How to Help Mom Burnout: It’s Time to Stop Calling Mom’s Superheroes

Mental Health, Postpartum Care

Mom burnout is on the rise. It’s time to show up for moms with the support they deserve. 

Last Mother’s day the Canadian Women’s Foundation made national headlines with startling research showing that many mothers were nearing their breaking point.


          • Almost half of moms (48%) reported they were reaching their breaking point
          • 67% of mothers reported they are now concerned about their physical health compared to the year prior (55%)
          • A different 2022 peer reviewed meta-analysis revealed that approximately 1 in 4 mothers of young children have been experiencing clinically significant depression and 1 in 2 mothers are experiencing anxiety during the past few years.

 Mom burnout is on the rise

This year, here at Care for Women, we’ve witnessed this first hand through the substantial increase of applications to our program designed to support new moms; compared to April 2022, in 2023 we have seen a 444% increase in applications. We have now reached the maximum amount of applications we can take for 2023 – unless more donors step forward to help support more new moms.

It’s only May and we’ve been overwhelmed by the number of applications from pregnant women looking for postpartum support.

The research and number of applications to our program show the dire lack of support for new moms, which can have very real and sometimes long-lasting consequences for both mother and baby.

To help support more mothers through one of the most vulnerable and critical periods of parenting – the first four weeks postpartum, we need help from the community with more donations.

Mothers are superheroes, but they need help.

Symptoms of mom burnout

Mom burnout is usually defined as a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, where ongoing stressors deplete energy resources.

Some symptoms of mom burnout can include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Persistent exhaustion
  • Feelings of anger or frequent yelling
  • Having negative interactions with your kids
  • Negative self-talk

To be clear, mom burnout isn’t just a buzzword, burnout is a very real emotional and biological condition that can lead to or occur in conjunction with anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.

How to help mom burnout

This year we’re hoping to call more attention to the fact that more than ever, moms don’t need to be told they’re superheroes, they need the village of support they deserve. 

For example, there’s the story of Alana, a new mom who applied for support through Care for Women when she was 31 weeks pregnant and expecting her second child. Not only was she experiencing a challenging pregnancy, but her partner was unable to take any time off work when the baby arrived. Upon delivery, Alana and her partner separated. Her Care for Women mentor was there for her and was able to drive her to medical appointments, help care for her older son and help with household tasks. Now these two women have developed a strong friendship, but there are so many other stories, just like Alana who don’t have the village of support they deserve.

As a Registered Clinical Counsellor who specializes in trauma and child development I know first hand, through my clinical work as well as the research, the long-term poor outcomes that can occur – such as a high ACE score later in life – when moms don’t have the support they need.

Poor outcomes such as – postpartum depression, poor mother-infant interactions, high ACEs can be greatly reduced or altogether prevented with social support. 

Below are three steps family, friends and colleagues can take to support a mom who may be burned out:

1. Take a new mom out for a gentle walk around the block – away from the house and kids.

Research shows that spending time with people and walking are both critical to
improving both mental and physical wellness.

2. Deliver food and freezer meals to their doorstep – many moms are overwhelmed by the daily workload that comes with parenting. Taking a task like cooking off of their hands is a practical support that will lighten the load and save them time.

3. Schedule in time to hold/watch their kids – it can be hard for moms to ask for help, and most often don’t look for childcare unless they need it for something like an appointment. Taking “me time” away from the kids can cause mom guilt. Schedule in time to watch the kids with the only catch that the mom needs to take time for themselves!

Here at Care for Women we know that many new moms don’t have the village they deserve. We exist to support new moms during those challenging first few weeks after a baby comes home.

This year we’re working to raise $15,000 to create villages for 50 new moms! Together, with you, we can.

Learn more about the work we do, the moms we serve and consider donating today:

A hiking mom watching her children explore nature

What is the criteria for being a "good mom"?

For our children to develop a secure attachment to us they need to experience feeling seen, soothed and safe. Renowned psychiatrist  Dr. Daniel Seigel, calls these the 3S’s of secure attachment

It is so easy for moms to heap on the guilt for having natural human emotions and experiences, such as being tired, worn out, wanting space, or feeling angry or disappointed. 

If I had to sum up the criteria for what all the books and research indicates about being a good mom is: show up with presence (much easier said than done), allow your humanity to come through, while being the adult to your children. Now before you roll your eyes and dismiss that as a cliche answer, allow me to elaborate because it can be very hard to put into practice. 

The more you push away or deny your lived experience of feeling tired, bored, sad, disappointed, angry, or lost, the harder living life will be.

Also Read: Get more information about the effects of mom burnout here. 

"Good enough" mothering

You don’t have to be all things to your children at all times. 

There are so many nights I have checked on my sleeping kids before going to bed myself, and felt a wave of regret for all the ways I wasn’t a great mother to them that day. 

It’s a common experience for many parents. What is important about this regret, or disappointment with how we behaved, is that it illustrates that we cannot be the parent we always want to be. The reality is that children will thrive without us being superheroes.

What they need is for us to show up with presence

And too many parents are not present. I’m not suggesting we need to be present all the time, that’s not realistic or developmentally necessary for children, but when we do talk to our kids, or answer their questions, or read them a story, or nurse them – too often we are distracted (often with technology) and it impacts our ability to attune to our kids. 

Children can thrive without many things in life, but not without a present parent. 

Accept your humanity. You aren’t perfect and you can strive to grow; it’s not an either/or situation but a both/and. 

The paradox is that when we accept our own humanity and lived experiences, it becomes easier to accept our children’s reality and accompanying emotions. 

This doesn’t mean you have to like your newborn’s cries or child’s anger. It simply means that your child’s emotions are varied and will come and go, and that instead of creating judgements around which ones are acceptable to you, you are able to accept they have a different reality than you. 

When we practice this daily, deep acceptance for how we feel (remember, acceptance is different than liking something) or what our children feel we can: 

  • Become less triggered and have more capacity to be curious about what is driving our children’s behaviour (are they hangry, tired, scared, disappointed, are they off their rocker because their brain is developmentally immature and needs help?)
  • Differentiate our reality from their reality (our child may be upset but we have greater ability to not be sucked into their vortex of chaos). For example, say something to ourselves such as, “My child is disappointed and having a hard time, but their reality is different than mine. I am not experiencing their disappointment.”

  • Reframe a hard situation – hearing crying or fighting can be highly distressing and exhausting but it won’t last forever.

When you learn to accept your humanity – which can be a long process of healing depending on your upbringing – you develop greater capacity to accept your children’s humanity and hopefully see your children for who they are, soothe them when they are in distress and help them feel safe.

If that sounds foreign or hard, perhaps spend time exploring your internal world with a trusted  loved one, a crew of mom friends, or a mental health professional.


What to do when you are struggling

I hope it’s clear that “motherhood nature” isn’t a fixed state or trait. Our motherhood nature can change and grow. 

I want to reiterate, work on letting go of perfection. There is a tension that all parents need to balance in striving to grow and become the best parents they can, while acknowledging their shortcomings. We all have shortcomings. You are a human not a robot, that is what makes you interesting. 

You have an attachment history that has deeply impacted you the person you are today; most parents are doing the best they can with the tools they have. 

Though we all struggle as parents, it’s so much worse to do it alone. We are wired to be in relationships with others and we need friends and seasoned mothers come alongside us for encouragement, guidance, and relief. 

If you are struggling, connect with social media accounts like Diary of an Honest Mom, The Good Mutha, Raising Yourself, or Lindsey Gurk to normalize your experience and hopefully feel a little less alone. 

If you are struggling, you are being a good mom by getting help; you are not weak. There are many resources available on the Canadian Mental Health Association.

If you are struggling as a parent from traumatic events you had as a child, check out Complex Trauma Resources to begin the process of healing. . 

Part of healing means making connections with a village of mom friends who have got your back, and who may be struggling with the same parenting challenges and life experiences that you are. If you are going to be a new mom and you don’t have a village of support around you, make sure you apply for care here

Put it into perspective: you are raising humans

Every difficult stage of parenting can feel like it takes forever. The first step to shifting your perspective is to think not about the difficulty of your present moment, but to consider the bigger picture.

Imagine yourself 5 years from now by asking yourself these question:

  • How old will your child(ren) be? 
  • How old will you be? 
  • What stage of life will you be in? 
  • Who will be in your life?
  • Who may not be in your life?
  • How would you like to have grown as a person?

One of the best pieces of advice my parents gave me was, “this too shall pass.” The stages of our children won’t last forever. The sleepless nights will one day be over. The behaviour of siblings chucking toys at each other will not endure. 

Being a mother is one of the hardest things you will ever do. It will change you – and it should. The experiences change you forever, in so many deep and meaningful ways. I believe if you allow it to transform you, it changes you for the better. 

Your motherhood nature will change as you change. 

Embrace the complexities and nuance, learn and strive to grow while honouring your humanity. And above all,  find other mothers who will walk-alongside you to be a source of strength and support. You were never meant to do it alone. 

Help us to support more mothers! Donate now to ensure that every new mom has a village of support around her when she has a new baby to care for. 

Written by Renae Regehr

Renae Regehr is a mom to 4 kiddos, co-founder of Care For Women and a Registered Clinical Counsellor who works primarily with children, youth and families who have been impacted by trauma and attachment disruptions.

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