10 Mar
Burned Out Mom Needs More Than Starbucks

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I love my husband and my kids, but I am so burnt out. And more than “I need a half hour alone at Starbucks” burnt out.   But I can’t afford a getaway and don’t have reliable childcare. Any ideas on how I can recharge?


Burnt to a Crisp


Dear Burnt to a Crisp,

When you ask how to recharge, I assume you’re not a Stepford robot wife who lost her charging cable, but a real human wife who lost her wine bottle opener, which, of course, is a more dire situation than losing some stupid charging cord. But now that I think on it, I kind of wish I were a Stepford wife whose battery ran out of charge. It sounds like the perfect excuse to me right now.

Can you tell I need more than thirty minutes alone at Starbucks too? I’ve recently become a full-time stay-at-home mom again with a kid also back home full-time – the first time in five years. I’m so burnt out that our smoke alarms go off every time I walk by. (Not to be confused when the smoke alarms signal dinner is ready.)

What are we crispy mamas to do? I’m sitting here doing a lot of emotional eating and I can tell you it’s not helping, so scratch that off of the list of possible solutions. I’m not sure it’s possible for one burnt out wife/mother to help another. It’s not like I’ve had an epiphany that gives me new insight and wisdom. (Epiphany means “kids leave for college,” right?)

So let’s turn this over to our readers. Do we have any recovered burnouts? Tell us how you recharge as a wife and mother. But be warned! The first person to suggest a bubble bath gets heckled.


Heather, TMH

29 Responses to “Burned Out Mom Needs More Than Starbucks”


Comment by mixpisha.

Unfortunately I don’t have any suggestions, but maybe it will make you feel better to know that when I read, “half hour alone at Starbucks” I was instantly envious. I also use Starbucks as my one splurge, but I do it via the drive-thru. With both kids in the backseat. I don’t remember the last time I actually went inside a Starbucks and sat down…


Comment by NZ.

How old are the kids? Can you hire a teen, even a near teen, to come in and supervise them for an hour or two while your still home? Napping maybe. The key is getting the kids to accept her as authority though you are still in the house. You may have to go out the front door and nap in your car, like that mom in the car commercial.

Or, and this is hard to convince yourself you deserve and hard to justify to spouses. But if you don’t have reliable childcare, pay for some other kind of help. Someone to clean for an hour a week. Doesn’t seem like much but since they don’t have to be mom they can get a damned lot more done in an hour than you can, reducing your workload by twice or three times the time they are there.

More sleep helps so much.

NZ Reply:

And credit my answer to Leila at Like Mother Like Daughter. Don’t have link but that will get you there. She is a lovely resource for when another cup of coffee or glass of wine isn’t the solution.


Comment by Jen.

I’m a work outside the home mom who, outside of work, is ALWAYS there. I drop her off in the morning. I pick her up in the evening. I make her breakfast, lunch and dinner. I give her her baths. I put her to bed.

My hubby is a 53 yr old teenager (and if playing badminton in the house with my 7 yr old doesn’t prove it, I don’t know what would) who comes and goes as he pleases. I find this is not as bad as it seems since, if I divorce him, I will have to be there all the time too. So, to give myself a break, I have gone to some rather odd lengths.

1. I have begun allergy shots. This gives me anywhere from 40-75min alone, sitting in a waiting room with a good book.

2. Exercising. I have detested this before but now it is a wonderful escape. With my Android phone in hand, I watch a TV episode I missed because I was playing mom.

Are they the fun and exciting things in life? No. I feel like a human pin cushion after giving blood or having bloodwork done but … I’ve got a couple extra minutes to myself disguise as other more “appropriate” things. 🙂


Comment by Marinka, TMH.

My friend, who has three boys, recently had to get an MRI. She said that it was pure bliss, and the closest she’d been to a spa in years. She swore that it was relaxing.


Comment by hokgardner.

I’m going through burn-out too. I have four kids who have been taking turns being sick all weekend. I give myself some alone time by running early in the morning, before they’re awake. Yes, it means giving up precious sleep, but the benefits outweigh the tiredness. I’ve also started going to counselling. I view it as an investment in my future sanity.

And I complain to my friends. If nothing else, it reassures me that I’m not alone in my burn out.


Comment by Bean.

I have two thoughts: my kids go to a PT preschool run by a local church. It’s very PT (as few as 4 hours/week), cheap, and a happy place, and it gives me room to hear myself think. And you don’t have to attend church to have your kids there.

And church itself – the same school/church has child care/sunday school during the service. That’s an hour of peace, whether you’re in the sanctuary or sitting on a bench outside.

I am SO not looking forward to summer vacation.


Comment by skchord.

My daughter is 13mos, my son 14 yrs. We have another on the way in Aug. I am a full-time stay at home mom. While I was elated to learn we’d gotten pregnant again, I had a twinge of fear. My husband and I have had 1 date since my daughter was born. We just moved to our town when I was 6mos pregnant with my daughter and on bed rest. So I felt isolated, alone, and thanks to the USAF, when my daughter was 4mos her dad went away for 2 months to a school. I was Burnt out with a capital B. Recently, I hired a young girl as a babysitter so my husband and I could have date night. Sounds cliche but seriously, an hour and a half relaxing dinner with no highchair, no food or tantrum throwing, and being totally waited on, was heaven. We then went for ice cream and felt like teens again. Again, I know it’s cliche, but it does help me. Also, I joined a Mommy’s group and take the kids outside as much as possible…even to the park or zoo where they can run around. While I do this, I enjoy my gourmet iced coffee and relax in the sun on a bench. Good luck!!!


Comment by OldLadyInaShoe.

When I was at that level of burnout, I started a new routine. My kids go to bed at 7 and I go straight to the gym. Hubby can deal with the 3 year old who needs to get up 8 times to go potty before finally falling asleep. And I get to be alone working out my frustration at his inability to contribute to the household in any other way, while also losing weight. It’s awesome! And since working out only takes an hour, I still have an hour or two to run errands, relax at Starbucks, etc. before going home and going to bed.

MRI Reply:

That is one of the best ideas yet! I’m so envious!


Comment by Plano Mom.

I have always worked outside the home, with various child care options, so I can’t relate specifically to this situation. So I have no advice, only words of encouragement:

I am always in awe of any woman that can stay home and give 100% to being a Mom. I have always needed the break from that effort that work allowed me to have. It is a HUGE sacrifice of everything that belongs to you – your time, your energy, and even your identity. It is soul-sapping and I know that I do not have the ovaries to keep it up full time. Rock on, sister, and know that you are AWESOME.


Comment by MommyTime.

I signed up for ice skating lessons this year with my preschooler. Our local rink teaches all lessons at the same time, with different teachers taking the classes that are at different levels. It’s an hour/wk where I don’t focus on my daughter but rather on an activity I have wanted to do since *I* was a child. I’m so motivated that now I also go practice (alone) for at least one 2-hr session/wk. I smile a LOT more now.

You may not want to skate, but perhaps there is some other kind of class you could take: community colleges have photography and studio art classes that are very cheap and often run in the evenings; the YMCA has swimming lessons that may work like my skating ones do, so you and your child(ren) could go at the same time but you would still feel free of them; running stores organize running clubs. You could start a “mommy & me” book club through your local library and meet every other week to discuss a grown-up book with other mothers, while the kids play together in the next room. Basically, what I’m saying is that you need to find an *activity* that you are passionate about that is all about you; there are lots of ways to make that work even without childcare (maybe a kid trade with another mother, so that every Fri morning, you exchange kids & you each get two mornings/mo of alone time?)


Comment by Muffintopmommy.

Maybe this sounds obvious, but a night out with the girls or even night “in” with the girls (budget friendly!)….get some drinks, dinner, and just sit around talking and laughing….you just need to make sure the kids are stashed away and no one is bugging you! I honestly can’t even say how much that helps. I’m home all day with three little boys (hubs gets home around 7 and by then I’n babbling incoherently) and never pee alone, never finish a sentence, and pretty much eat standing up. And,my barely 2 y o doesn’t nap anymore (nervy, right?!). I go to the gym as much as I can, but sorry, it’s not my thing and to really relax, I need booze and laughter (instead of cardio and crying).

Power on, girlfriend!

Raleigh Mom Reply:

Oh how I’d love to have pure privacy and silence while I sit on the pot just once! 🙂

Elle's Mom Reply:

My friends and I occasionally have dessert parties. Sometimes it can be too tough for families to break up for dinner time, so we get together at 8 after all the kiddies are in bed and Daddies are home from work (most of my girlfriends and I are teachers) and we meet at someone’s house with a bottle of wine or dessert (chocolate most appreciated).

Crazy Lady Reply:

I haven’t been to the bathroom by myself in 15 years! Now the new dog joins my two toddlers and 14 year old who just can’t seem to live without me long enough for me to pee. I also gave up making friends to have these five children of mine.

I even have school full-time but have to do it all online since we have too many kids for me to actually go to class, which is double the work of a normal class.

I am giving some serious thought to the allergy shot recommendation above!


Comment by Mandy.

My husband just left for a week and I felt like a terrible wife for telling people just how awesome it was. I spent the week getting the house clean (which is the only way I can relax), going to bed early, not cooking any dinners ever, and generally just doing what I wanted to do at all times. It was awesome.

Maybe the husband can take the kids camping over a weekend or something and leave you alone for a little you-time?


Comment by Kati.

I gotta say, bubble baths are my saving grace. And rental movies.
We’re a poor Army family, so we could never afford child care (and with two special needs kids, it’s too hard to find a sitter anyway), and there were MANY times during the first couple of deployments that I was sure I was going to lose my mind or end up on the 10 o’clock news. Bubble baths became my haven. And watching a movie after the boys went to bed helped me escape reality (though it also contributed to my perpetual state of exhaustion, but I wasn’t actually going to SLEEP anyway lol).
I have one who attends school from home and one in a public school, so I never get ALONE time (do you have any idea how far behind I am on GLEE???? but I can tell you exactly what’s happening on Pokemon & Beyblade).
Now my kids are old enough that I can say “mom is going to the store and lunch with a friend, stay here and do not kill your brother.” so I can say we survived the worst parts of burn-out, but I still have the go-go-go-go weeks where I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. Unfortunately, those weeks usually end up with me sick in bed, like today, so I don’t recommend letting it get to that!


Comment by Megan.

No reliable childcare? What about their FATHER?

Honestly, I don’t get this. You need time alone, take time alone. The kids will survive with their father, as long as you don’t nitpick every little thing.

And don’t ask, tell him. They’re his kids too, and I bet he has no problem leaving them alone with you for a few hours. Or a weekend.

When my son was a baby I needed a break. I went to hotel on the beach, alone, for two whole nights. It was bliss. I felt human again afterward.


Comment by Raleigh Mom.

I completely understand what you are going through! When my second son was born I decided (rather, had no financial choice) to stay home. My first son, by the way, was only 14 mo. old when the second was born. I stayed home with both of them for a year and a half before I finally lost my mind. I convinced my husband to find room in the budget to send our oldest to preschool 3 days a week. It’s been a great benefit to him too. So now I have one kid all the time and both a few days a week. And still get burnt out. And did I mention I live 900 miles from everyone else in my family?? So, a few things that have helped me…
I took up scrapbooking. I love it, and have even ventured into digital (way cheaper). We keep a strict bedtime for the boys of 8 pm. A few nights a week after they are in bed I scrap, some nights I veg and watch crappy reality tv. I consider those things treatment but not a cure. Unfortunately there is no cure until they are in school full time, but I will take treatment for now.
Sadly, I sometimes wish I would get sick (not deathbed sick, but headcold sick) so I have an excuse to lay in bed all day and stick my husband with the boys! 🙂


Comment by Average Jane.

Has anybody suggested “Kidswap” yet? My friend and I used to trade off watching the other’s kids once a week for 2 hours. For example: this week, drive to her house and slow down the truck just enough to kick my kids out before coming to a complete stop, then burn rubber and laugh maniacally as I speed away to do whatever the Hell I wanted for 2 hours. Next week, her turn. I would actually wake up on the days that it was my turn and smile and tell my husband, “I win kidswap today!!!” It was glorious.


Comment by chimomwriter.

I’m at home with two kids, 2 and under. Hubby is a workaholic, and there isn’t much childcare (or $ for childcare) available. Hubby is also not the type to pack up both of the kids and take them out on his own, ever.

I signed him up for a swim class with my oldest at a local hospital wellness center. We put the youngest in the childcare there. I worked out with a mommy boot camp. Everyone was taken care of, and I felt a lot better.

The other thing that’s provided some sanity: priceline hotel rooms, or whatever your bargain site of choice is. I’ve spent 40 bucks to leave daddy and kids at home on the weekend and just go to a hotel and sleep. It’s almost better than a night at home without kids because there’s nothing you can clean at a hotel!


Comment by Kay.

I have 2 ideas which may or may not work for you. Many day cares offer a program called Mom’s Day Out, where parents can drop off their kid(s) one day a week. The other thought was to get involved in a play group where a different Mom hosts the group once a week. It’s a little extra work when you have the group, but it’s a couple free hours when you don’t have the group.


Comment by elbow.

I’m so fricken fried that I made an appointment with my husband’s boss to beg for clemency tomorrow.

Seventy hour workweeks are simply not sustainable, though we’ve been trying to tell ourselves they are for the last two year or so.

Failing that, I am running away from home for a couple of weeks; DH will just have to enroll the kids in daycare. I can’t trust myself with them anymore. I snap at the least little shriek and am afraid I will cross the line from hysterical yelling to physical violence.

I need drugs, therapy, and about two weeks of shivering in a corner to pull myself back together.


Comment by A.

Thanks for all of that great advice. It’s good to know I’m not the only Mom who gets tired. I think giving some notice to my husband that I need a break often helps. Parents run out of energy. So, it helps to have a partner. We also have babysitters too. If we lived near our families, we could surely get more help, but we don’t so we have to pay. That proverb that says “it takes a village to raise a child is so true,” and it’s hard when you live away from the village. I pray for strength as we try to find a new village.

Good luck.


Comment by Nancy.

Nobody? I was so hopeful, too…


Comment by Nancy.

I’m a dummy and am too burnt out to see the tab labeled “26 responses”. There are some great ideas here, ladies. Thanks bunches.


Comment by Laura.

I have an 11 yo old and a 4 yo both boys. I am very burned out. Besides taking personal time to run or sing w a group or write I recently found that reading an autobiography if someone who had faced hardship w grace. The book I happened to read after my son was assigned a report in Jackie Robinson was robinsons book I Never Had it Made. It was inspiring and reminded me that the challenge of being a stay at home mom w all my own Partucular circumstances is something I can try to face w grace ea day and there is honor in that. I cannot always hang on to this good attitude and the burn out creeps back in and my coldness and exasperation scare me but I hav found this to help for many days on end. Blessings to all the mOms out there. It is a hard job. Give yourself a break.


Comment by Jenny.

Here are my ideas:
1. Set up a cooperative childcare share with several other parents, not just one, so two parents can hang out with up to 8 kids and you’ll have more days to swap
2. Do look into medication for depression, sleep medication, gyms with free or low-cost childcare, spiritual guidence, low-cost therapy (whatever you can be cheaply or through your insurance. I know people kid about alcohol but alcohol is super addictive if your stressed out especially. Be really, really careful.
3. Consider trading a room in your home to an older woman I exchange for childcare or help around the house. Also consider taking in a relative to do the same.
4. If at all possible consider transitioning back into some kind of work. Even if it just pays for the childcare it is smart not to go too long without a work history and it will give you back some of yourself. But even if you babysit with your kids I guarantee it will break up the day a little. You can sell stuff on eBay or dog-sit or do any number of goofy jobs from the home. Start a kids craft meet up where moms pay by donation. Reach out.
4. Take care of yourself and be smart. I don’t mean to be negative but close to half of all marriages end and a great many end while the kids are small. Make sure you’re in a place emotionally and resource-wise where you could survive being on your own. Make friends, build resources, kep yourself as strong as you can for your kids and for yourself.

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