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'Self-care' is not enough to fix how much moms are burnt out

Society is asking you to nurture in an environment that does not nurture you back.

mom-burn-out

I sat in bed, haphazardly staring at my phone, my thumb robotically scrolling through Instagram posts of moms clearly doing it better than I was. My back ached from my hunched posture, but adjusting my body felt like too much work. From down the hall, a little voice called out, "Mom, I can't sleep," and all I could muster were the words, "Okay, babe." No solutions offered, no words of consolation. Because I had run out of solutions, run out of words.

Cautiously, my sweet husband asked, "Babe? You doing okay?"

I considered the question. I ran through the mental load quietly yet oppressively pressing in on me—the ever-present worry, guilt, stress.


I thought of the ways so many women I know answer that question. Not the "So great! How are you?!" we say a little too loudly to make it sound more believable. The real answers that we share when we feel like it's okay to be vulnerable:

I am running on fumes.
I am depleted.
I don't even know.

But I shouldn't complain. I am lucky in so many ways. I love being a mother. I love my life.

So instead of laying it all out there, instead of addressing the vulnerable parts, I simply replied, "I'm fine, babe. Today was just… hard."

"Okay, well let's find some time this weekend for you to do something by yourself for a few hours." He's embraced my "self-care is important for moms" soapbox, and tries as hard as he can to help me live it.

But the truth is that self-care is not enough. And it's time that we stop telling moms that a simple act of self-care will undo the years of culture-induced overwhelm that is causing us all to burn out.

There is no bubble bath that will hush the constant underlying buzz of anxiety.

There is no girls-weekend-away that will undo the isolation of a fourth trimester spent without a village.

There is no nap that will revive the energy poured into balancing a career with motherhood.

There is no glass of wine that will ease the accumulating effect of all the ailments we "haven't had time to see a doctor about."

Moms are burnt out, and our society needs to start caring.

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You deserve a break, mama


Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey found that 51% of moms feel discouraged when it comes to managing the stress of work and motherhood. About one-third of moms said that their mental and physical health is suffering. And 85% of moms said that our society does not do a good job of supporting mothers.

Eighty-five percent.

Society is asking you to nurture in an environment that does not nurture you back.

So, darling mama, please hear me: You are not imagining your burnout. And your burnout is not your fault.

You are burnt out because from the moment you announced your pregnancy or plan to adopt, you were bombarded with unsolicited advice and stories about how awful your upcoming experience would be.

You are burnt out because you had to return to work before you were ready, and then shamed for not breastfeeding your baby for long enough.

You are burnt out because you feel like you have to continually justify your decision to leave the paid workforce.

You are burnt out because you eat leftover goldfish and sandwich crusts for lunch.

You are burnt out because you are constantly juggling the pressure to spend ample time being truly present with your child with the pressure to have a clean and decluttered home.

You are burnt out because you after a day of constant toddler-touching, you feel like you should be fresh, sexy, and available for your partner.

You are burnt out because the news is exhausting and defeating.

You are burnt out because not a day goes by without something reminding you of the baby weight you still haven't lost. Of that perfect body lost.

You are burnt out because you are constantly reading and hearing new advice about the "best" way to raise your child—and balancing that with the contradictory ways your family and in-laws are telling you to do it.

You are burnt out because no matter how many coupons you cut, how many vacations you don't take, you still can't find a way to dig yourself out of debt.

You are burnt out because you know your child shouldn't watch another show on TV, but you just don't know how to make dinner happen without it.

You are burnt out because your third babysitter in two months just gave their two-week notice, and the waitlist for daycare is impossibly long.

You are burnt out because you miss your friends.

You are burnt out because you've poured from your cup for so long that you've forgotten how to tilt the cup upright and save some for yourself.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Mama, you are not doing it wrong. It's just that hard.

And your burnout is not your fault.

Now some of the answers to these problems are obvious, but most are not. Because these are not problems you have created. These are manifestations of cultural shortcomings that leave moms hurting. Though it's not right or fair, it is up to us to fix them, because it doesn't seem like anyone else is going to.

It's not taking a bubble bath, and it's definitely not having an extra glass of wine at night.

It's about being vulnerable.

By saying that you refuse to buy into the notion of the perfect mother or the perfect wife.

By being authentic, even when you are authentically burnt out.

By being honest.

If you haven't had a chance to watch Brene Brown's Netflix special, I cannot recommend it enough. In it, she talks about how courageous it is to be vulnerable. In a 2013 interview with Forbes, Brown said:

"Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It's tough to do that when we're terrified about what people might see or think. When we're fueled by the fear of what other people think or that gremlin that's constantly whispering 'You're not good enough' in our ear, it's tough to show up. We end up hustling for our worthiness rather than standing in it."

But mama, what if you did stand in your worthiness? Even if your house is messy. Even when your toddler is melting down in the grocery store. Even when everything feels like it's falling apart.

What if you stood among the mess and declared your worthiness?

By saying no.

By asking for help.

By stating what you need, without apology.

And by holding space for other mothers to do the same.

You might get ignored at first. You might get some side eyes. But by being vulnerable—by putting it all out there, owning your story, and supporting other mothers as they claim their worthiness, we start to make it better.

Being vulnerable is incredibly uncomfortable. The good news is that no one on this planet is braver than a mother.

Let down your guard, mama. It won't be easy, not one bit. But your bravery will inspire another mama and before you know it, we'll have a culture shift on our hands. And then, we can really enjoy that bubble bath.

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    The Motherly Shop is here 🎉 (and it has exactly what you need, mama)

    We did the hard work for you, hand-picking the things you want and need and ensuring we only bring you the best—so you can take one thing off that full plate of yours.

    Since the beginning, Motherly has existed to help mamas of all experiences feel seen, understood and supported. Through expert and mom-to-mom advice and information we've been here to help you along the motherhood journey.

    With that same ethos, we've created The Motherly Shop—an online collection of products curated for every stage of motherhood. We did the hard work for you, hand-picking the things you want and need and ensuring we only bring you the best from brands and makers that really care—so you can take one thing off that full plate of yours.

    To make browsing a little easier, we curate the products based on mama needs + pain points. For example, here's our newest collection created to gather everything a pregnant woman needs.

    Check out some of our favorites from our Becoming Mama collection and get shopping!

    The sleep support

    Belly Bandit SOS pillow

    Finding the right position for sleep can feel like an Olympic sport when you've got a baby belly to accommodate. Belly Bandit, masters of creating wearables that support pregnant bodies, also managed to create the ideal tool for side sleeping.

    $80

    The wear-anywhere maternity dress

    Stowaway Collection Maternity Becca dress

    Finding clothes that still make you feel like yourself isn't always easy. With their premium fabrics and universally flattering cuts, we can't get enough of the maternity wardrobe essentials from Stowaway Collection maternity. Even better? They sew everything in Long Island City, NY and source USA-made fabric whenever possible.

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    The chic but practical shoe 

    OSAY the label slip on

    Bending over to put shoes on is so overrated. We've got you covered with the most stylish and obsession-worthy handmade loafers with a secret. Just fold down the back, and BAM! slip-ons. Additionally, the La Babouche Loafer + Slip-On OSAY the Label beauties are made from recycled leather that literally forms to your feet.

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    The delicate reminder

    Whether it's whispered sweetly, shrieked from the top of the big slide, or echoed through the phone from thousands of miles away, 'mama' is the name you'll respond to for the rest of your life. Like all the Tiny Tags necklaces, this sweet reminder is laser engraved by highly skilled artisans in the USA.

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    The stylish diaper bag that doesn't look like a diaper bag

    Mina baie vegan stevie

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    The elegant baby book

    Echo Art Bindery Baby Memory Book

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    The empowering accessory

    Sontakey 'I was made for this' bracelet

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    The most delicious way to celebrate

    Tost non-alcoholic refresher

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    The pampering belly oil

    Esker belly oil duo

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    The hydration-friendly water bottle

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    Meeting those daily hydration needs can be a challenge. (So can making it to the bathroom 700 hundred times a day, right?) We're big fans of Welly reusable bottles which not only look super sleek with their stainless steel and bamboo combo, but also include a removable infuser to brew tea or flavor your water.

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    The pre-packed hospital bag

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    12 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

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    Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

    With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

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    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

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    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

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    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

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    Mini golf set

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    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

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    Vintage scooter balance bike

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    Wooden rocking pegasus

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    Croquet set

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    Wooden digital camera

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    Wooden bulldozer toy

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    Pull-along hippo

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    Baby forest fox ride-on

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    The new top 100 American baby names, according to the Social Security office

    Did you have a baby in 2018? Did your name make the top 10?

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    [Editor's note: We know that being pregnant can be, well, a lot. And understanding what you really need versus what's just a nice-to-have takes time . With your needs in mind, we've selected the best products for pregnancy in The Motherly Shop. We've got you, mama.]

    No one can beat Emma when it comes to naming babies in America. This week the Social Security Administration announced its annual list of the most popular baby names in America and Emma has the top spot on the girls' side for the fifth year in a row. On the boys' side Liam took the top spot for a second consecutive year.

    According to the Social Security Administration, these were the top 20 baby names in America in 2018:

    Girls: Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella, Sophia, Charlotte, Mia, Amelia, Harper and Evelyn

    Boys: Liam, Noah, William, James, Oliver, Benjamin, Elijah, Lucas, Mason and Owen

    How do those top 10 lists compare to the top baby names of 2017? Well, the girls' list is nearly the same except that Mia and Charlotte switched spots, and Harper (a name that fell out of the top ten the previous year) is back and has ousted Abigail. On the boys' side, Lucas kicked Jacob out of the top 10.

    The real changes happened lower down in the data. Let's take a look at the popular baby names that were trending hard in 2018:

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