From attempting to manage remote schooling to rearranging their workdays to fill child-care gaps, there's no question it's mothers who are, more often than not, shouldering the increased responsibilities of caring for kids throughout the pandemic.
In fact, 53% of parents say that mom is the primary caregiver in their home, according to data provided to CNBC Make It from UrbanSitter's recent survey of nearly 500 parents. Less than a third of parents surveyed agreed that caring for the kids is split evenly among both parents.
But juggling child-care challenges with work responsibilities takes a toll. There were about 35 million working mothers in the U.S. at the end of 2019 and roughly 9.8 million working mothers in the U.S. are suffering from workplace burnout, according to a new analysis Great Place to Work and health-care start-up Maven conducted based on its survey of 440,000 working parents, including 226,000 mothers.
Just by being a working mother, women are 28% more likely to experience burnout than fathers, according to the analysis. That means in the U.S., there are 2.35 million additional cases of burnout due to the unequal demands of home and work that are placed on working mothers. And cases of burnout are higher among Black, Asian and Latino mothers compared to their White counterparts.
In many instances, burnout occurs because there's not enough support. About 42% of parents surveyed by UrbanSitter say they do not currently have child care, while a third are reliant on family to watch their children while they work. Only about 27% have been able to hire a sitter or nanny.
While just over half of parents, 55%, say they've transitioned to working from home during the pandemic, a majority report they still need child care in order to be able to do their job. Of those working from home without child care, 56% report finding the situation difficult to navigate successfully.
Burnout is a recognized health condition, not just a catchphrase. And it was a problem for working mothers even before the pandemic. Last year, the World Health Organization added it as a syndrome to the International Classification of Diseases. The condition is qualified as a "chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed," according to the WHO.
"Burnout is actually a pretty serious condition," says Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, a psychologist and author of "Mommy Burnout." For many, it manifests in both emotional and physical symptoms. Most commonly, people experiencing burnout suffer from fatigue, cynicism, lack of motivation, headaches, chest tightness, stomachaches, nausea, hair loss and even increased crying.
"The pandemic has revealed how closely tied mental health and stress are and I think a lot of people have hit their breaking point and they just can't get by anymore," Ziegler tells CNBC Make It.
That's especially true for parents trying to balance family and work. Many parents have already had to reduce their hours in an attempt to manage their responsibilities, and about 2 million women have dropped out of the workforce entirely this year, according to Kate Ryder, CEO of Maven, which worked with Great Place to Work on the survey and subsequent report.
"What was a leaky bucket is now a waterfall of talent leaving the workforce," Ryder says. In September, four times more women than men dropped out of the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For parents who are struggling, there are some steps you can take to mitigate or manage burnout. First, you need to let yourself accept what you're facing. "Acknowledge what you're going through, really put a label to it because if you don't, you're going to keep running this way until you literally quit your job, or you have a heart attack or you snap at your kids — something will happen," Ziegler says.
Once you've recognized that you may be suffering from burnout, here are four recommendations for what to do next.
1. Tap into your support system
One symptom of burnout is isolation, says Mercedes Samudio, a licensed clinical social worker and parenting coach with Maven. "When we're out of energy, we retreat," Samudio says. While retreating may help you recharge, talking to someone about how you're feeling can help lessen the weight of emotions like guilt, fatigue and being overwhelmed because you don't feel so alone.
It's also worth asking for help, Ziegler says. That could mean asking your partner to be more active in splitting the household responsibilities or child care or talking to your colleagues or manager about what you need to be able to do your job more effectively. You could also try asking to move the time of a weekly meeting or shift your work hours slightly.
2. Manage your expectations — and try to be realistic
"You cannot run on the same expectations you had of yourself and your family before the pandemic hit," Samudio says.
When setting expectations, it's important that you're mindful of your energy level, prior commitments and emotional state, Samudio says. One way to put this into practice is to write down your goals and reassess them each week to see if they are working or if they need to be tweaked, she adds.
3. Create new routines
Not only should you realistically evaluate your current condition, but also try to create new rituals in your life. Take time in the morning to actually eat or set a timer to stand and walk around after an hour or two, Samudio says.
It can also be helpful to schedule in some "quiet time" for yourself every day, Zeigler says. This is a time where you give your eyes a break from a screen and let yourself decompress. "It's very important to schedule that in or it will not happen," she says.
This is especially important because many people really aren't moving right now, Zeigler says. Instead of heading into the office, those working from home may only take a few steps from their bed to their desk. "Be mindful to move your body, walk around, get outside with fresh air, some sunshine," she says.
The new rituals you create should help you balance your day between to-do list items and actually caring for yourself, Samudio says.
4. Quit trying to multitask all the time
"Many busy parents feel like multitasking is the only way to manage their busy schedules, but studies show that it's a big contributor to burnout," Samudio says.
When you're with your kids, allow yourselves to be present with them instead of trying to respond to an email, she says. If you're in a meeting, focus on the meeting.
"In this environment where we have so little separation between our work and our kids, monotasking is particularly challenging, but it pays off," Samudio says.