty and really pay attention to where your autonomy might be running thin, and then take a minute to consider how to reclaim it in those situations:

    • Is this something I could cut out of my life altogether?
    • Is this something that I could do differently than I currently am to make it work better for me and my family?
    • Is this something that I have resented previously but now I realize that it’s something I do value for my family, so I will own that decision?

    Feeling like you are calling the shots in your life could go a long way in helping you feel less burdened.

    How to Cope with Mom Burnout


    Talking about self-care in an article about mom burnout probably doesn’t surprise you, but too many of us are letting scrolling Instagram until way too late at night and then relying on our favorite caffeinated beverage to get us through day count as self-care. We are tired at the end of the day and think we need a little “me time,” but the things we are counting as me time are actually draining us.

    Instead, focusing on genuine self-care, though it can feel hard to squeeze in or more boring than Diet Coke, can have a powerful impact on our overall well-being. And that feels amazing!

    Genuine self-care includes:

    • Getting enough sleep. We’ve established that exhaustion is at the forefront of mom burnout symptoms, so this may seem both obvious and unrealistic if you already know you need it but do what you can to set up a system that allows you to go to bed early enough to get 8 hours of sleep if there’s any possible way to get it. Trust me—you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel if you can swing this.
    • Exercise. Again, you already know this, right? But where to fit it in and how when you already feel sapped of energy? This is another one that’s going to require you to do whatever you can to start to schedule the habit in your daily routine. Research shows that both cardio and resistance training can effectively combat burnout. Got little ones around? Try an at-home workout like these ones (that you can squeeze in if you’ve got even 20 minutes). Hate sweating? Throw the kids in the stroller and take a walk. The fresh air is a bonus. Find some way to move your body most days (in a way that works for you) and see what happens!
    • Eat for your body. I know, I know. Another one that you already know. But just because we know something, that doesn’t mean we do that something. No more skipping breakfast because the morning rush is so crazy. No more eating the kids’ leftovers for lunch. Take time to eat real meals with food that will make your body feel good. You are worth that my friend.
    • Do something that brings you joy. Seriously mama—this one matters! If you have things on your calendar that genuinely fulfill you, the things that bring you down will be easier to deal with. We all need to do things that fill our metaphorical buckets. Pick one or two things that you genuinely love to do and start making time for them in your life.
    • Get help. If you are really feeling the burnout, seek help from professional help from a therapist. This is important for you and it’s important for your family and talking to someone about it can help a lot.

    Manage What’s Yours to Manage

    OK, last of all (and tying closely to the autonomy piece), take ownership of what is yours to take ownership of and stop taking ownership of things that are either out of your control or not yours to manage.

    Because guess what? When you try to manage things that you have no business managing, you’re only adding to your long list of things to worry about each day, which leads to—you guessed it—more burnout.

    Want your husband to load the dishwasher but don’t like how he does it? Let it go.

    Teenager cranky even though he’s got everything he needs? It’s not your responsibility to change that.

    Drama in the PTA? You don’t have to get involved.

    Too often as women we feel responsible for everyone and everything…and that’s way too much for one person to carry.

    Remember that list you made of things that are weighing on you? Look back through it and see if some of those things are because you’re trying to manage something you don’t need to take ownership of. If you took some of those things off your list, would it free up mental space and energy for things that matter more to you? Do what you can to make this change in your life. (It might take time.)

    Just remember, maternal burnout happens, but you don’t have to stay there. Prioritizing your own well-being is a blessing not only to yourself but to your whole family.

    You’re worth it.

    Amber A. Price Author Signature

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