Do Homemakers Face Burnout?

We think of burnout as happening to only those in high profile jobs, but homemakers face stress and can burnout too.

I was reading somewhere that “several job characteristics, such as excessive work demands and a lack of resources may lead to more burnout. Workload, time pressure, role conflict and role ambiguity are some of the most important “triggers” of burnout. Lack of social support and job autonomy are harmful as well…”

I had always thought of burnout in the context of jobs and careers, but the above quoted text made me wonder if homemakers face burnout?

Going by a definition provided by Maslach and Leiter (1997) I realized that burnout does not need an “at work” situation. It can happen to homemakers, as it can to many others who are not employed in or work in the formal economy.

Homemakers and stressThe definition, a pretty radical one, says, “…burnout is the index of the dislocation between what people are and what they have to do. It represents an erosion in value, dignity, spirit, and will – an erosion of the human soul. It is a malady that spreads gradually and continuously over time, putting people into a downward spiral from which it’s hard to recover.”

Burnout, simply put, “is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place…Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give…”

The 10 symptoms of burnout that you should be aware of (Adapted from ACQYR):

Disengagement: Inability to stay focused on your family, your loved ones or your career. Many people will also begin to withdraw from their daily activities.

Detachment and Depression: Fatigue, inability to sleep, and detachment from others can be symptoms of burnout. Some individuals also feel a sense of disinterest in everything.

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Depleted Physical Energy: When someone experiences prolonged stress, it can physically drain his or her energy. As a result, such people are tired, sleep more and are unable to participate in activities that they had previously enjoyed.

Exhaustion: A person may feel impatient, sad, frustrated or more moody than he or she typically would; and dealing with daily activities and tasks becomes challenging.

Susceptibility to Illness: Increased stress levels can contribute to a reduced immune system and a susceptibility to illness. People who are suffering from burnout often have more frequent illnesses and longer duration illnesses than normal.

Detachment from Personal Relationships: A person experiencing detachment will often withdraw from relationships that he or she has in his / her personal life. Some people feel like they have little to give, have reduced patience and have a reduced amount of interest in those they have had a personal relationship with.

Increased Pessimism: It becomes challenging to be excited about anything. People who are suffering from burnout are no longer interested in looking at the bright side anymore and have trouble letting things roll off of their backs.

Increased Absenteeism: Many people suffering from burnout will miss a higher percentage of work; and, over time, their work performance also decreases.

Isolation: People who are suffering from burnout often reduce social interaction, opting to remain isolated in their home environment.

Life does not seem worth living anymore: The most severe of symptoms is the thought of suicide.

Are you nearing a burnout? Check here [The questionnaire is mainly about ‘at work’ burnout, but if you are not working outside home, it will still help if you mentally change the questions to an ‘at home’ situation]

Also see: How to deal with burnout

PS: I tried to find at least one study on burnout among homemakers, but found none, at least on the WWW.

Pic credit: 05com (Used under a Creative Commons license)


About the Author


I am a former bureaucrat, and have worked a lot on gender issues, disaster management and good governance. I am also the proud father of two lovely daughters. read more...

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