CD: What inspired/moved you to write “Mommy Burnout”?
SZ: I kept seeing women/moms in my private practice that came in because of an issue with their children but we would start talking about their own lives and their stress and before I knew it I discovered a clear pattern among these women. I felt like I was carrying around a secret that I needed to share with the world. These women all felt very similar ways- they reported feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and unfulfilled whether they were a working mom or stay at home mom.
CD: You are a mama of 3. Have you experienced Mommy Burnout?
SZ: Yes! I mostly certainly have experienced symptoms of burnout like being irritable, forgetful, misplacing things, not feeling like I was accomplishing enough, running a business, and trying to be all things to all people in my life. I first noticed that stress looked different when I had my second child. I was so overwhelmed with a young toddler and a baby along side with managing a practice, treating my clients, and so much less time. At times it has felt like drowning under water. I think my experience with burnout allows me to recognize it in my clients much easier and allows me to talk about it with them with a sense of understanding and lack of judgment. I can now recognize the signs of chronic stress (pre-cursor to burnout) much earlier and take action to alleviate it before it gets to that point when I feel like I am drowning.
CD: How do you believe social media has impacted the rise of anxiety and depression, specifically in women and moms?
SZ: The research is showing that social media has had a significant role in increased rates of depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts in adolescents and in adults. "Social" media has made us less social with actual people, real people in our lives that require eye contact, physical time together and affection. Some studies even report that people would rather text these days than talk. Social media and other online outlets for moms have compromised their self esteem. When women look at photos of other people's lives they tend to forget that people are only showing the highlights of their lives. That a minute before their child may have been having a meltdown or that a week later a couple was filing for divorce. These visual images can cause women to feel poorly about their lives and themselves. It triggers dissatisfaction with their bodies, their homes, their vacations, their cars and sadly even their own children. It has contributed to a culture of un-achievable, unrealistic perfectionism for moms.
CD: If there is one message you want the reader to hear, what is it?
SZ: That laughing about "mommy juice" and "wine time" is actually not funny, it's dangerous. That wearing our badge of honor of being "so busy" just builds walls between us. That a mommy movement is necessary to get past the falseness that currently exists so that we can regain our physical and mental health again. Women are being diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety at epidemic rates. According to the World Health Organization, Depression is now the single leading cause of global disability (yes, global, this is not just an issue here in the US). I believe that within the 12 million women that are diagnosed with depression, there is a certain percentage of them that are actually burned out- which is separate from depression and that our culture is the one that needs the treatment.
Now, a short disclaimer- I think that blogs and movies about moms "being bad" are as funny as the next person. I love that moms have outlets to share their funny stories and stressful times being a mom. However, that is masked with humor and alcohol and my message is that women and ultimately their children eventually pay the price if left untreated.
CD: And if there is one first step a mom can take, what would it be?
SZ: First- the most important step a mom can take is to gain the education and awareness about burnout is. After she is aware of what it is a mom needs to give herself permission to engage in regular self care. We have to start taking care of ourselves first before hiding behind being all giving to our children. It is a mistake to do "what is best" for our kids but not do "what is best" for ourselves. We have a generation of moms running on empty racing to get to the next best thing for their kids all the while suffering from mental and physical health issues.
CD: This is your first book! What have you learned in the process? Advice you’d give to others who are considering writing a book?
SZ: You are right, this is my first book. It has been like birthing a baby and many years in the making. I am very proud of this project and I have learned an entire degree's worth of knowledge not just about the topic but also about the publishing industry. The most important thing that I have learned is that successful authors have successful teams supporting them. Without my team this book would not exist. From having the right agent, to the right publishing house and editor and then all the supports that come with it it takes a lot of people to create a great book. My advice to others who dream of writing a book (I see you, I know there are so many of you!) is to just begin writing. Literally, just start- today. Even if you write a few sentences or pages each day, you have to just do it. It takes an incredible amount of self discipline to achieve this goal and tomorrow won't be easier than today. Just do it.