C-Suite Lifestyle

How Working Moms Can Break the Cycle of Trying to Do It All All The Time, Exploding & Guiltily Going Back to Trying to Do It All Again

Working Moms Are Stuck in An Endless Cycle of Burnout and Stress. It’s Bad for Them and For Business. Here Are Five Ways Senior Leaders Can Help Them Break Free.

Leaning in professionally, managing the vast majority of their household needs, shouldering the burden of childcare responsibilities — working moms do it all, all the time. The result? A generation of professional women stretched too thin and pulled too far, stuck and stressed as they stay committed to their family’s needs and their professional obligations simultaneously.

They’re accomplished, driven, capable…and perpetually burnt out. Still committed to performance and productivity, they press on, only to, at some point, pay the ultimate price: anxiety, exhaustion, and, eventually, reduced effectiveness in all areas of their lives, including the workplace. It’s expensive for companies, too: an entire segment of employees working below their maximum potential.

If senior leaders want working mothers to be their best selves – personally and professionally, they must do these five things to help break their chronic cycle of burnout and stress.

Dr. Whitney Casares

  1. Encourage Working Moms (and Dads) to Parent Out Loud, and Do Themselves
    Mary Beth Ferrante, CEO of Wrk/360 and Senior Forbes Contributor, extolls the benefits of managers and senior leaders who vulnerably discuss their parent roles while on the job:“When it comes to culture change within organizations, modeling behavior is just as important as the policy to support that behavior. In organizations that truly support care, leaders and employees at every level aren’t afraid to share simple things like taking time off for their child’s parent-teacher conference, having to sign off early because their elder parent needs a ride to the doctor, (or) simply taking a break during the day to take a walk or rest.”

    This year’s pandemic-generated Zoom meetings showed us no clear divide between home and office worlds exists for modern working parents. It was suddenly normal to hear an elementary schooler asking for a snack or a toddler whining during a C-level presentation. The veil lifted. Yes, many of us are career-oriented and parents simultaneously, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When we pretend like there is, discouraging parents of all genders from talking about their personal lives while they’re on the clock, we also discourage transparency, the very thing that will give working moms more bandwidth to do their jobs well.

  2. Develop Policies and Cultural Practices That Support Whole-Person Wellness 

    Investing in wellness doesn’t just benefit employees. It also helps employers. Working moms who are less stressed and less conflicted are more likely to have the energy and focus they need when they’re working. Encourage your team to make time to care for themselves. That means establishing a culture that celebrates balance, disavows workaholism, and honors parent’s needs for non-traditional work schedules and environments.The increased appetite for work-from-home options and the recent predictions of a Great Resignation suggest employees don’t just want more flexibility; they need it. These requests are just as often about navigating complicated childcare quandaries as they are about simple preferences for moms and dads. The same goes for modified work schedules or hybrid work model requests, especially when moms return to the office after a child’s birth.

  3. Recognize the Signs of Burnout for Working Moms 

    Employees experiencing burnout can show physical and mental health symptoms, including emotional exhaustion, fatigue, headaches, and stomach aches. They may find it challenging to muster the energy to complete their work and cope with complex interpersonal or skill-based challenges. Dealing with change or stress at work can become exceedingly challenging, to the point they grow cynical about their peers, their supervisors, and their working conditions.They can perceive their jobs as frustrating and start to feel numb and dissatisfied. When senior leaders recognize the signs of burnout early, they can intervene sooner, heading off decreased productivity, reduced creativity, and, ultimately, enhancing performance.

  4. Give Working Mothers Practical Tools to Manage the Distractions that Keep Them Conflicted and Burnt Out 

    Working mothers need a clear definition of what success looks like in the workplace and at home so they can spend the majority of their time, physical energy, and mental focus on what matters most to them and what makes them most effective in all facets of their lives. Leaders who invest in coaching moms to create a tangible framework to differentiate their core priorities from the rest of life’s to-dos will maximize their professional impact long-term.This strategy must include a heavy emphasis on mindful self-compassion, training them to be their best inner coaches instead of their worst inner critics, to make decisions when competing interests arise on their time and energy with intention instead of inner turmoil.

  5. Provide Educational Opportunities That Move Working Mothers Away From Burnout and Toward Success 

    Most working moms want to reach their full potential in all areas of their lives (including the office), but they need the training to do it. Developing a strategic framework that moves working mothers away from burnout includes educating them on managing all the non-negotiables they have to handle on their own with efficient systems and streamlined processes.It also means teaching them to delegate and automate to others in their households and parenting villages (including creating equitable division of labor with their parenting partners) and to remove the extras in their over-scheduled calendars. Finally, it means coaching them to set healthy boundaries personally and professionally.

Working moms are caught in the middle — stuck and conflicted —  as they focus primarily on constant performance. Senior leads can help them break the burnout cycle, though, by modeling vulnerability, supporting personal wellness, recognizing the signs of burnout, providing practical tools, and offering educational opportunities for managing the obligations they face. Burnout shouldn’t have to define life for working moms and won’t if senior leaders understand why professional women are chronically stuck and take steps to change this costly paradigm.


Written by Dr. Whitney Casares.

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Dr. Whitney Casares
Dr. Whitney Casares, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a board-certified, practicing pediatrician and the creator of the popular website the Modern Mommy Doc. She is the mother of 2 young daughters and lives in Portland, OR. She completed her medical school training at The University of Vermont and her pediatrics residency at Stanford University. She also holds a Master's of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from The University of California, Berkeley.

Her books, The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One," and The Working Mom Blueprint: Winning at Parenting Without Losing Yourself," help modern parents go from surviving to thriving as they care for their little ones. Dr. Casares' mission is to help parents win at parenting without losing themselves, especially in the baby and toddler years.


Dr. Whitney Casares is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.