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What Every Mother Should Know About Feeling Exhausted

Fatigue is the body’s normal response to physical exertion. In most cases, fatigue can be attributed to poor nutrition, a lack of sleep, stress, or boredom, and can be eliminated by addressing these causes. In some cases, fatigue can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

However, two recent studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) describe a distinct type of fatigue known as “parental burnout,” with symptoms specifically related to the role of parenting. Mothers, in particular, tend to experience exhaustion related to pregnancy, postpartum depression, and the ongoing responsibilities of child rearing.

What Is Mommy Fatigue?

Mommy fatigue is a form of exhaustion that occurs as a result of feeling physically and emotionally overwhelmed by parenting. An exhausted mom often experiences fears related to not being good enough, relinquishing control, and losing her sense of self.

Although the symptoms are similar to professional burnout, mommy fatigue differs in that the symptoms result specifically from parenting—such as physical and emotional exhaustion from trying to do too much, emotional distancing from children, and an overall sense of parental incompetency.

Also, unlike professional burnout, mommy burnout can’t be solved simply by changing jobs or leaving the workplace. There’s a distinct sense of being trapped in a situation with no apparent way out.

What Causes Mommy Fatigue?

In the case of pregnant women or new mothers, sleep disruption is the most likely cause of exhaustion. During pregnancy, it’s possible that hormonal fluctuations play a role in sleep disruption, although further studies are needed to verify this. In the postpartum period, a mom who’s feeling exhausted all the time tends to sleep less at night and more during the day, due to the infant’s feeding schedule.

During pregnancy and postpartum, mothers have been shown to lose 41.2 minutes of nighttime sleep, on average. Those who breastfed lost slightly more sleep. In either case, the mother’s physical and mental health, relationships, employment, and parental competence suffered as a result.

For those mothers with children over 18 months old, the causes of mommy burnout tend to be more closely linked to the parenting role and its related tasks, rather than simply being sleep-related. Notably, the symptoms almost always involve an underlying theme of fear and incompetency. Mothers experiencing mommy burnout often go too far in their efforts to be seen as the perfect mom, taking on too many tasks and striving to anticipate and react to their child’s every need.

These overwhelmed moms have a tendency to over-invest in their maternal role for an extended period of time, until fear becomes an underlying cause of exhaustion. Whether it’s the pressure of raising clean, well-dressed, and well-behaved children, preparing fresh meals every day, or securing their children’s future, the constant striving to attain unrealistic goals—whether set by society or the mother herself—eventually takes a toll on physical and emotional health.

In general, this maternal fear revolves around three key issues:

  • Not being a good mother
  • Losing control
  • Losing a sense of self

Mommy Burnout Symptoms

In keeping with the theme of fear and the three key issues noted above, typical mommy burnout symptoms often include feelings of:

  • Perfectionism
  • Self-pressure
  • Projection
  • Intense emotional and physical fatigue
  • Surviving on autopilot
  • Not bonding with children
  • Self-hate
  • Shame
  • Loneliness
  • Guilt

How Can You Combat Mommy Burnout?

If you believe you may be experiencing mommy burnout, it’s important to act. Realize that the perfect mother doesn’t exist. Don’t let external or internal pressures create unrealistic ideals that undermine your capacity and self-confidence.

The fear of not being a good enough mother is a key aspect of mommy burnout. By learning how to be good enough, rather than perfect, you will actually become a better mother to your children in the long run.

Realize that every family situation is unique. Relating positively to your children and enjoying the time you spend with them is more important than doing things for your children, or constantly preparing for their future.

The Dangers of Being a Tired Mother

If you recognize any of these warning signs indicating that you may be an exhausted mom, it’s time to take action. Typical mommy burnout symptoms include:

  • Feeling drained and emotionally empty
  • Emotionally distancing yourself from your children
  • Losing control, either verbally or physically, with your children
  • A sense of guilt, shame, and loneliness related to exhaustion
  • The fear of being judged
  • Thoughts of harming your children

When to Seek Help

Whenever you find yourself over-striving in your role as a mother—and feeling overwhelmed and fatigued as a result—make sure you get appropriate help. You don’t have to do it all alone. Ask a family member or a trusted friend for help.

Another critical step in treating overwhelmed-mom fatigue is to rule out the possibility of an underlying medical condition. MD Now’s physician-led medical centers can help you get back on track. We’ll evaluate whether your fatigue is a result of mommy burnout or some other cause. If necessary, we can develop a treatment plan and make appropriate recommendations or referrals to help you cope with your fatigue, depression, and other related symptoms.

MD Now’s comprehensive, state-of-the-art facilities are open convenient hours, throughout Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Indian River counties. Our services are a convenient alternative to the typical long wait time for a doctor’s appointment or sitting for hours in an ER waiting room.

Walk-ins are always welcome, and all major insurance plans are accepted. To save time, you can check in online at www.MDNow.com.