Substance Use

Mom Burnout & Substance Abuse: What You Need to Know

There isn’t just one single aspect of parenting today that you can point your finger at and say, “that’s the cause of mom burnout.” In the busy, stressful world of a mother (or another caregiver to children), just about every aspect of contemporary parenting life creates conditions for stress.

From juggling the demands placed on a working mom to trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations set by social media, the stresses of being a mom are real and they take a toll on mental health. Add in a pandemic and the feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation that many parents experience— especially new moms — and it’s easy to see why mom burnout is so prevalent. Even more concerning? Many moms are turning to drugs and alcohol to deal with the seemingly endless stressors that come with parenting in the 21st century.

What is Mom Burnout?

Mom burnout sometimes called depleted mother syndrome, is the feeling of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of fulfillment caused by intense child care demands. Burnout is the result of too much stress and a lack of resources for coping with it. While both moms and dads can experience burnout, it is more common among women because parenting responsibilities tend to fall disproportionately on moms, even when they also work full-time outside of the home.

What Does Mommy Burnout Feel Like?

Women often report the following symptoms of mom burnout:

  • Extreme feelings of exhaustion, both physical and mental

  • Feelings of detachment from their children, their partner, and their friends and family

  • Having “mom guilt” about their behaviors, feelings, or thoughts

  • Feeling emotionally drained

  • Inability to ask for support from loved ones

  • Extreme feelings of inadequacy in parenting or other areas of life

  • Being short-tempered

  • Questioning life decisions and even regretting having kids

  • Acting violent or neglectful toward their children

When Mom Burnout Leads to Substance Abuse

It is increasingly common for women to turn to drugs and alcohol in an effort to deal with the chronic stress of mom life. Anyone with a history of substance use disorder is at a higher risk of relapse when they are dealing with other mental health issues, including burnout. But mom burnout increases this risk even if you have never dealt with addiction issues before. What may start as a glass of wine at the end of the day to unwind, can quickly escalate to binge drinking and substance use disorder.

When you are using drugs or alcohol to cope with the stresses of everyday life, you can easily lose the ability to control how much and when you are using. This can lead to unsafe behavior that could endanger you and your children. If you feel that your drug or alcohol use has become a problem, there is help available. Talk to your doctor or therapist about substance use disorder treatment.

How to Manage Mom Burnout Without Drugs and Alcohol

According to the American Psychological Association, as many as 5 million parents in the U.S. experience burnout each year. If you find yourself wondering, “how can I get over my mom burnout?”, there are steps you can take to manage your stress and improve your physical and mental well-being without turning to drugs and alcohol.

Take Time for Self-Care

When you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take on other caregiving responsibilities in your life? Finding time for yourself can be especially hard for stay-at-home moms and single moms who feel like they never have any downtime. Find a babysitter you trust to give you a break when you need it.

Self-care means taking care of your mental, physical, emotional, and social needs. Make and keep your regular doctor and dental visits, schedule time to see a therapist, make time to meet up with friends, exercise, or just be by yourself.

Prioritize Sleep

This may seem impossible for moms of a new baby who have to wake up with their little one multiple times a night, or moms of young children who wake very early. Make it a point to go to bed early or share nighttime duty with a partner to ensure that you get a good night's sleep. For single moms, don’t be afraid to ask friends or family for help overnight.

Suppose you are a mom of a teen who just started driving or a college student who loves to stay out late. In that case, it can be challenging to get a good night’s rest when your kids aren’t home and you’re worrying. To counteract this, it’s essential to set up clear expectations with your teens like:

  • Curfews

  • Communication protocols

  • Check-in times and methods

  • Emergency plans and additional contacts

Simple preemptive steps can help you rest a bit easier and longer when your teen is out of the house.

Limit Social Media

Scrolling your Instagram or Facebook feed can lead to comparison and feelings of inadequacy. The supermoms you see on social media are only showing you their best moments, so don’t compare yourself to these impossible standards. Social media has a place, but consider taking a break if you feel like it is contributing to your stress.

Talk to Others

Finding a friend who can relate to what you are going through can be very therapeutic. Spending time with other women who have also asked themselves if it is normal to be tired of being a mom, or wondered whether they are a good mom, can help wash away feelings of shame and guilt.

Learn New Parenting Skills

Whether you’re the mom of a newborn baby or a college student, it’s never too late to learn new parenting skills. As your children grow and your relationships evolve, you’ll experience new life stages and challenges.

Read a book or take a class to learn how to better handle stressful situations with your kids. Learning techniques to stay calm when you are pushed to your limits can eliminate the shame spiral that often results when you lose your cool.

If you are concerned about mom burnout, and your drug or alcohol use is increasing as a result, Caron can help. Contact Caron today to learn about our comprehensive treatment programs.

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