I’m Tapped Out: The Overstimulation of a Mom

Caitlin Houston
5 min readJan 24, 2023

Let’s talk about being tapped out and the overstimulation of a Mom. You know — when you’re so overstimulated by motherhood and your surroundings that the sweetest of hugs can actually make you angry?

I never understood the phrase, “I’m tapped out,” until I lost my cool on my family sometime last summer. The situation was so embarrassing I’ve already blacked it out — but, for processing reasons, I wrote about my tantrum here. After sharing my emotional outburst with fellow Moms, I learned a very encouraging fact: I am not alone. Moms of all ages experience similar moments they’re not proud of as a result of overstimulation.

I'm Tapped Out: The Overstimulation of a Mom
I'm Tapped Out: The Overstimulation of a Mom

What is the overstimulation of a Mom?

According to this amazing article, the overstimulation of a Mom occurs when there is A LOT going on at once. I imagine it’s somewhat similar to how my cat feels when he is overstimulated — it’s all good until it’s not good and then he scratches the closest human possible.

“It’s balancing everyone’s emotions in the midst of your own. It’s the constant pop-up message reminding you that your disk space is running low — and the constant force to close a tab or two. …It’s the over-engaged senses from all the simultaneous noise (internal and external) that never seem to cease — the constant sound of the washer and dryer, the dishwasher running, extremely loud toys, YouTube shows, your husband’s phone, the neighborhood kids screaming outside, the hum of the AC, the baby whining, the cat licking himself, the screen door opening and slamming shut, the running, the jumping, the falling, the constant “mommy mommy mommy.”

My mom rage is a product of overstimulation” by Mariah Maddox

I FEEL THIS with every ounce of my being — there are moments when I feel just like my Mac with too many tabs open and memory space is running low. When every one of my senses is working on overdrive — my sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell — it’s no wonder I shut down. And what makes it worse is that when I’m on a sensory overload, the tiniest pile of laundry can look like a giant dirty clothes monster. And that monster … well it may as well consume me whole.

“Make sure you schedule time for YOU!”… well we all know that’s so much easier said than done.

Once or twice a week, I set my alarm for 5am for no other reason than to have some time alone. I like to write early in the morning when my mind is fresh and my only distraction is our cat begging for his breakfast.

Most days my husband is already awake, working in the basement or heading to the gym. He has learned over time I’m not up for chit chat when I’ve set an early alarm. It’s not because I’ve kindly told him I’d like to be alone. It’s actually a lesson learned after snapping at him one too many times when he has tried to initiate a conversation while I sit in front of my laptop. There was a time when I enjoyed our early morning coffee chats — but sadly those moments are something of the past. These days I’m trying to schedule time for myself before the world wakes up and needs me.

On a good morning, my daughters start waking up around 6:30. If I’m really lucky, all three girls will sleep until 7. Unfortunately, good mornings are a rarity in our household — especially on a school day. I like to think my children can smell when Mama is awake. They come downstairs ravenous — hungry for both breakfast and television time. The combination can be unpleasant if their appetites are not satisfied in a timely fashion. If you’re a parent reading this I’m sure you know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of this behavior.

So, on the special occasion when I do find myself with 90 minutes of ME time, I truly cherish all 5,400 seconds alone. It’s the perfect chunk of time to charge my Mom battery for what’s ahead.

If I were to look back on all of the days I have felt overstimulated, I would bet they didn’t start with an hour and a half to myself.

I’m Tapped Out

Let’s bring it back to the purpose of this post — my thoughts on being tapped out as a Mom. You know that feeling when you’ve just had enough of everyone and everything around you? When you can’t stand the thought of being touched or talked to or even acknowledged by your own cat? The overwhelming sensation that you may as well burst into flames if you don’t escape your surroundings? That’s what it feels like being tapped out as a Mom.

The irrepressible feelings of sensory overload creep into my mind, body and soul at the most random times. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because we added a third child… or is it just one of those things we can’t avoid. All I see on social media lately is other Moms talking about being overwhelmed and overstimulated — so I know I’m not alone!

My Final Thoughts on this whole Overstimulation in Motherhood thing and What I Plan to Do About IT

No one wants to feel this way — especially not this Mom. I fiercely love my children and my husband (and even my annoying cat). I enjoy being around them, I LIKE spending a weekend at home with them. But when I have one of those moments of pure indescribable sensory overload, well it’s bad enough to make me want to run away.

How do Moms cope with overstimulation? I’m working hard to find something that works for me — trying every suggestion I read about. For the next few weeks I’ll be conducting my own little “Overstimulation Experiment.” Stay tuned for my findings — I will share what works for me and what doesn’t work as a solution to the “I’m Tapped Out” problem.

I'm Tapped Out: The Overstimulation of a Mom
I'm Tapped Out: The Overstimulation of a Mom

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Caitlin Houston

Caitlin Houston is a Mom of three and creator of Connecticut based life + style site Caitlin Houston Blog.