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Maternal Burnout: Admitting You Can't Be Ashamed - Society
Maternal Burnout: Admitting You Can't Be Ashamed - Society

Video: Maternal Burnout: Admitting You Can't Be Ashamed - Society

Video: Maternal Burnout: Admitting You Can't Be Ashamed - Society
Video: Healthcare Provider Burnout 2023, March

The topic of maternal burnout has long remained out of sight of researchers. Even today, women who declare negative feelings about their own motherhood are accused of “infantility”, “egocentrism” and even “narcissistic defect” - and these are certified psychologists

Burn out "by vocation"

People are "simpler" and are not at all shy in expressions, describing in different ways the inferiority of women who experience feelings from parenting that are at least slightly different from affection and delight. Is it surprising that mothers are not too willing to be frank about their own "negative" feelings for themselves and their child?

The phenomenon of burnout has been studied relatively recently in modern psychology. In 1974, psychiatrist Herbert Freudenberg first used the term burnout to describe the emotional state of nurses who were forced to deal with dozens of patients every day. Gradually, psychologists began to investigate the manifestations of burnout in representatives of other professions.

It turned out that people who, due to their professional duties, have to maintain close contact with others for a long time, be responsible for their safety or health, often feel emptiness and loss of their own “I”, devalue their own abilities and achievements. All this is extremely similar to the revelations of many young mothers - usually anonymous, but appearing more and more often, is not it? According to research data, one in five mothers 1 suffers from burnout symptoms, but due to public pressure, this problem remains hidden from widespread discussion.

What did this lead to? In professional industries, where the risk of burnout is high - law enforcement agencies and the Ministry of Emergency Situations, communication with "problem" clients, social work, charity - psychologists work with specialists, trainings are carried out to prevent emotional exhaustion, if necessary, employees can receive assistance to restore mental balance and etc. It is quite obvious for the state and business that the effectiveness of employees depends not only on their qualifications, but also on the psychological state, motivation and availability of internal resources.

Do mothers receive similar assistance? Alas, no: in Russia there is no system of perinatal psychological support for women. At the state level, voiced the idea that motherhood - it does not work and vocation, so that neither the material nor the social support to women who gave birth to first child, allegedly did not need 2.

It is curious that the same situation is observed in other professional spheres, whose representatives are often reminded of their high calling: education and medicine 3. But if the job can be changed as a last resort, then it is impossible to “resign” from motherhood: even a voluntary renunciation of parental rights does not relieve women of their obligations to the child 4.

Myths and facts

Burnout stereotypes - common but misconceptions about this phenomenon - can seriously complicate the lives of new mothers. First, they encourage women who voice their problems to receive a portion of accusations and condescending moralizing instead of real support. Secondly, the mothers themselves, when faced with the symptoms of burnout, do not recognize them as a problem that requires immediate referral to a specialist, but slip into self-flagellation and withdraw into themselves, which only aggravates the situation.

Here are some common myths about maternal burnout:

  • "This is all from idleness and laziness!"

    Everything is exactly the opposite: emotional burnout is accompanied by a sharp devastation, when there is no strength even to get out of bed. Since, as a rule, they are in no hurry to free a woman from routine affairs, a vicious circle arises: attempts to cope with everyday life consume the last resources, unfulfilled cases accumulate, but forces are needed to eliminate them, which are nowhere to be taken. From the side of a person who does not want to delve into the well-being of a woman, it looks like “she’s completely lazy, she doesn’t even wash the dishes”. This position only gives rise to new useless accusations.

  • "Good mothers don't have any burnout."

    In fact, it happens with completely different ones: for those who became mothers unplanned, and for those who fought for a long time for the appearance of a baby, and even for those who gave birth to a second, third or fifth child. It is impossible to predict how the psyche will react to the changed living conditions. No amount of theoretical training guarantees that a woman will not burn out when faced with the many risks and problems that motherhood carries.

  • "Maternal burnout occurs only in the first year of a baby's life."

    This is not so, it often manifests itself in mothers with respect to older children. Fatigue and lack of sleep accumulate, crises of the child's development arise, new responsibilities are added, for example, combining motherhood and household affairs with work, interaction with educational institutions. All this can contribute to the depletion of a woman's psychological resources.

  • "These are all newfangled trends, our mothers and grandmothers did not suffer like that."

    Alas, they suffered, and how! Only at that time it was pointless to complain about exhaustion - in the best case, you could get a reprimand, they say, "such is the female lot", at worst - accusations that you are unworthy to be called the proud word "mother" (and to be honest, something many mothers hear this even now). So our mothers and grandmothers earned money from chronic illnesses and long-term undiagnosed depression. Not the best tradition, right?

Ways of help

What should a mom do if she is faced with the problem of parental burnout? The most important thing is to acknowledge that she urgently needs help. "By itself" burnout almost never goes away, but it can develop into clinical depression or neurosis quite easily. Where can you find the support you need?

1. Public or private psychological centers

Depending on the financial condition of the family, women can seek the support of a psychologist from municipal institutions in their city or from specialists in private practice.

2. "Helplines" and crisis centers

In difficult life situations, mothers can call the numbers of regional or federal services that provide telephone counseling or provide targeted assistance to socially unprotected citizens.

3. Friends, Relatives and Family Members

Sometimes it can be very difficult to write directly: "I need help!" However, it is often the most effective way to get support from loved ones. According to the principle “with the world on a string”, small actions can create such an important “respite” for the mother.

4. Babysitters and au pair

Paid babysitting, cleaning, cooking and so on are good for their predictability: the mother knows exactly when and to what extent she will receive help, and has the ability to control its quality. If there is a material opportunity to delegate part of the routine for at least a few hours a week, it should be used.

5. Internet communities

There are several groups of parental mutual support on social networks - in them you can often not only speak out and get sympathy, but also find real legal, psychological, and in some cases physical assistance.

The worst thing for a woman suffering from maternal burnout is to be alone with her misfortune. The alienation that results from misunderstanding or judgments from others exacerbates the isolation, which is almost inevitable for a mother on maternity leave - and therefore further reduces the chances of receiving help.

If you suspect that a woman from your environment is approaching this dangerous state, do not leave her alone! If possible, offer specific help: take a walk with the stroller while the young mother sleeps, bring ready-made food, or just listen and talk about something not related to "baby" topics.

Take care of your loved ones!


  1. Séjourné N. et al. Maternal burn-out: an exploratory study // Journal of reproductive and infant psychology. 2018. V. 36. No. 3. P. 276–288. URL: (date accessed: 16.03.2019).
  2. “Any sane woman tries to give birth - physiology calls her to this”: Kaluga governor on the increase in demography // Official website of the TV channel “Dozhd”. 2019-14-02. URL: (date accessed: March 16, 2019).
  3. Gordon D. I. Medvedev: Being a teacher is a vocation. And if you want to earn money, there are tons of other great places // 2016-03-08. URL: (date accessed: 16.03.2019).
  4. Does a mother have to pay alimony for abandoning a child in a maternity hospital // URL: (date of access: 16.03.2019).

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