The Ramifications of Mommy Burnout


A few weeks ago Oprah had an episode on about moms who drive drunk with their kids in the car. It was a pretty tragic show and on a topic that strangely enough, my own mother and I had discussed in the past month prior to the show because it was something we’d seen repeatedly on the news.

If you start noticing lately there are have been a rash of mothers caught driving drunk, getting into devastating car crashes while drunk, or falling asleep at the wheel drunk – all with their children and possibly other people’s children in the car with them. Pretty much in my mind I was thinking “what in the world is going on to make all these women drink in the middle of the day and get in the car with their children.” And then it came to me – it has to be burnout.

Oprah had a statistic on her show that DUIs for women have gone up 30% in the past 10 years or so. That’s astonishing. So what has happened since the turn of the century to women? The only thing that pops in my head is that as women, mothers and caretakers we’re always trying to do more and trying to do it better. The result of going, going, going is burnout. Burnout, according to, is “fatigue, frustration or apathy resulting from prolonged stress, overwork, or intense activity.” And what a lot of people do to relieve stress is to drink. Which feels good so we continue to do it. And it felt good last night so why not this morning? And I can handle my drinking so why not have one at breakfast to take the edge off before I drive the kids to school?

It’s a scary scenario, isn’t it? But one that seems quite easy for someone who is cracking under pressure to fall under. So what do we do? How do we as women help ourselves and help each other deal with the expectations that are thrown at us daily from all angles?

For me I am trying to take things in stride and not work myself to death. This time of year is very busy at my job and I recently realized that I was working a lot of overtime and not knowing it until I looked at my paycheck. Sure the extra money is great but for me it’s not worth the stress. So I’m going to make a pact with myself to try to leave on time and not go in on my days off.

Something else I’ve done is to not always reach for a drink to relax. I’m not an alcoholic but I do enjoy the taste of alcohol and the socialization that goes along with drinking. I can see how the relaxation of drinking could lull you into feeling good and putting your mind in another place. I actually see it more now that I am a mother than before (probably because my stress has grown extraordinarily since I became a mom). So now I’ll have a cup of tea. Or I’ll turn on a really funny sitcom to get my mind off of my troubles (Modern Family, The Middle and The New Adventures of Old Christine are my favorites this season). It works and now when I have a beer or a glass of wine its extra special.

I’ve also learned to get out without my child. Now that’s she’s a little older it’s a little easier to ask a friend to watch her for a few hours so we can get out once in a while. What to do if you can’t get out without your child or you don’t have anyone to watch them? Maybe go to the park or the beach or a kid’s museum. Somewhere the kids can run around and get their energy out and you don’t have to run around after them the entire time. I tried this one last weekend – it works pretty good. And they go down for a nap when they get home (an extra plus).

I’m not sure what we can do for each other as friends except listen and be aware of warning signs of burnout from each other. And it’s not always drinking that happens because we’re at the end of our rope. It could be recreational drugs, verbal or physical abuse or many other things. I think the main thing we as moms need to do is to learn how to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of the people that we love. So simple, yet so hard – don’t you think?


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