Do you feel chronically exhausted? Between working, caring for children and home, volunteering, trying to keep up with family and friends, and fighting to find time for self-care, most moms feel like they can never quite get enough sleep…no matter how long they sleep.
They may struggle with waning energy, lack of focus, and often, extreme emotions. If left untreated, it can lead to disconnection, self-imposed guilt, depression, and anxiety.
It’s mom fatigue. And it’s a very real and serious condition.
What is mom fatigue?
MDNow defines mom fatigue as “a form of exhaustion that occurs as a result of feeling physically and emotionally overwhelmed by parenting.” It’s similar to professional burnout, but caused by conditions related specifically to being a mother.
What causes mom fatigue?
Looking at the length of the list below and the severity of each list item, it’s no wonder most moms experience some level of mom fatigue! Because so many of these circumstances seem unavoidable.
Causes of exhaustion in mothers include that:
Motherhood is an incredibly difficult job.
We’re often wrestling with what motherhood is versus what we expected it to be.
There is no off switch to motherhood – it’s a 24/7 job.
Motherhood demands hyper-vigilance.
The Children’s Learning Center of Richmond Heights defines this as “a constant scanning of the environment for threats, exhaustion, and abnormally increased awareness.” This is physically and mentally exhausting.
We are constantly multitasking.
We often have little to no control over our own schedules.
It takes a village to raise a child but we’re often tackling it alone.
We may be battling loneliness.
We don’t get enough sleep.
The sleep we do get is often poor quality.
Giving birth and aging and stress all leave our hormones working against us.
We’re getting less time to ourselves.
We’re getting less time for ourselves as we constantly put ourselves last.
We’re carrying a heavier mental load than ever before thanks to insane schedules and expectations.
We’re constantly experiencing feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
We’ve lost parts of ourselves as we take on the role of mom.
What are the signs of mom fatigue? What does mom burnout feel like?
Mom fatigue can result in some or all of the below symptoms:
- Surviving on auto-pilot
- Wrestling with extreme emotions
- Experiencing depression and/or anxiety
- Experiencing physical exhaustion and extreme fatigue
- Struggling with perfectionism
- Experiencing self-imposed pressure and projection
- Experiencing self-hatred
- Feeling guilt and shame
- Feeling lonely
- Disconnecting from your children and others
What are the dangers of experiencing constant mom fatigue?
Why does all of this matter? I mean, moms deal with fatigue and burnout every day. That’s just life, right?
Wrong! Failing to address mom fatigue can result in many serious and even dangerous situations, such as:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Extreme exhaustion
- Falling asleep while caring for small children
- A sense of being physically and emotionally drained
- Unchecked anger
- Losing control with your children and others, either verbally or physically
- Distancing yourself from others
- Thoughts of harming yourself
How do you beat mom fatigue?
That all leaves us with the question: How do you beat mom fatigue? What are your best bets for battling mommy burnout?
Make sleep a priority.
It’s tempting to stay up watching Netflix or scrolling your phone after your kids are in bed. But these activities tend to transition from “just one more episode” to “how is it 3:00 AM?!” in the blink of an eye.
Determine what bedtime will afford you at least 7-8 hours of sleep, then turn off all screens and go to bed at that time. Feeling physically rested will serve you better than knowing if that couple on Married at First Sight stays married.
Wake up before your kids.
This seems to contradict my first point, right? But being thrown straight from your bed into making breakfast or wiping butts sets the stage for an exhausting day.
Set your alarm just 20 minutes before your kids typically wake up. This will give you a chance to pee alone, start some coffee, collect your thoughts, and maybe even squeeze in a hot shower!
Get dressed for the day.
Listen, I’m not saying to wear cocktail attire. I’m saying, get out of your pajamas.
If you only switch from your pajamas to athleisure wear, so be it! The point is that getting out of your pajamas can trigger a mental shift to help get your day off to a positive start.
Watch what you eat.
Our temptation as moms is to eat what’s quick, easy, and/or cheap. We might also reach for sugary foods and drinks to give us the afternoon boost we need.
But the fast food and junk foods that fit that description can also make us feel chronically terrible.
Focus on eating whole foods (proteins, whole grains, fruits, veggies, etc.) as much as possible and make your coffee-to-water ratio at least 1:1, if not 1:2.
As a mom, it’s easy to get so caught up in daily tasks that you forget to eat. If you’re starting to feel irritated, the first question you should ask yourself is, “When was the last time I ate something?”
Hanger is real, friends. And it’s not to be messed with!
Ease up on the caffeine.
While caffeine can give us a boost in the moment, overusing caffeine can actually swing us in the opposite direction – feeling chronically exhausted and only slightly benefitted by its effects.
Experiment with alternative energy-boosting fixes, like jogging in place for 30 seconds, taking a quick dance break with your kids, or rocking out to your favorite song.
Some people would tell you to work out every day. While I agree that would be beneficial, it’s not always feasible for everyone.
If you can’t squeeze in a quick workout (Betty Rocker offers 15-minute, super-effective workouts!), try fitting in a short walk with your kids most days. Or if you want to kill two birds with one stone, take some time for yourself by leaving the kids with your spouse while you go for a quick walk around the neighborhood.
Go outside on a daily basis.
Even if it’s freezing cold or unbearably hot, spending just a few minutes outside does mind-blowing wonders for both your physical and mental health.
Be selective about your commitments.
Just because someone asks you to do something, doesn’t mean you have to. Determine what’s truly required of you and what’s deeply important to you. Then take everything that doesn’t fit under one of those categories off your to-do list.
(Do you have trouble setting boundaries? Check out Setting Boundaries | How to Stop Feeling Guilty and Resentful All the Time.)
You don’t have to be the person who cooks and cleans and looks for lost socks. Recruit your spouse and children to share household responsibilities as appropriate. In fact, you’d be doing your kids a favor by teaching them responsibility!
Are you a single mom with small children? Consider asking for help from family or friends!
Reduce or eliminate mindless scrolling/watching.
But that same scrolling also keeps our brains in a constant state of processing information and often, drama.
Set down your phone, turn off the tv, and take a deep breath. Allow your mind to wander for a few minutes to allow it an opportunity to rest and refresh.
Learn to accept good enough.
Rather than beating yourself up over another McDonald’s dinner, remind yourself that your children are fed. Before you feel guilty about not bringing a Pinterest-worthy dessert to your kids’ school, remind yourself that kids like all desserts and you’re bringing one!
We often beat ourselves up over things that don’t matter to our kids or even to the other adults in our life. So…why are we being so hard on ourselves?
Need some help accepting that being a mom isn’t easy for anyone and encouragement to carry you through the day? Be sure to check out Being a Mom Isn’t Easy | 90+ Quotes to Encourage and Inspire Moms in the Trenches.
This might look like putting the kids in front of a TV while you do a 15-minute at-home workout. Or it might mean putting your spouse or older child in charge while you catch a 20-minute nap.
It may mean leaving the kids at home while you run an errand in heavenly silence…or going on a weekend women’s retreat with your church. Whatever it looks like, give yourself the same time and rest you so freely give to others.
This is not the time to disconnect from friends and other support systems. Even when my schedule is too swamped to grab a coffee with my friend, you’d better believe I’m texting her to vent, laugh, and pray together.
When to Seek Help with Mom Fatigue
Talk to your doctor if you feel mentally and physically exhausted day in and day out. They can run bloodwork to ensure your body isn’t working against you, connect you with a counselor, and offer professional suggestions to help you get a better handle on your mom fatigue.
Whatever you do, please know that you’re not alone. We’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got, so go easy on yourself today. You’ve got this!
Why are moms more tired than dads?
History and tradition tell us moms must meet every need of their children and spouse. But today’s world also expects us to work full-time jobs, volunteer in our communities, and do everything like a #girlboss…without lifting our family expectations.
We somehow accept these expectations, no matter how unrealistic. And when we don’t meet them, we wrestle with guilt and feelings of inadequacy.
Add that to the fact that women also tend to take on more personal responsibility for what should be a team effort, and we’re physically and mentally tapped by lunchtime.
How do stay at home moms avoid burnout? How do stay-at-home moms cope?
Stay-at-home moms face an especially challenging situation, since they tend to manage all things child- and home-related, while their spouses often feel they’ve “done their part” when they clock out of work.
For this reason, it’s important for stay-at-home moms to delegate or at least share evening duties whenever possible. I’m also a huge proponent of stay-at-home moms taking regular days off.
How can you help a tired mom?
The most effective way to help a tired mom is to help share the load. And don’t wait for her to tell you what to do and exactly how to do it! That just requires more mental work for her to keep track of all the things needing done and assign them appropriately.
Step in to make dinner, wash dishes, run errands, and take the kids somewhere for a few hours. And do it right away! Stalling your help (like saying you’ll clean up dinner but not starting the work until an hour later) will only add to her stress.
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