The Most Dangerous Word in Motherhood; Avoiding Burnout as a Working Mum


I love the English language and there aren’t many words that I don’t like.  I even love a swear word or two if used in the right context.  But there’s one word that I really have a problem with, especially for us mums.

It’s a word that most quotes on motherhood mention as if it’s a good thing.  Something we should aspire to.  Something that makes us a good mum.  But personally I think it’s a word that (at best) is unhelpful, and in some cases downright dangerous.

That word is………selfless.  

And the message that a good mother is selfless is deep in our culture.  The unconscious (and sometimes conscious) conditioning is that the more selfless we are, the better mothers we are.  

If you’re not aware of how deep this message is in our culture, try Googling quotes for motherhood and see how many times this word pops up.

But I’m calling ‘times up’ on this message.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the intention behind this word.  I just think there are far better words we could be using as mums..……





But selfless?  Does becoming LESS of mySELF make me a better mum?  Does totally sacrificing my own needs make me a better mum?

Being selfless leads to burnout

I can tell you with every ounce of my being that it doesn’t.  The reason I call tell you this with such conviction is that I tried to be the selfless mother with my first child.  I signed up to that unhelpful social contact the first time around and it nearly broke me.

I become so overwhelmed and exhausted that I got seriously ill.  I lost myself so much in motherhood that I didn’t know who I was anymore.   And I can tell you this did NOT make me a better mum.

So if you’ve also unwittingly signed up to the social contract that you have to be selfless to be a good mum, please give yourself the gift of calling ‘times up’ on this too.

Your family deserve you to be whole.  Not less of yourself which is ultimately what being selfless does.

If you’re feeling bone achingly tired, anxious, overwhelmed or resentful, the chances are this word is part of your unconscious model of motherhood.

Reimagining Motherhood

Instead let’s role model for our children what taking care of our own needs looks like.  That we can be both loving, caring, kind, compassionate and take care of ourselves.   In fact we are more loving, caring, kind and compassionate when we take care of ourselves.

Let’s let go of the self-sacrifice model of motherhood, as it really doesn’t serve anyone – not us, not our families.  That model just pushes us towards overwhelm, resentment and burnout.

We can shine brightly as working mums without burning out.  But I believe it starts by letting go of this word……no matter how difficult that might feel.

If you’re ready to call ‘times up’ on this word too, drop me a note as I’d love to hear from you.

It was pretty transformational for me when I did it and I hope it is for you too.


We’re genuine, like-minded women, just like you!

We’re a community, reinventing how we combine work and motherhood without sacrificing our sanity and wellbeing.






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