Did you know there’s such a thing as Mum burnout? A legit, recognised thing. It’s not talked about much, but if you’ve ever been a Mum, no doubt there’s been a time when you’ve felt burnt out. Burnout is physical and emotional exhaustion (that extra sleep doesn’t get rid of) from the burden of stress that exceeds your personal resources to cope with. People often talk about it in relation to paid work. But there’s no reason that you can’t get burntout from unpaid work.
Being a Mum is a tough gig
Relentless, challenging physically and emotionally, 24/7 – no wonder you feel exhausted, right? You’re pushing sh*t up hill every day, with little to no support. If you have to answer that question one more time, aaahhhhh! How many mental notes or lists are you carrying around? I bet you’ve got a list-making app on your phone too. How many lists have you got on there? (I’ve got 10. But used to have nearly 20. Geez)
Exhaustion is pretty common for Mums, so it must be normal then, right? Um, no, not really. If we look back to traditional cultures, women had the support of a village around them as they cared for their babies and children. After birth they were nourished and nurtured for at least a month before they did anything, let alone strenuous stuff. Now look at us. Mums are prized for getting up and out of bed straight after birth, and going back to walking the neighbourhood, doing the shopping, housework, cleaning etc, almost straight away. Honestly, I could just cry. Women’s health is so undervalued.
Mum burnout research
In the past, research on parental burnout was focused on parents with sick or high needs children. The idea of parental burnout was put forward in the early 80s, but not really talked about again until recently. Interestingly, but not at all surprising, is that when researchers put a call out for parents to participate in studies ONLY women reply. Let’s be real its always Mums doing most of the unpaid care work. There’s a research project in Belgium that’s working to better understand, define, diagnose and prevent or support Mum burnout.
Characteristics of mum burnout
How do you know if you’ve got Mum burnout? It’s characterised by 3 main aspects:
- Physical and emotional exhaustion;
- Distancing yourself emotionally from your children;
- Feeling incompetent in your role as parent.
Mum burnout differs from post-natal depression (which shares similar characteristics like fatigue, lack of energy, loss of interest in activities and hobbies) in that:
- Mum burnout occurs in Mums with children older than 18 months;
- Low or depressed mood is only in relation to the role and tasks of being Mum.
Physical Signs & Symptoms of Mum Burnout
The infographic describes some of the physical symptoms you might feel when you’re burntout. How many resonate for you right now?
understand your risk with the quiz
Want to know more about your body’s symptoms of stress? How’s it coping? How stressed are you? Are you burntout? I’ve written a 20 question quiz that takes less than 5 minutes to find out where you’re at when it comes to stress and mum burnout. At the end you’ll have the chance to download my free eBook: The Busy Mums Guide to Endless Energy.
If you feel comfortable, share your scores in the comments below. Or you can share the quiz on your social media. Help spread the word about Mum burnout. By talking about it, we can prompt change and make things better for our daughters when they become mothers.
If you’re feeling really stressed, please speak to your doctor or other health professional about how you’re feeling and how they can support you. I’m available for free 15-minute chats, so please find a time that suits you here, and we can talk about how you’re feeling and what can be done to support you.