Being a parent is hard. You're essentially the ringmaster of a circus, juggling an array of acts, and the show must go on. Unfortunately, without a break in between shows, many parents experience what is called parental burnout, and it's a struggle often seen among moms. How do you know a mom needs a break? And what are ways she can get back to feeling like the star of the show? We break down how to reignite your spark for life!
Why Do Moms Need a Break?
Parental burnout can be a big cause behind why moms need more breaks. It's a state of physical or mental exhaustion that is brought on by chronic parenting stress.
Mom Burnout Is Real
What happens when mom never gets a break? Burnout can set. This can bring about feelings of anger, anxiety, helplessness, and even depression. It can also lead a person to distance themselves from others. While this can happen to any parent, it is most often seen in the primary caregiver. Since women tend to fall into this category, moms are often the ones who report experiencing this type of burnout.
Moms Only Make It Look Easy
Unfortunately, there's a misconception that staying at home with the kids is an "easy" or '"fun" job, which makes most stay-at-home parents feel as if they have to deal with their feelings alone. While raising kids is an amazing and rewarding experience, being the nurse, chef, maid, chauffeur, counselor, confidante, disciplinarian, stylist, and personal shopper can also become quite taxing.
Parenthood Is a High-Pressure Job
There is also the pressure of being the perfect parent, which is especially hard on the moms who work full time or the many stay-at-home moms who take on part-time work. Suddenly, it becomes no surprise that 66 percent of parents report parental burnout.
11 Common Signs That a Mom Needs a Break
Most moms are burning the candle at both ends, and they also rarely ask for help. The impact of parent burnout is real. It can affect everyone differently, but some of the most common symptoms include:
Meltdowns over minor things
Disinterest in activities that a mom normally enjoys
Loss of appetite
Feeling sick more often
Forgetfulness or brain fog
Disorder in the home
Lower productivity and motivation
Feelings of helplessness and incompetence
Negative or harmful thoughts
If you notice yourself, your spouse, or a mom you know exhibiting these symptoms, the most important thing to do is talk about it. While admitting that you're struggling can be extremely difficult, it actually makes you a better parent. You recognize that there is a problem. That is the first step. Otherwise, depression and resentment can set in. But how to you find real relief?
How Moms Can Get the Breaks They Need
When it comes to parenting, most moms are so hyper-focused on taking care of everyone else that their own well-being falls by the wayside. In order to change this, you need to look at life as if it were an airplane ride. When things get a bit bumpy and the oxygen masks are released, it's imperative that you take care of yourself first so that you can effectively care for those around you.
For the mom who needs a break, but can never seem to find the time, here are some simple and actionable ways to remedy your burnout and start feeling like your best self again.
Engage in Mindful Meditation
Mindfulness is the concept of directing your focus on the here and now. It centers on the idea that we cannot change the past. We can only control our actions in the present moment. If you feel anxiety taking over, mindful meditation is an excellent way to cope. This exercise can bring a sense of calm and provide mental clarity.
The process is simple - find a quiet space and ask yourself questions like: What am I grateful for? What are the best parts of my life? Focus your thoughts on the people you love and who love you, as well as the positive things that surround you. Breathe deeply and let go of your anger.
Next, focus on the immediate future: What can you do at this moment to make your life easier? What are the things that you have to get done today and what are the tasks that can wait until tomorrow? Write down these goals. By putting a pen to paper, you're more likely to follow through with your intentions and you will have a more concentrated and positive outlook on the rest of the day.
Take a Walk
Research shows that by getting your blood pumping and soaking up some sunshine, you will improve your mental health, elevate your sleep quality, and give yourself a better outlook. Best of all, studies on walking and mood have found that by taking a brisk walk, you can feel these mood-enhancing effects in as little as 10 minutes!
What this means is that if you feel you need to take a break, simply grab the stroller and go for a walk. Better yet, throw on some headphones and listen to some music while getting in those steps. This will further bump up your spirits!
Eat Lots of Color and Protein
Did you know that protein has been proven to boost mood, reduce fatigue, and improve concentration? Starting your day off right never seemed so important! Eggs are a fantastic meal choice because they are not only a solid source of protein, but they are also brimming with choline (an essential nutrient is known for boosting memory and mood).
Adding color to your diet is another great way to improve your frame of mind. Research has shown that by increasing your intake of raw fruits and vegetables, you will elevate your mood and improve your life satisfaction. If you're wondering what to grab at the grocery to gain these great effects, a study from in Frontiers in Psychology notes that "the top 10 raw foods related to better mental health were carrots, bananas, apples, dark leafy greens like spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber, and kiwifruit."
Take Breaks Regularly
Being a mom is a 24/7 job. This can become exhausting. How often should stay-at-home moms get a break? The answer is three times a day, at least. While this may seem impossible, there are ways for you to get micro-breaks throughout the day. These will help you manage your mental health.
Signing up for Parent's Day Out and early preschool programs is an excellent way to socialize your child and get some much needed moments of mommy time throughout the week. If you have friends with kids, consider taking turns watching the little ones so that each of you can get a bit of a reprieve. Naptimes are ideal for giving moms a few minutes of peace and quiet as well.
Stay-at-home-moms also need to lean on their spouse or partner. Have them watch the kids while you grab a drink with a friend or go for a quick run.
Make Yourself a Priority
It is hard to let go of the need to please, but sometimes, it's necessary. The best way to ensure that you get a break is to not take on every task. Say "no" every once in a while. If people get mad, let them be mad. In the grand scheme of things, you are the most important person in your universe.
If you are not doing well, there will be a ripple effect that your family will feel. Prioritizing yourself and your well-being is crucial when you are in charge of caring for tiny humans. Make taking care of yourself, and your mental and physical well-being, a priority when things start to feel like they are closing in.
How Others Can Help Her Get a Break
If you notice that a mom in your life is struggling, it's important to remember that she will probably not ask for help. If she does, she may have already reached her breaking point. Either way, these are effective techniques to help make her life a little less stressful.
Send Her Food
Making a meal may seem like a minor task, but when you prepare three meals a day for multiple people, it can quickly become a burden. By simply ordering her family dinner or bringing a pre-made casserole to her house, you are saving a busy mom time and energy. Not only that, but you are eliminating dishes from her to-do list. This kind gesture goes a long way and can give a mom a much needed break when she needs it most.
Ask Real Questions and Actively Listen
How are you doing? This is a vague question that normally brings an ambiguous response. If you think a mom needs a break, then take the time to ask her meaningful questions about how she is feeling. Don't give her the option of saying "I'm fine." Research on verbalizing struggles shows that by expressing our frustrations and emotions, we can reduce our levels of stress. Unfortunately, many moms sweep their emotions under the rug and put on a happy face. Therefore, you need to ask real questions that require more than a general response.
Have you been getting any sleep since the baby arrived? When was the last time you took a break? Has it been hard juggling three boys and work?
During these interactions, focus on what she has to say and acknowledge her feelings. If you have gone through something similar, then share your experience. According to a study led by Sarah Townsend on sharing feelings and stress reduction, individuals can find "measurable relief" by engaging with people who understand their situation; sharing your own experience, listening, and understanding can really help.
Don't give advice unless she asks for it directly. When a person is vulnerable, they may interpret helpful tips as criticism, which can make their anxiety worse. Instead, just make her feel seen, heard, and understood.
Offer to Babysit
A helping hand can go a long way. So can a much needed break. The next time you notice that a mom in your life seems stressed, ask if you can come watch the kids, but make it all about you. "I haven't seen the boys in forever! I would love to come by and watch them while you go on a date or get some errands done. Do you think we could plan something this week?" This makes the gesture seem like a benefit for both of you, making it more likely that she will take you up on the offer. If she says no, offer again.
Take Some Tasks Off Her List
Moms are the ultimate multitaskers, but when the holidays, illness, and other stressors sneak in, sometimes we all need a helping hand. Some of the best gifts for a stressed out mom are an Instacart membership, a meal kit subscription, or a visit from a cleaning service. If you can't afford to buy these gifts, then consider just stopping by and helping her out! By taking these tasks off her plate, you can help make a mom's daily grind much more enjoyable.
Moms Breaks Are Essential to Your Well-Being
Becoming a mom is a wonderful, yet terrifying, experience. A piece of you is living outside of your body and you cannot always protect it. This alone can bring on a mountain of stress. Then add in the many pressures that life can bring, and it can sometimes feel hard to come up for air. Moms are overworked and underappreciated - and when you become one yourself, you realize how extraordinarily hard this job can be on a person.
What this means is that even if a mom seems to have things together, she can always benefit from a break. If someone you love is a mom, offer to help when you can and show little acts of kindness to brighten her day. This will let her know she is seen and appreciated. It will also improve her mental health, and yours as well.