Busting the Super-Mom Myth: One Mom’s Three Steps to Burnout Prevention

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Before you pull your hair out, join me in exploring how mothers can regain their sanity and prevent burnout on most days. You can be a great mom without draining yourself completely dry. And, you don’t need super-mom powers to get it all done. You have a choice in regaining your self in each day and in each moment.

As a mother of two, I feel like I am pulled in many directions. In any given moment, there are multiple things that I could be doing. I am always fighting the productivity pull and striving for greater balance. I try to spread out my energy in order to be present for each person and thing that is important to me. I don’t want to have to give anything up. Yet, I know that if I try to do it all, I will be a very negative mom and wife!

A spiritual educator, Parker Palmer, makes a great point when he says, “burnout comes from trying to give what I do not possess.” With that said, how do you know when you are headed for burnout?

Headed for Mom Burnout

I think there are several myths which moms sometimes believe that contribute to mom burnout:

Hurry Myth: “I can do it all, if I just cram more into my day.”
I am almost always feeling hurried to get somewhere or get something done at a certain time. And, being a therapist requires me to be a great time manager on my fullest days. Cramming more in doesn’t make me more productive. When I hurry myself, I am more forgetful, less present, and more irritated. I’d rather enjoy the moment more. What about you?
Protector Myth: “Good moms are always prepared and a step ahead of others’ needs.”
Did you know that when you become a mom, there is a credo that we say to ourselves? Here it is: |As a mom, we need to possess super-human ability to take care of others. We must know what others need even when they don’t know themselves. We must have everything ready for them to be successful. We must protect them from failure and rejection.” How did we get so off track in trying to prevent others from learning from their mistakes?
Martyr Myth: “No one else will do it.”
This one may be true, but you’ll never know if you always do it. When my husband began asking me what the kids should wear, I realized that I had taken over almost everything that had to do with raising our kids. Women have almost always had the primary child-rearing responsibility. Yet, I don’t think we are the only ones who know how to take care of kids. Are we ready to let our spouses try something even if it isn’t how we would do it?

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In doing research, I found that most articles praise moms for doing it all, citing that moms would make 6-figure incomes if they are compensated for the work they do. I am sure this is true, yet sometimes I would like to take my super-mom cape off. Instead, I found out that I “bundle”, meaning I try to combine meaningful connections with everyday tasks. There have to be other options for moms to prevent burnout and resentment.

New Ways to Prevent Mom Burnout

I started to realize that mom burnout is a real problem when I learned that many women take antidepressants to be less angry with their kids and spouses. While medication is always an option, what’s wrong with saying no?

Most articles on home-family balance promise ways that you can do it all. I’m going to propose something different, a new way to look at balance: don’t do it all. While some days are better than others, let me share what works for me in preventing mom burnout:

Setting realistic daily goals
Each day I ask myself: what is realistic to get done today? I know that if it’s a work day, then I don’t include much on my to do list. On other days, I include what is important for me to get done that day. This may include cleaning and errands, yet I also include space for connecting with others and recharging my batteries.
Carving out downtime
I am more productive when I take a break. I enjoy the moment more when I slow down. These seem like common sense, but it is so hard to embrace just being still for many moms. I “trick” myself into downtime by writing it on my to do list. What recharges your batteries? For me, it includes any of the following: reading, doing yoga, being in nature, or taking a nap.
Saying no to resentment
This is the hardest one. When I find myself blaming someone else for my tension level, I take a look at what I could say no to in order to prevent resentment from building. For instance, if I pick up one more toy before I go to bed, I will resent my kids in that moment. Instead I can not pick it up, and hold them accountable or let it go. Or, maybe it is your spouse whom you resent. Is there a point at which you can stop doing just one more thing, so you don’t resent him for taking it easy in front of the TV? Realizing that you have control over your resentment and tension level is a different way to think, yet it can be liberating!

Now it’s your turn. I want to hear your perspective. Which myths propel you toward mom burnout? Share what helps you say no to the super-mom myth, regain your sanity, and keep your hair.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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