Mom Burnout: Solutions and Self-Care Strategies for High Performers

The 2020s haven’t been especially easy for anyone—and high-performing moms are certainly on that list. Juggling motherhood, heavy workloads with lots of responsibility, and a dynamic external landscape is quite a bit to carry.

Often perfectionists, high-performing mothers might find themselves relentlessly striving for excellence in both personal and professional domains, simultaneously. This is a perfect recipe for mom burnout—not a new phenomenon, but an increasing one.1 

Mom burnout is more than just physical exhaustion. The emotional labor of maintaining a family’s well-being, as well as striving for professional success, can be psychologically draining, as well.

Its particular difficulty lies in its insidiousness. Mom burnout can build quietly, going unnoticed until the combined pressures of home and work life reach a boiling point.

Why Does Mom Burnout Happen?

The question of why mom burnout happens has a fairly straightforward answer: life can be exhausting!

As high-performers, our jobs require a lot of our time and energy—but that’s not our only obligation, is it? We’re parents, caregivers, partners, children, siblings, friends, and community members. It’s possible to become burnt out in any one of these areas, let alone all of them together.

Cultural norms, societal expectations, and even media representation can influence the prevalence of mom burnout.2 The stereotype of the “supermom” who can effortlessly balance career and parenthood sets an impossible standard and glorifies the pressure many high-performing parents feel. Then there’s the stylized and curated “mom content” across sites like Instagram and TikTok that encourage an incredibly harmful form of social comparison.

It all sets an expectation that competing personal and professional roles can be easily balanced—and if it doesn’t feel easy, you must be doing something wrong.

But parenting is emotionally taxing even without the very real physical effects of sleeping less and trying to match a young child’s playful energy. In reality, it doesn’t take much for moms to wind up overextended and burnt out.

Understanding Mom Burnout in High-Performers

To ensure appropriate care, it’s essential to recognize the signs of mom burnout early—but because it tends to build slowly over time, those signs can be so subtle that they are initially overlooked.

High-performing moms, in particular, who are used to operating at a high and busy level of function, can easily misattribute the first signs and symptoms of burnout. They may look to their usually-demanding routines as a reason for their stress, brushing off symptoms and becoming more burnt out in the process.

Mom burnout may look different for different people, but common indicators may include feelings of:

  • Deep fatigue that rest doesn’t alleviate;
  • Cynicism or detachment toward things you once enjoyed;
  • Decreased satisfaction in or recognition of personal or professional accomplishments;
  • Being a “bad mom” or like you’re failing at parenting;
  • Significantly increased irritation or bursts of temper over your child’s behavior;
  • Isolation from other adults—your partner, friends, family, or coworkers, for example; and
  • Hopelessness or “numbness.”

It’s easy to brush off these feelings as related to individual daily stressors or even mundane things like the weather—how often do you hear yourself say, “I’ll have more energy when it’s warmer” or “I’ll feel better when the sun comes out after all this rain”?

And there might be some truth to those things! But it’s important to listen to our bodies and be honest with ourselves when our blue feelings are deeper or more persistent than average.

High-performing moms, especially, might wrestle with admitting they’re dealing with burnout because they feel like it reflects poorly on their capabilities. But the reality is that recognizing and addressing burnout is an act of self-awareness that can increase our wellness in the long term.3

Strategies for Recognizing Mom Burnout Early

So if it’s important to nip mom burnout in the bud, how do we do it?

Early recognition depends on both vigilance and self-compassion. High-performers may have the tendency to approach life with a warrior mindset—and while that’s useful in so many areas, being hard on ourselves can be the exact opposite of what recovering from burnout requires.

Start by tuning into your response to daily stressors, both emotional and physical. If you’re tired, irritable, or zoning out from tasks or conversations, resist the urge to write it off as no big deal. These can be red flags, and you can glean more information from them than you may initially realize.

Ask Yourself the Right Questions
Try to spend less time mentally justifying your reactions or beating yourself up for them. Instead, ask yourself questions like, “Would I normally be annoyed by something like this, or am I feeling more cynical than usual? When I feel like I’m at my best, how do I respond? Have there been other examples of me not feeling like myself recently?”

Use a Journal
Whether it’s a paper journal or an app on your phone, keeping track of your feelings and stressors over time can paint a clearer picture of your thoughts and emotions. It can also be a way to let off some steam and better identify and respond to your emotions, instead of simply reacting to them in the moment.

Ask for Feedback
Sometimes, the people closest to us can notice changes in our demeanor before we do. It can be valuable to seek feedback from trusted loved ones in the process of identifying burnout.

Set Boundaries
High performers are no strangers to over-committing—but it’s incredibly important to cultivate sustainable habits. While saying “no” can feel difficult or even scary, it’s critical to set limits on work, social, and family commitments to prevent burnout and reduce stress.

Using these strategies regularly can help us take proactive steps toward addressing burnout—you might adjust your workload, set aside more time for fun and relaxation, or engage in other stress-reduction activities like exercise or therapy.

Addressing Mom Burnout: Practical Steps for Restoring Balance

Once you’ve recognized the signs of mom burnout, it’s time to take action. What can you do if you either feel it sneaking up on you or—worse—suspect you’re already in its grip?

First, adjust expectations of yourself. Make some immediate changes to your workload, both at work and at home. Recognize that striving for perfection in every aspect of life isn’t sustainable, and give yourself permission to let “good enough” be great!

Prune your calendar, delegate work responsibilities where you can, call in your partner to handle more tasks at home, and outsource tasks to professionals where possible. Let some things go entirely. You’ll need to actively make space to focus on recovery.

Seek support in the form of clinical psychologists or trusted medical professionals. Don’t be afraid to ask for telehealth solutions if you feel geographically limited or like trying to physically get somewhere would add more stress to your plate. Remember, we’re looking to alleviate your stress—not add to it!

Social support is incredibly valuable for high-performing moms, and it can be instrumental in both avoiding and dealing with mom burnout. Explore online or in-person groups, and open up to your friends and family about how you’re feeling. Give them a chance to give you a hand!

Next, focus on physical self-care—it will be a big boon to your recovery efforts, as our physical well-being can significantly impact our mental health. Make sure you’re getting enough rest, regularly moving your body in ways that feel good, and eating nourishing foods. Even small acts of self-care can boost your energy levels and mood, combating the effects of burnout.

And don’t forget about mindfulness! Practices like yoga, deep breathing, and meditation can be instrumental in helping to manage stress and anxiety. Integrating these techniques into your regular routine can help ground your thoughts and bring calm to your daily life.

Healing from Mom Burnout is a Process

Coping with mom burnout is a journey, and it will unfold differently for every individual. Remember that finding the right balance and strategies for you may take time and some experimentation. Try not to get frustrated, and trust the process!

Prioritizing your well-being isn’t a luxury—it’s essential to your long-term health and happiness. If you’re struggling to make changes or feel like you need guidance, AWP is here to help. Our team of clinical psychologists are experts in maternal mental health and managing burnout in high performers.



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