Why are millennial moms struggling with burnout?

February 28, 2019

Feeling overwhelmed lately? Do small, tedious tasks seem insurmountable like a two-story tidal wave rushing upon the shore of life? Does anxiety rear its ugly head in the balancing act of work and home? If so, then you may be a millennial.

A recent article written by an older millennial like myself caught my attention the other day. The overall gist of her writing posed a general question, "How have millennials become the burnout generation?" She mentions having "errand paralysis" herself and how the mundane, simple, low-tiered tasks were often left undone. Incomplete, petty tasks led to shame as she considered how her mother would have "got them done." She attributed her lack of motivation for completing dull tasks to their high-effort, low-reward nature, much like one millennial named Tim who failed to register to vote in time because he hates to mail stuff as it "gives him anxiety."

The article goes on to address burnout among millennial women, particularly mothers who work outside of the home. They do what is called the "second shift" where women who come home from the workplace to labor as a homemaker. A recent study shows that mothers in the workplace spend just as much time taking care of their children as stay-at-home mothers did in 1975.

Anne Helen Peterson says, “One might think that when women work, the domestic labor decreases, or splits between both partners. But sociologist Judy Wajcman found that in heterosexual couples, that simply wasn't the case: Less domestic labor takes place overall, but that labor still largely falls on the woman,” (Buzzfeed News, January 5, 2019).

The article is quite lengthy, but it points to a pervasive reality: many young mothers today are burned out. Even I scratch my head at this with all our modern conveniences like grocery pickup, Amazon Prime, Instant Pots, and the like. I wonder, though, if our dilemma has to do not with what we have but what we lack as millennial moms.

What millennial moms are missing

It seems that young mothers today have endless advantages that mothers from previous generations could only dream of. Yet, studies show an increase in anxiety and depression, particularly among young women. There is a disparity between efficiency and ease, especially when it comes to modern motherhood. With all that is available to us, one would think that managing a home today is almost too easy. The truth is that the very things that are supposed to make life easier for us may very well be what is making life more of a challenge. It is not what we have that we need, but what we lack that affects how we feel as moms today.

For instance, here are just a few things that the millennial generation of moms lack that previous generations didn't:

Mothers, aunts, sisters, and other women relatives who live nearby: As more of us become transient with college and careers, we move away from home and family. If we settle down in marriage and motherhood, we find ourselves isolated and independent on the journey of motherhood. There was one instance that I had to call my husband in tears as I was trying to nurse my firstborn when she would not feed. I felt helpless and alone. My husband was at a church softball game, and he came home to just sit with me on the couch to support me even though he really could not help me. In another generation, I would have my mom, aunt, or even my grandmother nearby to call on, though I am thankful that my husband was there to offer comfort and love.

Division of labor: I am all for equal pay and fair treatment of women. We’ve moved, however, from "We can do it!" to "We can do IT ALL!" Now, we are dealing with the repercussions of Rosie the Riveter's proud declaration. Third-wave feminism heightened female activity and male passivity. Learned helplessness is rampant among millennial men. Of course, I know plenty of men who lead productive lives with maturity, respectful of women and responsible at work and home.

Short-range awareness: Our mothers had Oprah. We have Instagram. We scroll through filtered, freeze-framed images of other women "doing it all." It leaves us feeling a little less than adequate. We are overwhelmed by stories and news about everything from parenting to the latest fad diet. Not only do we have to do it all, but we must look good while doing it, preferably in a fashionable pair of yoga pants. Mothers from generations past only knew about what was going on in their personal relationships and whatever was reported on the 6 p.m. news. They could go about their day-to-day business with a short-range awareness without the long-range distractions of social media.

What can moms do to avoid burnout?

We can't change when we were born or the culture at large, but we can change how we cope in a fast, high-achieving society. Here are a few ways we, as millennial moms, can manage ourselves well in our generation:

In Luke’s gospel we find Jesus being welcomed into Martha’s home, but not into her focus. It is not that Martha needed to welcome Jesus, but that Jesus was there to welcome her to do as Mary did and sit as his feet. “But Martha was distracted by her many tasks.” Jesus said, “Martha, Martha you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:38-42).

If we get anything right as moms today, let’s get the “one thing” right of a growing relationship with Jesus. Christ has not called us to be worried and upset about “all the things,” but to trust him, remove distractions that pull us away from him, and welcome him into our homes in the best way. I have hope for us millennial moms, and I believe that our children are going to be okay. We don't have to be anxious. We can let some things go, but we can’t let go of our rest in God and in his power for us in motherhood in our generation. In this way, we will not burn out but find blessing for ourselves and for those we love. Yes, with the Spirit’s help, we can do it!

Jenna Fleming

Jenna is a pastor's wife, mother, educator, and Christ follower. She is a 5th grade ELA/SS teacher at Union Elementary in Tennessee. Read More by this Author

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24