I was hiding in the bathroom again. It wasn’t hide-and-seek so much as, ‘how long until a child finds me here.’ I pulled out my phone and scrolled through Instagram while I cried hot tears into my cold coffee. There had already been spilled milk, a diaper blow-out, an argument with the four-year-old, and that nagging question of what on earth to feed everyone for dinner. We had only been awake for a few hours. I had no idea how I was going to make it to bedtime. All too soon, little voices called for Mama and little hands knocked on the door, quickly turning from sweet calls to desperate, tearful cries. I felt like I was drowning.
Burnout among stay-at-home mothers is becoming an increasing concern. At home all day with little people, women feel isolated and discouraged. Often, they don’t know who to ask for help or how to ask for the support they desperately need. The quick solution to this burnout is often another bubble bath, a latte, a pint of ice cream, and a Netflix binge. I love these things as much as the next woman, but when you’re fighting burnout, they simply don’t cut it. To combat mommy burnout, you need to find things that fill you deeply, down to your core. These practices may not always appear restful or peaceful, but when you fill your soul with what matters most to you, you’ll find a deeper sense of peace and fulfillment than a bubble bath could ever give.
Here are a few tips to treat mommy burnout:
1. Let go of the pressure to be the perfect mother.
It can be so easy to see the worst in ourselves and compare that to the best in others. Social media makes this especially easy to do. We always lose in this unbalanced comparison and it steals our joy. Write down a few ways you are an incredible mom and hang the list on your fridge. Focus on your strengths when you are struggling, rather than zooming in on what you don’t do well. Celebrate the ways you love your kids and how much they love you in return.
2. Rediscover your hobbies.
Do you remember what you used to do in your spare time before kids? Did you hike or bake or read or explore new places? Often hobbies and interests are forgotten when focus shifts to our children. While you may not be able to backpack Europe in this season, you can find other ways to do what you love. Join a rock-climbing gym or a book club. Find a cooking class, attend an art exhibit, or join a local running group. Whatever your passion, there is likely a way you can dive into it near your home. Who knows, maybe another mom you know wants to join you!
3. Create kid-free space in your life.
Sometimes you need to reacquaint yourself with the woman inside the mom. You are an incredible person with interests, passions, and goals that reach beyond your motherhood. It’s vital not to forget about this part of yourself in the grueling years of early parenting. If possible, find time to be alone or with other adults away from your children. Perhaps you can trade childcare with a friend or ask your partner or a family member for help. Many gyms have childcare available or you could find a sitter if money allows. Even though it can be complicated to arrange childcare, taking care of yourself is worth the sacrifice.
4. Join a community of moms.
I often say that motherhood is a team sport. If you want to avoid mommy burnout, you need other women supporting you as you raise your kids. While some women have family or close friends nearby, many of us live far away from our loved ones and need local support. Check your community center, nearby churches, or local apps for potential mom groups you can join in your area. Organizations like Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) also offer nationwide groups. If your community does not have options like this there are many wonderful, supportive online communities you can join.
5. Choose gratitude.
Daily gratitude practices can make an unexpected difference in your life. When your focus changes from negative to positive, the way you see the world changes for the better. Many faith traditions offer ways to practice gratitude like prayer, meditation, or reading sacred texts. I have a journal I use to record things I’m grateful for (big and small!) throughout my week. My Grammy keeps a jar she calls her “Blessings Jar”- any time something good happens, she records it on a slip of paper and adds it to the jar. On hard days, she reads all the papers and remembers these good moments.
How to you combat mommy burnout in your life?
Melanie Allen is the mama to three amazing humans. During a rare free moment, you can find her with a hot cup of coffee and a good book. She writes at intentionalmotherhoodproject.com.