Mom Burnout - More than Just a Fancy Buzzword
Updated: Feb 18
This blog post was written by Jessica Tariq, after being featured on IT’S July TALKS in the topic of Mental Wellbeing for Moms. This post is 1 out of 2 articles written by Jessica following the TALKS. IT’S July TALKS is a free series of informal online fireside chats with thought leaders and coaches, offering refreshing perspectives on topics that matter to families worldwide. Get notified about upcoming chats, by signing up to IT’S July.
Mom burnout is defined as “a state of intense exhaustion related to one’s parental role, in which one becomes emotionally detached from one’s children and doubtful of one’s capacity to be a good parent.” (Roksam et al., 2017). Alarmingly, mom burnout is on the rise. It is related to the state of our society and our current culture. Furthermore, it is deeply rooted in societal pressures that mothers experience and the expectations they impose on themselves.
On the one hand, more women than ever work and the number of work hours are increasing. However, mothers are facing a lack of support from family and friends, maybe they are living further away from their loved ones or, if they happen to live in close proximity, chances are that grandparents, aunts/uncles and friends are themselves busy juggling numerous tasks.
When I was 6 weeks old, my mother went back to work fulltime. And she kept working full-time for most of my childhood (my dad did the same). It was the early 80s and that set-up was still almost unheard of in Western Germany. My mother actually made a conscious choice to pursue her career to stay financially independent and to set a good role model to her daughters. It certainly wasn’t easy for my mother. But thankfully she had lots of support.
Her own mother was home during the week and even her grandmother was still relatively fit. So both stepped in to look after my sister and I. The three generations all lived in one house with separate flats and when my mom and dad left for work in the morning, my mother simply dropped me off at my grandma’s flat- often just putting me in bed next to her.
When we got older and started kindergarten, my mom dropped us off on the way to work and came to pick us up just around midday. At that time, kindergarten and primary schools were only open part-time and usually closed around 12 o’ clock. So my mom would leave her office during her lunch break, pick us up and drop us with our grandparents again where we would usually spend the afternoon. However, if she was busy at work and could not leave to collect us, there were plenty of colleagues, friends and family around that would happily step in- even at short notice. Our home, the kindergarten and my mom’s workplace were all in the same village.
For many of us, however, the realities of modern motherhood are very different. As many societies become increasingly individualistic and many families are forced (or indeed choose to) move further away from their families and social circles, to other cities or even countries, they lose these crucial support systems.
A recent study has found that mom burnout is closely linked to the prevalence of individualism in a country. Studying 42 countries, Isabelle Roksam et al. discovered that parental burnout is found to be highest in Poland and Belgium while lowest in Thailand and China. The study concludes that “the findings confirm that individualism is significantly predictive of parental burnout beyond sociodemographic variables, parental workload (or) economic in-equalities across countries.”
But beside of the rate of individualism of the society mothers live in, there are further risk factors for mom burnout: Beside a lack of social support, a high degree of perfectionism as well as difficulties setting clear boundaries are also linked to mom burnout, as Moïra Mikolajczak from the department of psychology at UCLouvain points out.
Yet, wherever we look we encounter “the perfect mother”, the mother who got it all together, who never shows any signs of stress or annoyance, is loving and naturally nurturing and caring.
‘The perfect mother’ is portrayed in the traditional media, in our social networks and we see it in popular culture. As a result of the constant presence of these wrong and actually harmful depictions of motherhood, many mothers internalize these pressures and keep chasing the ideal. However, ‘the perfect mother’ is a myth and therefore not attainable. In this way, mothers trying to live up to this standard are simply set up for failure from the very beginning.
Sneak peek to the IT'S July TALKS where Tamar Liberman, co-founder and CEO of IT'S July, and Jessica Tariq - talked about mom guilt and its relation to shame:
For tips on how to manage 'mom-burnout', check out Jessica's second article for IT'S July.
If you wish to get more information about mental and emotional wellbeing for mothers or you feel that you could benefit from 1-on-1 individualized coaching sessions with Jessica Tariq, feel free to contact Jessica via email firstname.lastname@example.org | visit www.littlenomadscoaching.com | Instagram page @littlenomadscoaching