Updated as of Jan 2024
Working Mom Burnout: Understanding, Coping, and Overcoming
Are you a working mom who is feeling overwhelmed and exhausted? You might be experiencing working mom burnout—a common yet challenging issue many mothers face. At times, juggling career demands, family responsibilities, and personal needs can lead to increased stress and burnout in mothers.
Understanding Working Mom Burnout
Working mom burnout manifests as chronic stress, emotional exhaustion, and a sense of being physically and mentally drained. Balancing work commitments with family duties often leaves little time for self-care, and no “me-time,” which leads to your feelings of overwhelm and fatigue. It’s crucial to recognize the signs and address them proactively to foster a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.
Symptoms of Working Mom Burnout
Recognizing these signs is crucial. Symptoms may includede.
- Constant fatigue
- Irritability and mood swings
- Unexpected rage
- Feelings of inadequacy or mom guilt
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased productivity
- Dread going to work
- Neglecting personal needs
- Poor sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Excessive use of alcohol or other substances to calm down
Burnout Challenges for Working Moms: Understanding the Struggle
As a full-time physician and mother of three adult children, my goal is to shed light on the staggering challenges faced by working mothers who are grappling with the pervasive issue of burnout. The modern working mom confronts a myriad of obstacles, juggling professional commitments while managing the complexities of home life, household, and childcare responsibilities, often leading to a state of burnout and working mother exhaustion.
The Unseen Struggles
Working moms are challenged daily to navigate a delicate balance between their careers and family life, facing unique stressors that contribute to burnout. Let’s highlight the various Burnout Challenges for Working Moms –
Home Life Factors –
1. Overwhelming Home Responsibilities: A significant concern for working mothers is their disproportionate burden of household chores and childcare responsibilities. The 2023 Motherly survey found that over half of working mothers report handling most of their household responsibilities, with little help from their spouse or partner.The lack of adequate support at home necessitates that mothers devote a disproportionate amount of time and energy, leading to chronic stress and, ultimately, burnout.
2. Sleep Deprivation: Inadequate rest remains a pressing issue with most working mothers failing to achieve the recommended hours seven to eight hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation is a well known contributor to burnout, exacerbating the challenges moms face daily.
3. Scarce Personal Time: The scarcity of moments for self-reflection and personal growth, so called “me-time,” amplifies mental health issues among working mothers. Having limited time for themselves impacts decision-making abilities and overall well-being, fostering burnout.
4. Coping Mechanisms: There is an alarming trend of using substances like alcohol or CBD products as coping mechanisms for chronic stress. Pouring up a glass of wine each afternoon or evening is a red flag indicating your need to de-stress and possibly the severity of burnout experienced by working moms.
5. Strained Relationships: Reduced intimacy with partners due to time constraints leads to marital conflicts, further fueling the burnout experienced by working moms. Mothers today would rather take a nap than have sex! But you can succeed at having a conversation with your spouse or partner every day.
The Work-life Conundrum –
Beyond the confines of home, the challenges that persist in the workplace, intensify the burnout experienced by working mothers:
1. Lack of Societal Support: A staggering 92% of mothers feel a lack of societal support, and yearn for more empathy and emotional backing. They acutely feel the threats from inadequate, or unpaid maternity leave and the high costs of childcare. This void in external support adds to the isolation experienced by working moms.
2. Isolation: Despite having family nearby, the absence of a supportive female community amplifies feelings of isolation, leading to withdrawal from social circles and activities that once brought joy. Finding yourself distanced from your circle of friends is not a good sign. Many working mothers do not have family nearby, which means no free childcare or babysitting help
3. Work-life Imbalance: The struggle to balance professional commitments with motherhood weighs heavily on working mothers, with only a fraction of us feeling adequately equipped to manage both roles effectively. Working mothers are bringing home their unfinished work, reading emails and scrolling on their phones to “get work done” and wind down in the evening. Both habits are detrimental to your health.
4. Employer Responsibilities: There has been a unanimous call for employers to provide extended, paid maternity leave, greater job flexibility, and childcare support to alleviate the burdens faced by working moms. Very few of us have the job scheduling flexibility that would make our lives easier.
5. Financial Stress: The exorbitant costs of childcare contribute significantly to our financial stress, impacting the mental health and well-being of over half of working mothers. For some mothers, childcare costs more than they make, and, as a result, they decide to stay home with their kids.
Unraveling the Layers of Working Mother Stress
Working mothers face many challenges that often lead to elevated stress levels. The complexities of managing both career and family responsibilities can take a toll on their mental and physical well-being. Understanding the dynamics of working mother stress is crucial in offering effective coping strategies. The 2023 Motherly survey found that mental health care was a top worry for working mothers, care for themselves and for their children.
Coping Strategies for Working Mother Stress
1. Use Time Management and Prioritization
Encouraging effective time management and prioritization can help working mothers navigate their multiple responsibilities. Establishing realistic goals and delegating tasks where possible can alleviate some of the stress associated with managing both career and family. A qualified coach or mentor can assist you in prioritizing your goals.
2. Practice Self-Care and Learn to Set Boundaries
Promoting self-care practices is essential for working mothers. Encouraging mothers to set boundaries, allocate time for relaxation, hobbies, or activities they enjoy, can significantly reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being. Most working mothers have not yet learned how to say “No.” I have written in detail about Eleven Ways to Overcome Mom Stress in detail. Check it out.
3.Build Your Support Network and Community
Building a strong support network is crucial. This can be a group of moms at school, in the neighborhood, at church or synagogue, or at work. Working mothers must seek support from family, friends, or support groups in order to provide a valuable outlet for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and reducing feelings of isolation.
4. Ask for Flexible Work Arrangements
Advocating for flexible work arrangements can mitigate stress. Providing options for remote work, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks can assist working mothers in managing their schedules more efficiently. Talk with your manager about the constraints with your schedule.
5. Seek Professional Help
Working mothers cannot be afraid to seek professional help, such as counseling or therapy. Mental health care is important and provides moms with the tools and strategies to cope with stress more effectively. Therapy teaches you time management tools, helps you prioritize the things you care about in your life, and literally calms your worries. Psychotherapy definitely helps to reduce working motherhood stress.
Working mother stress is a multifaceted issue that demands your attention and support. Without some necessary changes, and the support you need, burnout will inevitably occur. When we the unique challenges faced by remarkable working mothers and we take advantage of tailored solutions, we can empower working mothers the complexities of their lives with resilience, confidence, and a healthier work-life balance.
Addressing Job-and-Mom Burnout
It’s crucial to recognize the signs of job-and-mom burnout and to intervene effectively. Symptoms may include chronic exhaustion, reduced productivity, emotional exhaustion, and a decline in overall well-being. Acknowledging these signs is the first step toward addressing the issue. After physical and emotional exhaustion, you may notice your attempt to distance workself from your work, or your children. If you feel like your work has no meaning, that you are no longer making a difference, then you are very likely burned out.
Seeking Support and Balance
Working mothers must prioritize self-care and seek support systems to alleviate the stress they face. Establishing boundaries, delegating tasks, seeking help from partners or support networks, and practicing self-compassion are essential in combating job-and-mom burnout. Delegating tasks to your spouse or partner is necessary. Sometimes, just making a list of household duties to compare will do the trick.Your partner cannot read your mind. You must tell him, or her, what you need.
Employers play a pivotal role in supporting working mothers. Female managers are usually understanding of the demands of working and mothering. Try to ask for flexible work arrangements. Identifying your employer’s supportive policies that foster a culture of understanding and support for working parents will significantly reduce job-and-mom burnout. Finding colleagues at work who are dealing with the same issues that you are is very helpful.
Embracing Change and Redefining Success
Mothers with perfectionistic tendencies tend to be at high risk for burnout at work. Redefining success by prioritizing well-being over perfection is crucial. Working mothers should embrace the idea that asking for help and taking breaks doesn’t equate to failure but is instead a step toward sustainable success and better mental health.
The stress faced by working mothers leading to job-and-mom burnout is a multifaceted issue that demands attention. Recognizing the challenges, fostering supportive environments, and empowering these women to navigate their professional and personal lives with balance and resilience is key to alleviating the stress and preventing burnout.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs):
A. Working mom burnout is an advanced stage of chronic stress specifically experienced by mothers who are juggling the demands of both their professional careers and their responsibilities at home. Unlike regular stress, burnout is characterized by persistent physical and emotional exhaustion, a sense of detachment, and a decline in overall performance. It goes beyond the typical challenges and can have profound effects on a woman’s mental and physical well-being.
A: Employers can contribute significantly to preventing working mom burnout by implementing family-friendly policies, offering flexible work arrangements, providing adequate maternity leave, fostering a supportive work culture, and recognizing the diverse challenges faced by working mothers. Creating an inclusive and understanding workplace environment can go a long way in supporting their overall well-being.
3. How can working moms balance their professional and personal responsibilities to prevent burnout?
A. Balancing professional and personal responsibilities requires proactive strategies. Working moms should prioritize self-care, set realistic expectations, delegate tasks at home, establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, communicate openly with their partners, and seek support from their network. Time management and effective prioritization play crucial roles in maintaining a healthy balance.
A: The common stressors for working mothers include:
Work-Life Balance: Striking a balance between career and family responsibilities often leads to stress. Managing work commitments while ensuring household chores are done and there is quality time with family creates significant pressure.
Time Constraints: Limited time for self-care, relaxation, and pursuing personal interests due to numerous responsibilities adds to stress levels.
Financial Pressures: Balancing financial responsibilities alongside career aspirations and managing household expenses contributes to stress. The costs of childcare top the list of most working mothers’ concerns.
Social Expectations: Cultural and social norms often create unrealistic expectations for working mothers, leading to additional stress to meet perceived standards. Working mothers get the message that they must “do everything perfectly.” This is unrealistic and frankly, impossible!
A: Yes, seeking professional help, such as counseling or therapy, can be immensely beneficial. Mental health professionals can provide coping strategies, stress management techniques, and a supportive space for working mothers to navigate challenges and build resilience. Therapy can be accomplished in person or virtually.
A: Long-term strategies include establishing a strong support network (friends), regularly reassessing priorities, nurturing personal interests (exercise and hobbies), and fostering a proactive approach to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Continuous self-reflection and adaptation to changing circumstances contribute to long-term well-being. Talk to someone you trust who has been in your shoes.