Having a child is considered a blessing as not everyone is given a chance to experience it. Whether it is planned or not, let’s admit that having a child is something that fulfills a woman’s personality and self-worth. For sure, the majority of moms (if not all), are super happy and excited upon learning about their pregnancy. Though we should also acknowledge the fear of not portraying the role properly for the first time.
Journey to motherhood
Every mother has a different story about their motherhood experience and it’s nice to know how one can relate to the other in a discussion. Some moms suffered from the so-called “morning sickness” while others just dealt with it like an ordinary day. Some are supported by their partners, some just had to face difficulties on their own. Some had their parents and elders to guide them, others just managed to ask for support from friends and made google their best companion in discovering important matters about having a baby.
Before the big day came, some moms-to-be have already prepared funds for hospitalization while others would still be struggling on where to find the money they could use to pay the bills. As you may have noticed, there are so many things that a mom should consider from day one of bearing her most precious child. Not to mention the tons of research about the perfect name that she could give.
Welcome to the world! The big day has come and they’ll feel the most pain-worthy thing that you could ever imagine. The pain is really hard to explain especially when they (the moms) were so anxious and just want to let it all out while the nurses and doctors in the clinic or the hospital are so relaxed and seemed not to care about her sufferings. And oh, just so you know, some moms had their labor for more than 24 hours. After successfully giving birth and holding the baby for the very first time, all the aches that they felt a few hours ago will just vanish and be replaced with overflowing love and care for their tiny little bunch of joy – their masterpiece, God’s most precious gift, their source of strength and happiness and all sort of positive adjectives to describe their little one.
From then on, so many things in a woman-turned-mom will change. Of course, it varies and will depend on numerous factors to consider such as the civil status, financial stability, quality of life, support from the people around her, environment, work, and priorities to name a few. If anything that she imagined doesn’t go or come out as planned, that is when she will start having doubts about her capabilities. She will start questioning herself if she is still doing things right. She will feel tired and exhausted in thinking about what will happen next, especially to the baby.
What Is Parental Burnout?
There was a recent study about parental exhaustion being associated with parents having sick children. As they went on, it turned out that being emotionally and physically drained had other underlying causes aside from the latter. They’ve conducted interviews and research, gather data, and perform analyses about mothers who experienced fatigue. The result revealed that it has something to do with fear. The fear of not being good enough, being out of control in certain situations, and losing the sense of one’s self are some of the factors that affect their confidence in performing the role, making them exhausted and tired at the end of the day. Let’s have a glimpse about it one by one, as well as the elements associated with having this so-called mommy fatigue or parental burnout.
Factors affecting Mommy Fatigue
Fear of Not Being Good Enough
I think most will agree if we say that mothers are the most patient human being in the world. You’ll never know how much patience you have in your body until you become a mother. They’ll enjoy doing everything for their family. From serving breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, to a midnight snack, even if they are in the middle of sleep and someone in the family asked for food, they’ll willingly go out of bed and feed them. They like the feeling of being wanted and important in the eyes of their loved ones, without realizing that they have invested much in their role and just don’t know how and when to stop. It’s like something in their mind is telling them that you should be the best in what you do, or else, you’ll be replaced with someone better. This leads to the idea of being perfect, the tendency of putting themselves under pressure, and the possibility of overtaking their children’s future.
Being a Perfectionist
Mothers are very responsible. They always know what, where, when, and how to do so many things. They always want to be at their best in doing their duties. They simply wanted to be the perfect mom. However, there are moments that they still feel discontentment and doubt themselves and remain to continue doing more than what’s enough. As the day begins, they already have plans for the whole day’s activities, what to eat, where to go, what movie to watch or even the outfits that the family would wear in case they are going out. That’s how organized they are when it comes to family, particularly the children. Sometimes, they don’t know how to loosen up and just go with the flow to ease the burden on their shoulders, which they unknowingly put in themselves.
Putting themselves under pressure
It’s like taking into consideration what other people will say about how their children are likely to be because of the way a mom is treating them. There are lots of comments being heard from the people around them that make them feel pressured and even doubt themselves if they are still doing the right thing. Some will criticize the way to feed your child. Don’t feed them this and that, give them just the nutritious food. Avoid oily and fatty ingredients. Don’t give them so much of what they want to eat because they might get fat. Even the amount and type of milk is sometimes being questioned. That’s not all. How about how they dress up their children? Don’t use disposable diapers, they may irritate the baby’s skin. Try using cloth diapers, you can save more money plus the baby’s skin will remain healthy. Yes, no doubt that it can save us money and the environment and it’s more beneficial to the baby’s butt but have they thought about the time and effort that a mom takes in changing and cleaning those cloth diapers? I guess not. Cause it’s always easy being said than done. Please, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against moms who preferred using washable diapers, just making myself clear. How about bringing your whole cabinet when going out or traveling with your kids? For sure every mom would agree that your baby bag should be like a magic bag or like Dora’s backpack, having all the things that you need in just one big shoulder/tote bag. If you happen to forget a thing, brace yourself cause it will always be your fault. You should have known better. You should have thought about it better. See, so many expectations not just from your external environment but also with your partner and the whole family. Of course, we should not omit an equally important thing. The pressure of how your child’s behavior is going to be, knowing that it’s you who’s with them most of the time, especially in their growing up years. It’s you who’s responsible for teaching them how to treat others with respect. How to be generous and kind. Humble and God-fearing. At the same time, being confident and able to handle themselves in different situations. Also their sense of duty, self-defense, and safety. You should know how to treat them with balance and not too dependent on you, or else, it will be too hard for you to deal with it in the future. Yes, it’s not just you who should think about it. You have your husband or partner. But what if you are totally a single mom? Or your partner is not the type that would constantly involve himself in bringing up your children? Moms would always feel that pressure on their shoulders. No one tells them to do that, it’s a mother’s natural sense of duty that enables that feeling of responsiveness inside them.
Projecting their child’s future
Every mother wants the best for their children. There is no doubt about it. However, this mindset sometimes leads to results that are not as good as what they had imagined. Their desire to give them a better future adds stress to their everyday life. It’s like, everything that they do in the present would affect the child’s life in the future. If they always treat them like a baby, they’ll have no backbone to support their own decisions in life. If they treat them harshly, the kids would develop a negative feeling towards their mothers, which is very hard to accept and tolerate. Emotional balance sounds good but sometimes difficult to apply especially if you only have one child and you just want to give him/her everything. At the end of the day, you, over-thinking about the future, weren’t able to enjoy the present and just add more pressure to your mind, body, and soul.
Fear of losing control
Bad day. Most of us have been in this situation when we feel that everything is not falling into place. Your expectations became far from reality. Your anticipation did not go as planned. It is very difficult to deal with unexpected situations and at times, you just want to cry out loud and breakdown completely.
Strong physical and emotional stress
This happens when your mind and body have gone weak and just can’t handle it anymore. The first factor may be the lack of sleep or at least a break from your physical activities. Yes, mothers don’t just exhaust their minds. Their body is equally depleted with numerous household chores that no one can ever accomplish the way they did. Even if they had helpers at home, many moms have their preferred arrangements in the house that only they can fully understand.
Sleep deprivation is more common with mothers who have newborn babies, especially those who are breastfeeding as they have to wake up from time to time, even in the middle of the night, to feed their hungry baby. You also have to develop sleeping patterns for them so that it wouldn’t be so hard for you to make them awake in the morning and have a peaceful sleep at night. Some will advise you to take a nap with them during day time, but that would only apply to parents or moms who have no other things to do throughout the day.
When a mother reached this point of tiredness and exhaustion, it is very easy for them to get mad and irritated, even with the tiniest reason you could ever imagine. Small details became big deals. They’ll feel alone and no one in the house understands their emotions. Most of the time, they’ll just breakdown and cry in silence.
Surviving like a “Robot”
At this stage, mothers lose their sense of duty. They were fully demotivated and just want to go on with everyday life as it is. It would be very difficult to incorporate new ideas or activities because they already had a handful of tasks to do each day. They become immobile. They just want to finish the day with all the scheduled tasks, no more, no less. Don’t you dare ask them for a favor, unless you want to have some beating!
Losing control and connection with their children
This point of parental exhaustion leads to more serious thoughts of hatred towards their child. It’s like they are being annoyed for no reason at all. Sometimes just seeing their child moving or playing around or just doing their usual stuff makes them anxious and just want them to disappear. What more if the child is causing trouble? The tendency is to shout at them so hard, worse comes to worst it’s either they hurt themselves or the little human in front of them. On the other hand, it causes a deep impact on the child’s emotions as well, especially if they don’t understand what’s happening to mom. At some point, both of them will lose each other’s bond and be distant from each other.
Fear of losing one’s self
This is the feeling of being different from what you used to be. Nothing’s changed physically but you know deep inside that you are close to empty. It’s like you’ve given more than what you should have had then left with nothing for yourself.
Anxiety and hatred
When mothers are at the peak of exhaustion, chances are, they won’t be able to recognize themselves anymore. The loving and nourishing mother from the very start of the journey eventually disappears and is finding it hard to go back to their old selves. It is so hard to get back to being fully charged with positivity when all you’ve been feeling is like a lighted candle, slowly melting in the process and eventually lose the light, warmth, and passion to raise the best son or daughter the world could celebrate. Believe it or not, they hate themselves for being that way. They put themselves to blame for not being in control of their emotions because they’ve been busy planning about perfectionism, without noticing that they are giving more than what they have to. Too late to realize that there should always be a balance in everything.
Shame, loneliness, and guilt
Even an ordinary individual gets lazy sometimes. It is socially understandable to rest when you are tired, recharge, and unwind until you’re back in your shape. When a mom gets tired, she just doesn’t want to do anything, as in nothing at all. They just want to spend hours in bed, sleeping, browsing the internet, and online shops. Sometimes they don’t even want to eat because they’ll be cleaning up the dishes after. But of course, not all the things that they do reflect what’s inside of their hearts. They feel ashamed for not cooking the meals, for not preparing the table so the family can eat conveniently, for not cleaning and dressing up their child, or even washing them before going to sleep. It’s just they are physically and mentally weak to perform those tasks at the moment.
Along with shame is the feeling of being alone. It’s like no one understands the burden that she had been carrying the whole time, since having her children. She doesn’t even have someone to talk to so she can burst it all out, thus, feeling discarded. The fear of not being understood preoccupies her mind so she’ll just keep it to herself and get used to it which is very wrong because she was not able to express herself in any manner that she wants. She can’t even talk about or even with her husband or partner.
Behind all this hatred and disappointment is the guilt that a mom feels whenever the thought of being such a horrible monster in front of her child. She will think it’s her fault for not being in control of holding her sentiments and taking them after her children. She’d blame herself for being so impatient and stubborn instead of being kind and considerate, which is her ultimate goal in the first place.
Motherhood is not a piece of cake. It is ideal to make one’s self ready for the physical, emotional, financial, and psychological challenges that she would face once she decides to own a child. A solid foundation and supportive environment are equally important to at least lessen, if not to avoid exhaustion and anxiety. Moms should also exercise the freedom of speech. They should learn how to open-up themselves, especially to their husbands. Take time to discuss with him your fears, doubts, tell them that you are tired and need some help. Let’s accept the fact that they are not fortune tellers that could guess what’s on our mind even without saying a word. There is no perfect thing as such. It is always better to keep yourself clear, rather than letting anyone assume that this is what you want when in reality, it’s not. In the end, it will just add up to your disappointments.
When the time comes that you feel like losing control, breathe in and breath out, close your eyes and remember the feeling of seeing that little innocent child for the first time. Don’t let your frustrations take away the best in you.
Being a mother is having a mixture of every little ingredient in the world. You can taste the sweetness of being your little one’s most favorite person in the entire universe. There’s this great combination of salt and vinegar with added spice as they continuously grow and cause a little trouble day by day. And of course, the bite of bitterness when they start to be more aware of the environment and begin to ruin your mood resulting in inevitable irritability towards them. All in all, it would still be the best experience that you could have during your existence.
 Hall, Elisabeth OC, et al. “The journey towards motherhood after a very preterm birth: Mothers’ experiences in hospital and after home-coming.” Journal of Neonatal Nursing 19.3 (2013): 109-113.
 Hubert, Sarah, and Isabelle Aujoulat. “Parental burnout: When exhausted mothers open up.” Frontiers in psychology 9 (2018): 1021.
 Meeussen, Loes, and Colette Van Laar. “Feeling pressure to be a perfect mother relates to parental burnout and career ambitions.” Frontiers in psychology 9 (2018): 2113.
 Mikolajczak, Moïra, et al. “Consequences of parental burnout: Its specific effect on child neglect and violence.” Child Abuse & Neglect 80 (2018): 134-145.