Fatigue is the body’s normal response to physical effort. Most of the time, fatigue is caused by things that can be fixed, such as lack of sleep, stress, boredom, or a bad diet. Sometimes, fatigue may be a symptom of a more serious medical condition.
Two recent NIH studies, however, point to a distinct type of tiredness known as “parental burnout,” with symptoms uniquely linked to the burden of parenthood. Due to pregnancy, postpartum depression, and ongoing family responsibilities, mothers in particular typically feel exhausted.
Why Do Mothers Tire Out?
She could never figure out why she constantly felt exhausted when she woke up. She installed a security camera over her bed out of frustration. She was speechless when she saw the video.
Mommy fatigue is a sort of exhaustion that results from the physical and emotional exhaustion that comes with being a parent. Mothers who are exhausted frequently experience fears related to not being good enough, letting go of control, and losing her identity.
Mommy fatigue is distinct from professional burnout in that it manifests as parenting-specific symptoms like physical and emotional exhaustion from taking on too much, emotional estrangement from children, and a general sense of failure as a parent.
Mommy burnout, in contrast to professional burnout, also cannot be treated by moving or changing occupations. A strong sense of being trapped in a situation with no visible way out dominates the situation.
Why Do Moms Get Tired?
Sleep disruption is the most common cause of fatigue in expectant women and new mothers. Hormonal changes may be a factor in sleep disruption during pregnancy, though further research is needed to establish this. A postpartum mother who is continually exhausted tends to sleep more during the day and less at night because of the infant’s feeding schedule.
During pregnancy and the postpartum period, mothers are said to lose an average of 41.2 minutes of nighttime sleep. Mothers who were nursing their babies slept a little less. Each time, the mother’s relationships, career, ability to be a good parent, and physical and mental health suffered.
In mothers of children older than 18 months, the burdens of parenting are more frequently linked to mommy burnout than sleep deprivation. Notably, the symptoms almost always have a fundamental element of fear and failure. In their efforts to be seen as the perfect mothers, mothers who are suffering from mommy burnout frequently go above and beyond, taking on an excessive amount of labor and attempting to anticipate and meet their children’s needs.
These worn-out moms tend to overcommit to their maternal role for an extended period of time, to the point when anxiety replaces worry as the real cause of their exhaustion.
Whether it’s the pressure to raise clean, well-dressed, and well-behaved children, prepare fresh meals every day, or secure their children’s future, the constant striving to achieve unrealistic goals—whether set by society or the mother herself—eventually has a negative impact on physical and emotional health.
Three primary concerns generally dominate this parental anxiety:
being an inadequate mother
dropping the ball
losing one’s identity
Along the lines of the three main challenges outlined above and the subject of anxiety, typical symptoms of mommy burnout include:
extreme physical and emotional weariness
Living on auto pilot
How Can Motherhood Burnout Be Avoided?
If you believe you may be experiencing mommy burnout, take action. Accept the fact that there is no perfect mother. Be careful not to let internal or external pressures impose illogical standards that undermine your competence and confidence.
The fear of not being a good enough mother is one of the key reasons of mommy burnout. If you can learn to be good enough rather than perfect, you’ll be a better mother to your children in the long run.
Recognize that every family has unique circumstances. Building great relationships with your children and taking pleasure in your time with them is more important than providing for their needs or constantly thinking about their future.
If you recognize any of these warning signs that you might be an exhausted mother, it’s time to take action.