In a society that prioritizes work over rest, productivity over peace, and output over joy, burnout has become a badge of honor—and mothers suffer the most.
Wearing my exhaustion as a symbol of pride happened much before I became a mother. It started in high school where I would fill my plate so full with volunteer commitments and physical activity pursuits. This behavior continued into University where I would pull countless all-nighters studying for exams, working a part-time job, and trying to manage a full course load. As a young adult starting my career, working overtime to impress my colleagues, and helping out in the community as much and as often as my schedule allowed. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized this behavior was slowly breaking me down.
All my life, society has taught me that rest is for the weak and lazy, and to be successful is to constantly put in the work, day after day, week after week. When I became a mother, this message of burnout absorbed into me so deep I was struggling to keep my head above water. I wanted so desperately to be a good mother and to be a good mother, it must mean I must take care of everyone else before myself. After all, good mothers prioritize others. Good mothers are selfless. Good mothers make choices based on the needs of others and not themselves.
I often got praised when I expressed I was up all night with my newborn, managed to get my two toddlers to Preschool on time, cleaned the house, did the laundry, got supper on the table, got the kids to sleep, cleaned the house (again) all before putting my head on the pillow. As I lay in bed, so exhausted, I would wonder if I even ate breakfast or lunch, finished a hot cup of coffee, or moved my body in a way that didn’t include running after my kids.
I recently read a post on Instagram that resonated with me, @KatyLeeson wrote, “We NEED to stop glamourizing overworking. Please. The absence of sleep, good diet, exercise, relaxation, and time with friends and family isn’t something to be applauded. Too many people wear “the burnout” as a badge of honor. And it needs to change”.
I remember thinking, YES…what she said! We need to stop making mothers feel that, in order to be classified as a good mother, they must work themselves to exhaustion. Stop expecting mothers to give everything to everyone, and leave themselves completely behind. Stop telling mothers they are selfish because they take time away from their children to exercise or spend time with friends. We, as mothers, need to start changing the narrative. We need to encourage our parenting friends to take time for themselves. Applaud them when they tell you they registered in an evening spin class or booked a kid-free girls weekend away. And when they tell you they can’t remember the last time they had a hot bath in peace or exercised, remind them that they matter too and taking care of themselves is just as important as taking care of their little people.
So Mama’s, can we please just take the badges off.
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