By Heather Riggleman, Crosswalk.com
Dear Children, I’ve had a very bad attitude lately so I’m giving myself a time out at a hotel for the weekend. I hid $100 in your room for food. Clean your room and you will find it. Love, Mom. Have you ever considered writing a letter like this? I have. Mom burnout is no joke. We’ve all been there, one way or another and it’s brutal. My burnout out moment came while I was parenting a special needs child, a toddler who was the energizer bunny, and my infant daughter. In the midst of trying to do everything for everyone, I was on the verge of a breakdown. Everything I knew about motherhood went out the window when my youngest was born. She wouldn’t sleep unless she was sleeping on me. She refused to take a bottle, pacifier, or sippy cup. As she got older, she refused solid foods and also refused to let anyone hold her except me.
At my daughter’s ten-month checkup, I remember the doctor looking at me and very clearly stating to my husband, “If we don’t break your daughter of her mother, your wife will be in a straitjacket.” She then sent us out the door with a game plan: Mommy was taking a three-day weekend sans children. No contact from the home front unless someone was dead or dying.
What Is Mom Burnout?
Perhaps your burnout experience is a little different. Maybe it sounds more like this: It’s two minutes two five and then your husband will be home in 20. You’re sitting on your couch, scrolling mindlessly on your phone and you just want to be left alone. But there’s supper, more diapers to change, a hormonal teenager to talk off the ledge, and a tween who is the very definition of a strong-willed child. Your stress level is literally inversely proportional to their listening ability and the thought of running away is closer to becoming a reality.
Burnout happens to everyone at some point, but mothers experience it more. We not only have a little human we are tasked with to keep alive, but we also become, chef, maid, chauffeur, doctor, teacher, counselor, and the list goes on. Moms are constantly on the go physically, mentally, and emotionally. We juggle several emotions, thoughts, tasks, and errands all at the same time as being a wife, daughter, co-worker, employee, friend, and volunteer. No wonder Moms need more coffee than the average human! But here’s the thing, in the midst of enjoying the gift of motherhood, we sometimes lose ourselves. This isn’t what God ever intended. God intended that we live life abundantly and to the fullest—not counting down the clock to bedtime.
What Are the Symptoms?
So, what is burnout? The U.S. National Library of Medicine includes the phrase “burned out” within this phrase to give a clear picture of the word’s meaning: “A stressful lifestyle can put people under extreme pressure, to the point that they feel exhausted, empty, burned out, and unable to cope.”
Author, Sheryl Ziegler says mom burnout is the emotional and physical exhaustion felt from the chronic stress of parenting. Burnout is when you feel a reduced sense of purpose, personal accomplishment. It’s a fancy way of saying you don’t feel like you’re good enough no matter how hard you try. And trying is even too hard because you feel tired all the time, no matter how much sleep you get. It’s like living in a gray fog when everyone else is dancing in the sunshine.
What Causes Mom Burnout?
Why do we experience mom burn out? Because we feel the extreme pressure our culture has put on the value of a mom. We feel this pressure from friends, family, social media, and more often than not, ourselves. I’m pretty sure the Bible didn’t include, “Thou shalt be a superhero mother” in the definition of being a mother. It’s time to wake up and shake off what is being stolen from us: our joy.
Four Ways to Avoid Mom Burnout
To counter burnout, we have to remember we are the light of our homes. We create the magic during the holidays and family traditions. We open their eyes to the great, big beautiful world God created. We are the salt of our homes, seasoning each day with God’s goodness even if we’re dealing with spit up, toddlers, or moody teens. The trick is to deploy the strategies God gave us in the first place.
Thou Shalt Not Neglect Self Care
Why is it that we think, our hobbies, spiritual time, exercise, or whatever else we do for self-care can go by the wayside? The airplane analogy comes to mind. We cannot help the helpless in the event of a crisis if we do not put our own masks on first. Not only do we need oxygen to function, but we are also the oxygen that helps our family thrive. This means we need to prioritize sleep, exercise, and other self-care routines that help us thrive instead of survive.
So what does the Bible say about self-care? While it doesn’t directly address self-care, it does offer guidance for understanding the role of our physical and mental health. Beginning in the Old Testament God has provided instruction for the care of our bodies and minds. God values and commands rest (Exodus 34:21; Hebrews 4:3-4) and care for our physical bodies (Exodus 22:26-27). Jesus also practiced self-care. He often got away from the crowds and prioritized rest. (Luke 5:16).
Self-care will look different for every mom and in every season. It can be as simple as a hot shower or bath to going to the gym or evening trying out a part-time job. Those little things you do for yourself make a huge difference in your emotional health.
Thou Shalt Allow the Village into Your Dirty Living Rooms
You’ve heard it said, it takes a village. Then why do we let go of connection in the middle of motherhood? Being in the trenches is where we need connection most. No one has the ability to clean up chicken nuggets day after day without an adult connection. We have to stop isolating ourselves and letting our relationships grow if we expect to thrive. Before my family moved to a new town, I had a coffee date every Monday at 6 a.m. It was brutal to get up early, but it was so worth it. We became a support team and close friends, the kind who could walk into dirty living rooms and not bat an eye. We became the kind of friends who folded twenty loads of laundry while we talked about Jesus, our issues, the kids’ issues, and life. Connection is vital. Remember when Mary first learned she was pregnant? She went to visit Elizabeth and stayed with her because she needed that connection and support. We do too!
Proverbs 18:24 reminds us, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Thou Shalt Avoid Negative People
Stop scrolling. Seriously, put the phone down. You have no idea what goes on in that picture-perfect home. In fact, turn off the TV and Marie Kondo anything else that doesn’t bring you joy about who you are as a mom. Most of the time, your friends (and strangers) aren’t going to post about the frustrating moments of motherhood like when your toddler painted your little white dog with blue sparkle toothpaste or the holy hell tantrum your daughter threw in the middle of Target because you didn’t put her sock back on right and all you wanted to get was dry shampoo. Instead of sinking into the negative feelings and pressures social media brings, put yourself on a social media diet, and use the time to do something for yourself.
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals” 1 Corinthians 15:33.
Thou Shalt Put Partner into Play
Put your partner in play! He was his own way of running the ship and so do you. Together, you both become a well-rounded team to share the load of parenting. Proverbs 27:17 reminds us, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” It’s the perfect picture of how relying on your spouse helps prevent burnout.
It’s also important not to avoid intimacy with your spouse, it’s not about the sex, it’s about the connection. Make time to talk and connect. He needs to know what you’re going through and how he can carry the load too.
The continual demands of parenting can easily lead to stress. And stress can quickly lead to mom burnout. If you don't take breaks, rely on your spouse, make time for connection, stress will add up. Other ways to help avoid mom burnout include saying no to extra responsibilities or obligations. This will also help protect not only your schedule but your family’s schedule. You can also allow your child to do things for themselves, like making their own bed or getting their own snack. It’s important to be mindful of what is causing stress and then find solutions before it becomes a burnout trigger. Be on the lookout for stress triggers and be aware of how you feel. It’s important to start small, it will soon become a habit that prevents burnout.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/tatyana_tomsickova
Heather Riggleman is a believer, wife, mom, author, social media consultant, and full-time writer. She lives in Minden, Nebraska with her kids, high school sweetheart, and three cats who are her entourage around the homestead. She is a former award-winning journalist with over 2,000 articles published. She is full of grace and grit, raw honesty, and truly believes tacos can solve just about any situation. You can find her on GodUpdates, iBelieve, Crosswalk, Hello Darling, Focus On The Family, and in Brio Magazine. Connect with her at www.HeatherRiggleman.com or on Facebook.