MomScout Book Review : Dr. Sheryl Ziegler’s “Mommy Burnout”

The title is a little ominous and the reality a little scarier – “mommy burnout” is real, people! After reading Dr. Sheryl Ziegler’s book of the same name (Dey St./William Morrow, 2018) I’m convinced (and maybe a little freaked out) – moms everywhere are at risk!

Ziegler is a clinical child psychologist but felt moved to write this book when she noticed something about some moms who were bringing in their littles ones to see her. As individuals, they were exhibiting a small constellation of similar anxiety/depression-related symptoms that the author finally decided to name. DSM-approved the term “mommy burnout” is not, BUT as a practical term it works great.

As a new-ish mom to a 14 month-old wonder girl and another one on the way (Lord help us) it felt good to not be alone…Organized into chapters by case studies, I found it interesting and accessible to read about other women’s struggles related to their jobs as mamas. This was an easy read and one that this tired, slightly burned-out mom could handle even at night after putting little one to bed.

Reading about the effects that our burnout can have on our little ones wasn’t scary for me but I can see how it might trigger others. It doesn’t help moms who are struggling to then feel guilty about the struggle itself.

In fact, it seems as if a lot of these problems have arisen from society’s unrealistic expectations for moms: that since we CAN do everything, we SHOULD. Obviously I beg to differ.

One case study stuck out to me because I felt so deeply for the mom, Ashley. She brings her daughter in with symptoms of anxiety. The daughter is a budding perfectionist and seems a little older than her 12 years. She wakes up two hours early for school to get her hair and makeup just so, triple-checks her homework, and stresses when she doesn’t arrive anywhere at least 15 minutes early. As the mom-in-need explains her situation to Ziegler, she notices that the mom is also a perfectionist, staying up late to scour the house to clean perfection and hiding RedBulls in the car to maintain her energy level throughout the day.

I feel for this mom!

The expectations we all feel – from society, partners, family members, ourselves – can be insidious. The way it comes out for me is that I never want to say “No”.

Sure, I can make food for 20 for the cabin weekend! Sure I can host Christmas! It was and is a part of my journey into motherhood that I have realized that for the best of my little family pod, the rest of the world sometimes has to take the backseat. Also, like, let’s just forget about being perfect on Facebook and Instagram and stuff, right?

Ziegler does a good job of presenting the facts in straight-forward, non-judgemental ways. You can tell that she is a very, very good psychologist and takes pride in her profession. I’d recommend this book as a gateway book to others on maternal anxiety/depression and as a way for a mom that might be beginning to struggle to realize that she is not alone.

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