Hi. My name is Molly and I’m suffering Mum Burnout.
Mum Burnout is like regular Burnout, only the symptoms are magnified by approximately a thousand on account of being woken up in the night by sleep-hating kids and spending much of my day retrieving my toddler from inappropriate places.
I think we all know what regular Burnout is – that state of extreme mental, emotional and physical exhaustion that comes with an intense and prolonged period of stress or overworking. In an internet age of green juice, mindfulness and clean eating, you’d have to be living under a rock not to know the importance of “off” time and “self care” (often known as “sleep”). But what the Insta-gurus fail to recognise, when they dole out advice about “early to bed” and “do Yoga!” and “drink liquidised kale!” is that, for most of us, this type of lifestyle simply isn’t possible.
However, I can’t ignore it any longer. Mum Burnout has well and truly hit and, despite the intro to this post, it’s not particularly funny.
Here’s how to spot Mum Burnout – are you suffering from it too?
1. Your head feels full
If my kids don’t wake me in the middle of the night then my brain does, tick-tocking through an ever-rampant To Do list. In full Mum Burnout mode my brain buzzes over everything and nothing. House jobs, work deadlines, bank balances, school trips – you name it, my brain has picked up on it at 3am and, like a dog with a bone, refused to let go.
2. You lose your motivation
The irony is not lost on me. The more my brain buzzes with All! The! Things! the less inclined I feel to tackle any of them. In the midst of Mum Burnout I’ll find myself sitting at my desk in the evening, just two hours into a long stint of work, with my motivation levels peaking to minus ten. I just want to go to bed or do something mindless like watch Netflix, but I have all these things to do. And the more I try to do them the more it feels like I’m wading through hot, thick, treacle.
3. You feel constantly crabby
Mum Burnout renders me a shouty, impatient mess. Things that I’ll usually find funny just leave me cold. For example, one day last week I wanted to put the washing out but the toddler kept throwing my clean pants into the vegetable patch. It wasn’t a life-ending scenario but at the time it made me feel irritated beyond measure, as I failed to see the funny side.
4. You feel anxious
There’s nothing like a long To Do list but a crippling lack of time, motivation or inspiration to get those anxiety levels going. Ever tried sending a really important email while your toddler bashes the keyboard and your five year old decides to choose that particular moment to ask, “What happens when we die Mummy?”.
5. You experience self doubt
When I’m feeling overwhelmed by things I have this habit of mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – the lot. This is HUGELY unhealthy because it leaves me feeling frustrated that I don’t have the time or energy to create anything worth reading or looking at myself. And, as the frustration peaks my confidence dips. I start to wonder if I’m too thinly spread, if I’m in the right job, if I shouldn’t just give up and bow out stage left because everyone else is overtaking me and I’m too far behind to ever catch up. Or that’s how the inner voice goes anyway.
And here’s how to fix it…
1. Tune out the noise
I made a decision a couple of days ago to delete Facebook and Twitter from my phone, and to only go on Instagram when I have the intention of posting a photo (at which point I’ll have a quick look at my feed). No more mindless scrolling, no more passive reading, no more pointless Facebook conversations that I don’t have the headspace for at the moment. Tuning out the noise has already made a huge difference to how I’ve felt today and – shock horror – it’s even left me with enough inspiration and motivation to write a full magazine feature this evening AND this blog post.
2. Talk about it
Over the weekend I had a big old chat with the NLM about things, after he asked what was up. To be honest, I don’t think I was even aware how close to the tip of Mum Burnout I’d reached until we had that talk. Just talking things through out loud helped. We now have some plans for some time out (for me) and extra work time during the day (also for me). This makes me feel relieved – and it wouldn’t have happened if we’d not talked.
3. Give in to it
I think you have to ride that wave to its crest and come crashing out the other side of Mum Burnout before you can really do anything to feel better. Otherwise you just coast along, thinking that you’re coping when really you’re not. So this weekend I’ve allowed myself to really think about what it is I need to feel happy and to be the mum I want to be and the creative person earning a living I want to be, and then put some plans in place to achieve it.
4. Get outside
Just being outside makes me feel better when I’m suffering Mum Burnout. Whether it’s out in the garden with dirt under my fingernails or at the beach with sand between my (currently frozen) toes, being outside helps to put things into perspective and gives me a chance to see my kids being beautiful and funny, without climbing all over me trying to beat up my laptop.
If you’re feeling a bit low or burnt out at the moment then I highly recommend reading this brilliant article at The Pool.
Have you experienced Mum Burnout? What helped you feel better?