Feeling touched out is not just something that happens when you are breastfeeding. It can also happen during pregnancy, or at any time you have a child you are caring for.
While the common understanding of touched out syndrome is usually used to refer to breastfeeding and or bed-sharing moms any parent really could have this particular experience while raising kids of any age.
However, the challenges specifically seen in pregnancy with an older sibling already running around can make the feeling of being touched too much just that much worse.
Especially if you have people at work, or friends and family pissing you off by trying to touch your belly without your permission.
What Does it Mean to be “Touched Out”?
Being ‘touched out’ is getting more press these days, and as a result, there is more awareness that this happens and can be a normal part of motherhood.
Touched Out Syndrom is a term used to say that a parent (usually Mamma) has been in physical contact with others more than they can handle. It makes a Mamma irritable as a result of missing out on their autonomy. Some people compare it to being burnt out.
But most Mamma’s can relate at some point or another to cringing at the thought of being touched even one more time.
Many Mammas who experience this report a desire to have absolutely NO physical contact of any kind with anyone once they reach this point. Yet many will also state that they just want some adult conversation too…
Many Mammas have said that they don’t want to be in physical contact with their spouse either, not a hug or a kiss not to mention physical intimacy. It’s not just the kids that irritate or make them cringe at the thought of being touched.
Causes of Being ‘Touched Out’
Some parents get “touched out” faster than others, and the reasons for being touched out can also vary from person to person. There really isn’t a formula for this experience in motherhood.
However there are things that increase our chances of feeling touched out, and they mostly revolve around the fact that we are in contact with someone more than we would like and the level of constantly being needed we endure day in and day out.
Often Mamma is the first person we turn to when we want comfort, little babies who breastfeed are often accused of using mom as a pacifier when they need comforting.
Toddlers snuggle up on our laps when they want reassurance that things will be ok during their big emotions. Or they hit us, or hug us, or climb on us when they get excited.
Husbands come to us for support and affection and want to be intimate with us as well especially if they had a hard day on the job.
And our network of friends and family often reaches out to connect with us too requiring time and attention we regularly want to spend on them.
All these little things that are normal, everyday occurrences and often are reassuring and part of our support system can some times get to be too much, it can become overwhelming.
Now add in all the pregnancy appointments, if you are having (and I hope you are) a healthy pregnancy that may only be one appointment a month with your Doctor or Midwife.
But what other appointments are you doing on top of that? Physiotherapy? Chiropractic? Massage? While these may be self-care appointments if they start to feel like a chore, chances are they are contributing to being touched out.
From my experience just trying to GET to the appointments made tolerance for touch that much lower. As I got bigger and my movements slower my day felt more and more rushed which cause me to feel more overwhelmed by the touch I was experiencing.
And if you are working full time, there really isn’t much time in the day to get some space to yourself which can also contribute to irritability even if no one is touching you at work.
Add to that very little “me time” in your typical Mamma day and chances are you could be experiencing “touched out syndrome” or be very close to it.
Being touched out at any stage (pregnancy, newly postpartum, or later) is a signal to you that you are reaching a limit and need a break to take care of yourself.
How to Fix it
So what is a Mamma to do? We all need to feel like our body is our own, and sometimes that means taking steps or actions that help us create the space we need to feel like we get a choice.
Take a Break
In a 2018 study by a meal delivery service, Munchery of the 2,000 parents interviewed it was found that after taking into account their work and parenting duties in a typical day most parents estimated they had 32 minutes for “me time”.
If you are a Mamma already chances are you are calling BS on having a half-hour to yourself. To me that seems a tad generous, however, this lack of time to decompress is part of the problem with feeling touched out.
So take a break, drop the kids off with a babysitter, or have Dad step in and do the parenting so you can get out of the house for more than 30 minutes without someone clinging to you.
Get Some Alone Time
Alone time means different things for different people. For one of my friends, I’ve heard her say that “alone time” was being in a crowded room with music blaring so she can’t hear anyone.
Others like myself need to have the house to themselves with no one else in it, or at least all the other humans need to be on a different floor and things need to be quiet.
Whatever you do, find a way to create the space you need physically around you.
Turn Off Your Notifications
Seriously, one of the best things I’ve done in my life is bin the “ding” that happens with every little notification my phone wants to send me.
This seemingly small but really big issue is part of what keeps us feeling like we are “on-call” all day every day. And the knowledge someone may reach out at any moment and need us just makes feeling touched out more likely.
They are NOT kidding when people say their phone is affecting their mental health, and being touched out is partly an expression of how well we are taking care of our mental health.
We as adults are far more able to communicate what we need with each other than our kids are able to do so with us. So make your needs for time and space known to your partner.
Dad can step in an hug your littles just as much as you can, and by establishing boundaries that both Mom and Dad uphold you are teaching kiddos some great things about how to be a healthy adult and parent in the future.
Remember two parents are part of a collective endeavor to build something special together if you don’t support each other the kids will pay the price.
Direct the Touching
Instead of only having physical contact which is focused on caring for others, add in touch that benefits you. Things like getting a massage, or having your hair done all include contact with another human being but can help take the pressure off touch to be something for someone.
Being touched by someone taking care of you is a great way to remind yourself and your body that being physically close or in contact with others can be fulfilling and positive.
Just remember that if it starts to feel like a chore or you get irritated at the thought of going to a massage you need to ditch it for now.
Reminding yourself that touch is a good thing is healthy, hating yourself for getting a massage… (and yes I’m being a bit dramatic here) is not going to help.
Hug your kids more
And for longer, a number of Moms I spoke to about this said they made themselves hug their kids more often and for longer while reminding themselves that the kids needed it and being “touched out” is not their kid’s fault.
I’m not 100% sure why it helped but my theory is that it was a way to reprogram their body and mind around the feeling of being touched out.
Quite frankly this piece of advice does not make sense to me, but all the Moms I asked who have been a Mom longer than I have started with this one…
Remove Unrealistic Expectations
If we are constantly expecting to give 100% to our children all the time than anything less is seen as a failure. No one can meet those expectations 24/7, so be gentle with yourself as your family goes through each stage of growth.
Everyone has good and bad days, its not just your kids, but you too! Understand this and keep your internal dialogue kind, treat yourself the way you would a good friend you saw struggling like this.
All in all, being touched out is something we can head off with our own self-care. As Mamma’s we become the go-to person for not only our littles but our spouses and many of the people around us.
But we can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure you are taking care of you too. Carve out more than just that 30 min for yourself and do the things that make YOU light up, or relax.
It will help you enjoy your motherhood more, and help you give everything you want to your family and friends.