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On Mommy Burnout: Everything Changed During My Third Pregnancy

Photograph by Twenty20

Imagine you have spent months, maybe even years, praying for something to happen in your life. Every day you were wishing you could rearrange the circumstances of your life so that things could be different, so you could have that one thing that would make you happy.

And then, you got that one thing, but ended up completely burnt out six months in.

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This was my life several months ago. Ever since I became pregnant with my now 4-year-old daughter, I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to quit my job and focus all of my energy on spending each and every day raising her. It took nearly three years for me to get that wish, when I finally established myself as a freelancer, which gave me the flexibility to stay home with my daughter and her new baby sister during the day.

But within six months of being at home full-time, I had a serious case of mommy burnout. I was beyond tired of waking up throughout the night to encourage both girls to go back to sleep, of spending nap time writing or returning emails instead of resting, of running out the door as soon as my girls fell asleep at night so I could catch up on work at a coffee shop.

I wanted to love everything about being a stay-at-home mom, but I was mostly tired of it.

Every night, I was falling asleep swearing I was going to be a better mom tomorrow. Tomorrow I would be more present, spend more time playing with them and less time hurrying them to get dressed. Tomorrow I would stop quietly obsessing about squeezing my work in or when I would get a nap. There would only be half an hour of screen time, instead of our new normal hour and a half.

There would be field trips and magic and a happy mom, dammit.

But then, the next day would come and someone would wake up way too early. A toddler would scream through breakfast or I would lose my cool before my kids were even dressed for the day. I wanted to love everything about being a stay-at-home mom, but I was mostly tired of it.

To add insult to injury, I felt like I was the only one who felt this way. Even though I knew better, I would log onto Instagram and see a world of moms loving their life and looking really good doing it. How was this mom with 40,000 followers so delightful, with her fresh cooked, farmer’s market meals and trendy shoes while I was struggling to get out of my pajamas before 10 a.m. and screwing up a box of mac 'n' cheese once a week?

Of course, this isn’t where it ends. In January, I found out I was unexpectedly expecting our third child and basically let everything fall apart. I was so sick and so tired during my first trimester, and the burnout I was experiencing was only compounded by these things.

Surprisingly, that is when things finally started to get better because I stopped trying so dang hard. I stopped aiming to be a rockstar mom and happily settled for being an OK mom because it was the only thing I had the energy for during my first trimester. There was no magic or field trips; there was just me in the bathroom puking or laying on the couch while my kids found ways to entertain themselves.

There was no obsessing over home cooked meals, playdates or adventures because getting everyone dressed and fed each day felt like I was knocking it out of the park.

The first trimester of this third pregnancy was one of the more depressing seasons of my life, but it was totally one of the best things that ever happened to me.

When the worst of the first trimester started to taper off, I realized I had been forced to create a new normal for my life as a mom. My kids had just spent a couple of months entertaining themselves, watching a little too much TV and eating scrambled eggs or sandwiches most nights of the week. They were not only OK—they were happy and healthy. And as for me, I was no longer burnt out. I was no longer feeling depressed, anxious or inadequate. Instead, I felt more confident than ever that I am an OK mom.

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Now that I am feeling better, I am not spending much time napping on the couch. I am living with much lower expectations of myself. Some days, we go for adventures and some days we each snacks and watch a movie. Some nights, I try a new recipe because I feel like it, but when I am feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, we opt for sandwiches or takeout.

I am a happier mom because I stopped parenting the way I thought I should be and started parenting in whatever way works best for me. As it turns out, my kids seem to be happier too with the slightly more chill and more available version of me.

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