“I don’t want to kill myself working just to live paycheck to paycheck. I don’t want to be so burned out and tired that I’m snapping at my son. I dont want to be so “touched out’ and aggravated that I can’t give my fiancé attention.”
“I’m learning to let go of the comparison to other mothers to be ‘perfect’ or put together. My life is chaotic and I do the best I can.”
“I don’t want to be fully responsible for all the housework anymore. I work full time and so does my husband but I’m the only one who cooks and cleans.”
“(I’m tired of) not making time for myself and letting anxiety and depression rule my life.”
We’ve heard from over 2,600 parents in our research study, mostly Moms (97%) who are trying to work (86%) parent and manage life, with disrupted childcare (75%.) Pre-pandemic Mothers were already stressed. They carried the mental load, most worked inflexible jobs and struggled to maintain boundaries.
Did you believe it could get worse? When Covid hit, women lost an estimated $800 billion in income and millions of jobs. And the exhaustion and burnout gaps continue to widen. But there’s an upside from trying to do the impossible. It’s not only changing our priorities but mindsets. And awareness, that self-sacrifice is not only unreasonable but harmful, is growing among Mothers.
Which Changes How the Sacrifices Feel
Surveyed Moms overwhelmingly want to curb exhaustion to improve their mental and physical health. Yet 75% cite doing ‘terribly’ or ‘not as well as usual’ at self-care. Which is not a surprise with most doing more housework (75%,) children’s activities (59%,) and childcare (69%.) Often without more partner support (60%.) But they’re very clear on what they don’t want. And how they are choosing to reinvest time in themselves.
It’s Hard to Get Help, Even When we Ask
Many don’t like to ask for help. Even when they desperately need it. In part, because whether it’s asking for a raise, funding to start a business or equity at home, women hear a lot of no’s. And in the US where most (98%) of our surveyed Moms live, the public policies, like paid leave and subsidized childcare, still haven’t materialized. Which only reinforces the negative social norms, that Mothers give while others receive.
But surveyed Moms are tired of upholding outdated rules without much support. As one shared, “…My daughter…is 4 months. It would have been nice to be allotted more time off from work with benefits. And government help…like other countries in the world. Healing from a C-section, while still having to work to provide for my family…. and take care of my new baby is slowly breaking me down.”
And when asked, ‘what are the rules, obligations and expectations you don’t want to follow anymore’ they had plenty to say.
So, Most are Ready to Stop Pleasing Others
“(I don’t want to) always put others first, work before health, maximum productivity all the time.”
“…No hangs for obligation’s sake. No toxic relationships and a zero tolerance policy for bullshit and non-reciprocal relationships.”
“(I don’t want to) pretend everything is fine and not talk things out with spouse.”
“(I’m not) continuing to let people who do not really support me in my life.”
Or Neglecting Themselves
“Being expected to take care of myself last.”
“… I’m just surviving day to day. Would like to get back to a place of thriving.”
“I don’t want to be the only person taking care of everyone.”
“I do not want to be the SOLE care taker for my MIL.”
“(I don’t want) the pressure to be a perfect daughter/caregiver and mom.”
“Perfection: (the) expectation of “having it all”; false idea of “fitting it all in.”
“That I should be happy because I’m not poor.”
“That after Covid and postpartum I’ll be the same person I was before.”
Believing They Must ‘Look’ a Certain Way
“Must be skinny to matter, must drink to have fun”
“Looking thin, being the mom who lives through her kids “
“Losing weight because society expects that from new moms.”
Adhere to Other People’s Wishes or Parenting Styles
“…We cosleep, breastfeed still at 18 months, tend to his cries at night, believe in attached parenting. And my parenting style is no longer up for discussion.”
“Keeping my kids from positive normal life experiences because of fear of covid”
“I do not want to make sure my kids attend all the fun local events every weekend.”
“That I need to do it all and be “on” all the time.”
Own the Mental Load at Home
“(I don’t want) all (of the) mental labor with no help.”
“Me expending so much mental energy to keep everyone in the family on track.”
Do All the Housework
“Women need to cook, clean and keep up with kids 100% regardless if they work full time.”
“That I have to maintain a clean home, chores are not my job, raising my son is.”
“That I have to do all household chores by myself.”
Prioritize Work Over Family or Rest
“That my job is the most important thing in my life.”
“That I have to overwork myself. Live up to societies expectations and guilt being a single mom.”
“Being torn between work and my kids. Being expected to have perfect children that don’t need their parents. Working all the time with no end.”
Ignore Their Mental, Physical or Financial Health
“I don’t want to be a martyr anymore. I don’t want to be working poor anymore.”
“(I want to) eat better. Stop spending money on dumb things. Keep the house clean. Be a better pet parent. Stop drinking.”
Over Schedule, Commit or Do
“Committing to everything. Stepping up when others don’t and feeling obligated to do so.”
“I don’t want to obligate myself to the point where I feel overwhelmed because it makes me feel like a “good person”
“Obligations to others that inconvenience me, and saying yes when I should have said no.”
“Pretending I have it together all the time, overcommitting.”
How Can you Reset?
Most Mothers are desperate for more control over their time. But it helps to understand how you spend your time now. And to get clear on where you invest in your wellbeing. Then it’s much easier to get intentional and decide which shifts to make. Self-care won’t just happen because the to-do list is never-done. So, it helps to use an anchor point in your day. Like your morning or bedtime routine, when you are most likely to have some window even if it’s tiny, when your kids are asleep.
Start Small to Regain Clarity
And build from there. It can be allocating 5 or 10 minutes to yourself each day for deep breathing, mindfulness or movement. It doesn’t have to be elaborate to be effective. Nor does it have to be perfect. But you need to start thinking about your health before you can improve it. Because once you are aware, you can’t push that genie back in the bottle. The change will happen. And you’ll find ways to gain momentum at a pace that works for you.
And Begin to Choose Differently
The burnout that’s rampant among Mothers is fueled in part by feeling trapped, without good options or mental health support. Often from the invisible rules and conflicting societal expectations. Honoring your needs can feel like swimming against the cultural tide, because it is. And that’s uncomfortable for most people. But we can make new choices in our daily lives, to live healthier with more sustainable workloads.
- Ready to reclaim space from the never-done list? Take a TimeCheck.
- Have you chimed in yet? Share your pandemic experiences! It’s quick and the results from this study are used to advocate better support for parents.
- Employers, transform your workplace into an environment where caregivers thrive. Learn about Allies @ Work.