We’re entering a whole new level of parental burnout

If you're feeling more exhausted now than ever before, here are four perfectly legitimate reasons why—and what you can do about it, right now.

pandemic fatigue

For moms, mental exhaustion and burnout are nothing new. The emotional and mental load of motherhood can take a significant toll on our mental health and physical well-being. It's an unequal burden that's been further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. And right now, moms are reporting stress and burnout at a whole new level.

According to the 2020 State of the Motherhood survey, 74% of moms are feeling mentally worse since the COVID crisis began, with 63% reporting they are handling childcare and household responsibilities mostly on their own. Black mothers, in particular, have been disproportionately affected. While a recent poll suggests that Americans as a whole are the unhappiest they've been in decades, the pandemic has been especially hard-hitting for communities of color and for working parents.


As a growing number of states shift into "reopening" mode, the stress moms feel is actually going up, not down. While stay-at-home orders have been hard on families, the reopening of the economy presents us with a whole new set of challenges, from deciding whether it's safe to see grandparents to figuring out childcare so that we can return to work.

So if you're feeling more exhausted now than you were when the pandemic first started, here are four perfectly legitimate reasons why—and what you can do about it, right now.

Multi-tasking fatigue

There's no question that caring for your kids 24/7 is exhausting. Between keeping the kids engaged, managing household logistics and working from home, moms are being asked to multitask and context-switch more than ever.

The reason you're feeling especially tired? Each time you switch between different tasks and roles, more energy is expended by your brain, which happens to be your body's highest energy-consuming organ.

So if you don't feel up for much else besides getting through the day, that's because your brain is quite literally on overdrive, draining energy reserves away from other parts of your body.

The solution: Experts suggest taking 15-minute breaks throughout the day can help you stay less stressed and more productive overall if you're constantly switching between tasks.

As the pandemic continues, it's also going to be more important than ever for moms to delegate tasks and make sure we have help—enlist your partner if you have one, and engage kids with age-appropriate chores. Sadly, there are no medals being given out for doing everything yourself—if there were, you'd have a chest full.

Compassion fatigue

Though it's a term more commonly associated with health care professionals, therapists, and those in a caregiving or helping profession, compassion fatigue can have a similar impact on moms as well. That's especially true during a pandemic when time with our kids has significantly increased—we are constantly caring for their physical needs while also holding space for their emotions.

Coupled with the tragedy of violence against African-Americans and protesters, as well as ongoing sociopolitical tensions and civic unrest, we are collectively experiencing an emotional heaviness—caring for the people we love and humanity as a whole.

The solution: If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or helpless, setting boundaries to create mental space for yourself is key. Finding support in your community and your friends, limiting time on your news and media feed and practicing self-compassion are all essential to your well-being right now.

Zoom fatigue

Remember when remote learning, working from home and video conferencing with family and friends all seemed like short-term, stopgap solutions—way back at the beginning of the pandemic? By now, families know screentime is going to be a major part of our lives for the foreseeable future.

If you're attending more video calls than normal for work or to stay in touch with loved ones, that's another reason you're feeling drained. Experts say that our brains are working harder than ever to process interactions with the person on the other end.

All the subtleties that we typically rely on as emotional cues during face-to-face interactions— body language, facial expressions, voice tonality and other cues of responsiveness—become less pronounced on a video call. Your brain is working harder to reconcile the dissonance, and requires more effort to hold a "constant gaze" as you stare at the screen.

The solution: Give yourself a break by setting a limit to how many video calls you have each week, or simply switch to phone calls or email. If you're feeling tired, it's likely the other person is as well, and will welcome the suggestion.

Decision fatigue

If the stress of deciding whether it's safe to visit a family member, head to the store or let your kids have playdates is wearing you down, you're not alone. Constantly weighing the benefits and risks of your family's health, as well as the possible endangerment of the health of others, is a surefire way to feel worn out by even the most routine decisions.

That's why as more states reopen in the coming months, experts are warning about feeling worn down in our decision-making, also known as caution fatigue. After months in quarantine and the initial hypervigilance of "flattening the curve," it's understandable to wish we could all take a break from following epidemiologists' guidelines to the letter.

On the other hand, once-mundane decisions have turned into moral dilemmas because of their potential to impact the people around us. When there's no clear-cut way to define what's "right," the effort to act in a morally responsible way can actually create more distress.

The solution: If heavily-weighted decisions are taking a toll on you, seek a mental health professional to help you process and understand your emotional experience. And while physical distancing limits where we can go or who we see, remember that it doesn't take away our ability to socially connect with others who are sharing this same experience.

Because during this unprecedented time, we're all in this together.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

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A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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