They said motherhood would be tiring, but no one mentioned baby burnout. They also failed to mention that as mums we don’t talk about it anywhere near enough, and we all assume everyone is coping better than we are.
So what is baby burnout exactly? Chances are you’ve experienced it at some point. Put simply, it’s emotional exhaustion. It’s when you have been trying to do too much for too long. And even though you are at the end of your tether, you keep going because you love your baby and you have put lofty expectations on yourself.
There’s no specific series of events that cause baby burnout.
For me it was a combination of insisting on exclusively breastfeeding despite getting only an hour of sleep every night, trying to keep my toddler entertained with amazing trips out, wanting the house to be immaculate at the end of the day and trying to cook healthy meals from scratch every evening.
We are not supermamas, we cannot do absolutely everything without it grinding us down.
Now I’m back at work the challenges are different but still tough.
I find that I’m on edge, tense, a bit fed-up, bored, worried that it’s all being done wrong and feel incredibly guilty for feeling all of the above.
The thing is though I am coping. It’s not like I’m in a tiny ball hiding underneath the dining room table, hoping my kids won’t find me and demand “Row Row Row Your Boat” for the 50th time. Nope, I’m doing the repetitive nursery rhymes again and again as required of me. I am coping, but jeez do I feel frazzled.
Don’t get me wrong. I do totally recognise that I made the decision to have two children within a very short space of time. I do not blame the kids or think negatively about their presence in my life, I am grateful to have them. So very, very grateful.
It is not the children who are to blame, but it’s not me either.
Life as a mum today is hard. We’ve never faced so much pressure to be perfect, to be the supermum that everyone expects us to be.
Not only should we be the ultimate perfect parent to our kids, but we are also expected to hold down a job where we are under enormous pressure to carry on as if nothing at all happened in the last year.
Modern mothers are made to feel as if they cannot admit that life has changed since they had a child, that work has to continue at the same relentless pace, beyond what we are paid to do, because that’s what is expected of us.
This isn’t a matter of treating mums in the workplace equally. It’s a matter of taking into account your employee’s personal circumstances as a human being.
Then we look at other mums on social media who appear to be all glowing with the miracle of motherhood and all its beauty. Their home is pristine, their kids are cheeky little cherubs and they seem to have an endless stream of cash to go on amazing family holidays.
As we compare our own lives and look back at those lofty standards we set for ourselves when it comes to motherhood, we feel that not only have we let ourselves down but we’ve let our children down.
But do we talk about it openly? No.
When someone asks how has your week been. You reply “great” and maybe make a silly joke of how little sleep you’ve been having. You don’t say “actually I’m at my wit’s end and feel like my kids hate me because they won’t stop crying and complaining no matter what I do!!!”
And the worst thing about it all is that we ALL do it. We all pretend. And it creates a vicious cycle that impacts on every mum in our circle of influence.
We need to realise that it’s OK to admit that motherhood is bloody hard. It’s OK to not be perfect.
I have decided to take a few steps in my life to ease the baby burnout. This is going to include taking real time for me. Time that involves doing something relaxing that does not also include my kids. It might only be an hour a week, but I need to do it for my own sanity.
So do you think you might be suffering from baby burnout? Here are the signs:
You enter a room and forget why you are there.
The half an hour before bedtime lasts at least three hours.
Your temper is on such a knife edge that it takes only the most casual mention of your other half having a night out to sending you roaring over the edge.
When other people ask if you are planning to have another baby you laugh hysterically.
When the kids are in bed you sit on opposite sides of the sofa to your other half and shun the cat. There’s no way another living thing is touching you now the kids have finally left the room.
Looking at pictures of perfect mummies cuddling smiling babies in a pristine house full of white furniture leaves you in tears and reaching for the ice cream.
How many did you say yes to?
If you are feeling like you might have baby burnout, stop suffering in silence. Talk to someone, get some extra help. Do something to change the cycle. And stop believing everything you read on social media.