Last Updated on March 21, 2024

When our 5 kids were little I ran away. Well not exactly, but I do remember standing by the front door at the end of a horrible, rainy day of being cooped up with sick toddlers, fighting siblings, a hormonal pre- teen and a hormonal and burned out me

With my coat on and purse in hand, I watched for his car to pull in the driveway.  Greeting him at the door, I exclaimed, “They are all screaming, they are all yours; I am running away.”  And I did. I went to the mall where I walked around in utter silence for about 3 hours and no one spoke to me or pulled on any of my body parts or needed me right now!

Ah bliss.

I was overwhelmed, exhausted and tottering on the edge of “mama burnout.”   Since then I’ve learned a few tricks that will help us when we feel like we’re about to burn out!

How to avoid burnout as a mom

1. Learn to see life in terms of seasons.  

Every season has challenges unique to that season and every season has blessings unique to the season. We need to be honest about the challenges but then choose to focus on the blessings.  A challenge of the little years is monotony. Routine caring of little ones gets boring and is never finished!

You wake up the next day to the same things. However, little kids say the funniest things. When our daughter Libby at age 4 saw the ocean for the first time she exclaimed, “Mama, it’s too full you need to let some of it out.” Write down the funny things your kids say. It’s a blessing of this season. Teenagers don’t say funny things. This season will pass.

2. Do something crazy.

One of my big events in bad weather was to go to a mall and ride the escalators. Now you can go to a mall and play at an indoor playground. Declare a crazy dress-up day. Dress up in the wildest costumes you can make from clothes in the house.

Put make up on everyone. Paint toes and fingers crazy colors and eat green eggs. Or blue pancakes.  Craziness relieves monotony and makes a day fun instead of merely an endurance race.

3. Restore perspective.

Part of burn out comes because our world gets too insular. It’s about us and our kids and our needs.  It helps to do something totally unrelated to us. Go to a museum. Rent head phones and really study the paintings. Or go to an interesting lecture or demonstration.

Don’t discuss your kids. You’ll need to get a baby sitter for your children but you will come home a refreshed Mom with a restored perspective. Life isn’t all about us.

4. Find an older mentor.

I will be forever grateful to Edith, my next door neighbor. An elderly widow she saved me in my years of parenting little ones. Many times I ran across my front yard, sometimes barefoot in pj’s and knocked on her door. When she opened it, I’d burst into tears. “Edith, I am the worst mother and wife in the world..,”

Sweet Edith would take me in her arms, sit me on her couch and say, “You are not the worst Mom or wife.  It’s just this season in your life. It will pass. You will be alright.” Edith gave me perspective because she was older. She had been there. She understood.

5. Have girl friends in the same season.

Too often we look to our husband to understand, to empathize, to meet our needs for affirmation and appreciation. Sometimes we can look to others to meet needs that they were not created to meet.

We should be going to God first and some girlfriends second. A husband just won’t “get” what it was like to wipe poop off the bathroom walls, pick up cereal under the table, separate wrestling boys…and then do it all over again. We need a friend in the same season whom we can call and say, You won’t believe what my 3 year old just did! She will! And she’ll comfort you and laugh with you.

Oh how we need to laugh with other women. Pray for God to give you some women who make you laugh and seek to reach out to some other young Moms who may be on the verge of burnout too! Invite some to your home for a time together. Tell your grossest stories. Pray for each other.

6. Don’t neglect your husband.  

It’s all too easy in this season to think. “I’ll work on my marriage when life calms down.” But the reality is that life doesn’t calm down. It will just become more complicated with more options. We have to work on our marriages along the way if we want to have a relationship later, and we have to be intentional about this. It will not just happen.

If we want our kids to have strong marriages one day they need to see us working on ours now. Marriage takes time and work. Set aside a regular date night to go out alone with your husband just to have fun. Let a sitter deal with the dinner, bed and bath routine. If you wait until you get them down you’ll be too tired to go out. Instead meet him somewhere after work.

This is not the time to discuss difficult issues. Instead it’s the time to nurture a marriage friendship. Swap babysitting with a friend. Plan at least 2 times a year that you can get away alone for a couple of over nights.

7. Do one thing each day that is not merely maintenance. 

Moms of young children are frustrated. At the end of the day when we look back we don’t feel like we accomplished very much.  I found that I loved to mow the grass! It was the only thing I did that lasted more than 24 hours.

And it was instant progress!  It helps to have one small accomplishment outside of the usual laundry, cooking, nose wiping each day. Clean out one cabinet, write a note or postcard to someone to say,” I’m thinking about you today and I miss you.”  Cook something for a friend who needs a “pick me up.” Doing something for someone outside your immediate family is a blessing and it teaches your kids to care for others.

8. Get exercise. 

It’s not a luxury; it’s your mental health. The hours of 4-7pm are “arsenic hours.” You feel like you’d like to give it or take it! You are tired, they are tired and you just don’t know how you are going to get through the next couple of hours until they are in bed. 

I used to grab a teen in the neighborhood and ask them to watch my kids for 20 minutes so I could go for a run.  No, I never felt like going and often I went on the verge of tears. But inevitability it gave me the lift I needed to get through the next few hours. 

Our daughter had 5 kids in 2 years including a set of quads. One of the things that has saved her this year is regular exercise even if it’s a brisk walk alone for 25 minutes when her husband gets home.

9. Spend time in God’s word. 

You might not have much time but you can make a little time.  It helps to make this the first priority of your day otherwise you are not likely to get to it. For years I’ve read a Psalm and a Proverb every day.

One day I read Psalm 144:2. “He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield in whom I take refuge; who subdues peoples under me. “ 

Lord subdue these 5 little people today– PLEASE! is still written in the margin on that page. I do believe God has a sense of humor.

 10. Remember God chose your family. 

God has given us the exact children in the exact birth order with the exact personalities not merely so that we can raise them but in order for them to be His tools in our lives to grow us up into the women He has created us to be.

He gave us that strong willed toddler, that child we just don’t “’get,” that one with disabilities. Every child is a gift from God and He will use each one in our lives for good if we let Him. It’s helpful to ask, “God, what are you teaching me through this special child of mine?”

Last of all moms, remember this: God is full of mercy and full of grace. And He is always faithful. He will see you through this motherhood journey and there is always relief and hope for your burnout when you turn to Him.

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  1. Oh my goodness! I started to laugh at that last line of the first paragraph and it came out as a sob! This is so where I’m at right now. I just cried and cried as I read it. Part of my challenge is that we only have one vehicle right now, so on days that I really NEED to take the kids out or get out myself, I can’t while my husband’s at work. We live in an itty-bitty town of about 450 people (spread out) with no local park. I’m surrounded by challenges – and blessings, yes! However, on days like today those blessings are hard to see. Thank you for helping me feel normal! Thank you for the encouragement! Wish you could come over to my house for lunch today! Thank you.

    1. Oh sweet Kate, I am praying for you today! For God to encourage you in a special way!
      Thanks so much for writing. You are normal!
      Love, Susan

  2. April Jones says:

    I can so relate in my season of life with a 7, 4, almost 2—-all boy life!!!! Great article…can't wait for part 2!

    1. Thanks April! You are dear to comment. That means so much!
      Have a great day with those boys!
      Blesssings, Susan

  3. Thank you Susan! I needed to read this today.. After bursting into tears a record 4 times today, I really could use some help dealing with burnout on account of my 4 year old triplets – all boys! God bless you..

    1. Oh my Sheena! Triplets! Our daughter has quads and has a blog apartoftheparty@wordpress. com.
      You two are in similar places! You can identify:)

  4. I've been seeking and longing for these exact comforting words. I am in this season, and I wonder if the sun will shine again before I am too exhausted to see it. Thank you for sharing your heart. I feel completely alone at times, though engulfed by precious little people. God is good. Bless you.

    1. Dear Jess,
      The sun will shine again! You are not alone!
      Bless you,

  5. I am sharing this with ALL my mommy friends who are in the same season as I am. I have three little ones ages 4,2 and 9 months and let me tell you something, I plot to run around the block ten times screaming most days.. lol.

    Great blog-post! WOW! And you're right about every single thing you've listed.

    Thanks, Susan!

    1. Thank you Kennisha…
      You make me laugh. Just think of all the mommies we're about to seee running around the block for sanity!

    1. Suanna,
      If you think you are crazy there are thousands of us who really are! You are normal:)
      Blessings, susan

  6. Nina Shevchuk says:

    Thank you so much for those words. A few moments ago I felt like I’m the only one going through something like that having 6 kids (9,8,6,4,3 and 1 years of age) I felt like I’m just going in circles, trying to keep up with everything like cleaning, I just realized that its not so much important as to save some voice and energy and go do something fun.

  7. Thanks so much for this. I have been going through a lot with kids and marriage probs. This is a relief to know that others are experiencing the same thing and that men really don't and can't help us the same way that we need them. I put that on my husband a lot and on finding an older mentor that is so true. Thanks and I can't wait to read the rest. Thanks a ton…. Tis the season to relax and enjoy life, kids, and our husbands!!!!

  8. My husband is the one taking care of our little 2 yr old girl since early last year, following him getting laid off of his job. I do wish there were more men out there that he could call upon to share his frustrations and thoughts on the life of a stay at home dad…i alwasy forward this type of materials to him- as he is the one with the 'dad' burn out…all these things are so true and helpful though!

  9. Thank you! I have had 5 kids in 6 years, and currently have a deployed husband. We are all definitely in burnout mode. There have been lots of tears all around this week. We're doing something crazy tomorrow (if I can think of something good:) These kiddos need something fun!

  10. I'm a single mom juggling a fulltime job, a shih tzu and a very sweet 5-yr old daughter. Unlike the other parents commenting on your article, I only have one child and I feel a tad guilty that I would even complain of a "mama burnout" but reality is I do. One of my greatest challenges right now is time management – getting to school on time, getting dinner ready early enough, getting her to bed on time, etc, that everything I do with her is just on a rush mode. My daughter (just like any other kid her age) is very expressive and she likes to narrate to me events that happened, her thoughts about certain things and many a times I have to stop her and tell her to tell me 'later" just to get things moving. Tip #1 really resonated with me. Thank you for putting things in perspective.

    1. i totally identify! I have a 4 and a half year old, getting married in 2 months, my brother died at 32 in December 2011. Very high stress, demanding job, and my dd4 is the toughest, most ornery, stubborn fart i have ever seen. I was literally sobbing today, which i never do in front of her, and she was poking at me, smiling and giggling. I have seriously wondered if she has some sort of disconnect?! I wanted to run away for days, today. Can’t deal with it all!

  11. Thank you so much for tapping into exactly what I feel. My husband thinks it is terrible when I say, “I want to run away!” I am so glad other moms feel the same frustration and you are willing to share! It allows me to give myself more grace during those stressful times AND more grace is what we all need, right!? Smiling instead of crying:). Thank you Jesus for ministering to me thru Susan!