Mom Burnout – The Mental Load Is Exhausting Us. But How Do We Fix It?

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mom burn out

I recently started using this new term – Mom Burnout. I like to think I invented it, but I’m almost certain someone else thought of it before me. But whether I invented it or not, Mom Burnout is definitely something I have suffered from. 

What is Mom Burnout?

Remember that episode of Friends where Ross’s boss eats his Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich (the one with the moist maker – what a crime)? Well, imagine Ross was a mother. Imagine Ross had multiple children making constant demands on him. Imagine that Ross had to cook, clean, wash dishes, wash clothes, take out garbage, book vacations, visit the library with gremlins in tow, remember to return books to said library on time….? You get the gist.

Imagine that instead of being given a tranquilizer and a few weeks off work, Ross had been expected to keep doing all the things with a smile on his face. Oh, and Ross probably isn’t getting enough sleep either.

Or drinking enough water. Ross probably doesn’t even get to go to the bathroom alone. Ross is also mentally planning the weekly food shop, deciding what to make for dinner, trying to remember who needs lunches making and who has clean clothes for the week ahead. And people keep talking to Ross, ALL THE TIME. Ross could really use a week in the Bahamas with Rachel, but instead, Ross gets a tiny version of himself repeating his name constantly until he snaps.

That, my friends, is mom burnout (minus the sandwich for most of us, though there are often demands for a sandwich from the kids).

Momming is different now

I was born in 1982. My mum is AMAZING. But the pressure on her then is so different from the pressure on women now. I’m not saying it was easier. It was just different. Mom Burnout is becoming more and more of a problem to women in our generation. The Mental Load is weighing down so heavily on so many of us. If you haven’t heard of the mental load, it is explained perfectly in this cartoon by a wonderful French Comic artist, Emma.

I made a list of all the things I do. Obviously, I don’t do all these things daily, but many are at least a weekly necessity.

When I had finished I realised, of course, I feel Mom Burnout.

There are not enough hours in the day, energy in my body and capacity in my brain to keep up with all these things. Then I put a check against all the ones I think are more of a ‘modern motherhood’ task vs things my mum would have done in the 70s and 80s. I only remember my mum shouting at me once my whole childhood. Clearly that day she was feeling burned out. But I fear my children will have multiple (read daily) memories of me raising my voice. That doesn’t sit well with me, yet it continues to happen.

why we have mom burnout in the 2000s

I’m guilty of wanting everything to be perfect, or as perfectly imperfect as possible. So I put so much of myself into things that I end up stressed and exhausted. Sometimes when we are on a family day out which isn’t going to plan, I have to have a quiet word with myself to chill out. Just writing that list tired me out, and that’s literally just a snapshot of things I can remember right now.

There is SO. MUCH. MORE. I give you, the mental load, sponsoring mom burnout since the beginning of humanity (maybe; who knows how cave moms felt).

So How Do We Fix Mom Burnout?

This is the 64 million dollar question, isn’t it? How do we help a generation of moms who regularly feel burned out? How do we lessen the mental load to help women who feel like they have to do it all? 

I’m not sure there is a cure for Mom Burnout, but I’m going to try and come up with a few suggestions.

  1. Ask for help. I know right? Not something many of us can easily do. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s true. I have told all my good friends that if they need help, I will be there. Be it child care, grocery shopping, or just a listening ear. We need to surround ourselves with people who want to help us. 
  2. If you have a partner, ask them to take some things off your plate. We cannot do all the things. We need help. 
  3. Take some time to yourself. Even if it’s literally just to go to the bathroom and lock the door. Be alone. Let your thoughts and your body rest. 
  4. Stop feeling guilty. We cannot be all things to all people. 
  5. Say no. If you are feeling overwhelmed then it’s ok to say no. People will understand.
  6. Stay home for a day or a morning if a day is too long! Letting the kids get bored is ok. They will survive without your meticulously planned activities. Give them a cardboard box and watch them make magic like we did as children!
  7. Create a chore list for your children (or use this one from The Trip Clip Blog) – having the kids help around the house has made a huge difference to family life for us.
  8. See the good in you. You are amazing. If you don’t get everything done then it’s ok. The world keeps turning. 
  9. Rest. We cannot give anything when our cup is empty. 
  10. If all else fails, put on some fun music and dance around your kitchen with your kids. Nothing heals the soul like the sound of your babies laughing and their smiling little faces. Even if they are back to banging on the bathroom door 10 seconds after you stop dancing and go for a wee!

If you are feeling more than just down or burned out please seek help. While this list is there to help lift your mood, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are an illness and require treatment. Do not suffer alone. You can text Crisis Textline FREE on 741741 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor 24/7. You can also call Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also have this top 25 helplines resource.

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I am Viv, stay at home mom (mummy) to Edison who is 7 and Arlo who is 5. I am married to my best friend and university sweetheart Steve. In October 2014 we moved 5321 miles from our beautiful Victorian home in Sheffield, England to Anaheim Hills and are loving the wild adventure this move has turned our life into. I am so very grateful that this move has given me the opportunity to quit my kinder teacher role to stay home with my crazy whirlwinds and enjoy the adventures of modern motherhood. I love farmers markets with my little foodies, antique shops, restoring antique finds, reading, baking, eating out and trying not to spend everything we have in Target! Oh and chips. I LOVE chips (crisps for any Brits reading this). All the chips.