The Burnout We Don’t Talk About: Parental Burnout
By Kelli Chambers, LCSW – August 18, 2021 –
When we talk to fellow parents about how hard our jobs can be, we often hear responses like, “Oh yeah, I’ve experienced that too. That’s just part of being a mom/dad.” Sometimes it feels as if your child’s needs are endless and seem impossible to manage. Of course our child’s happiness is what we as parents strive for, but sometimes we need more.
We often hear about how people feel burnt out in their jobs or even in their relationships, but rarely do we hear about feeling burnt out on parenting. It almost feels taboo because parents have been taught that being tired, stressed, and overwhelmed is just part of it.
Social media plays a big role with the expectation of being the “perfect” family who has it all together. These expectations are unrealistic and untrue. There will inevitably be times of stress, chaos, and unhappy emotions in every family.
So what does parental burnout look like? Burnt out parents are exhausted from the never-ending demands of parenting. They can feel as if they are on autopilot or in survival mode. Your sleep can be negatively affected – both the amount and quality. Going to work can serve as a relief. There, you might feel calm, focused, and successful, where you might not feel that at home.
Parental burnout can be broken down into three categories: exhaustion, detachment, and inefficacy. Just as it sounds, exhaustion is never getting to fully recharge. Detachment is being less able to take pleasure in day-to-day activities with your children. Lastly, inefficacy shows through when parents feel they are ineffective in their parenting.
We can’t give what we don’t have. It is our responsibility as parents to identify when we are struggling and to make a decision about what to do about it. Our kids ultimately feel the consequences of our lack of self-awareness or self-care.
One of the biggest effects on our kids is when we are not able to attune to them. We can’t be our most patient, loving, and nurturing selves if we are disconnected from our own needs.
Parents often struggle with taking time to do something for themselves when they could be doing something for their child instead. By taking care of ourselves, our kids are reaping a bigger benefit. They get a parent who is fully present and engaged. Here are a few ways to alleviate some of your burnout symptoms:
- Reach out to your doctor or therapist to discuss any concerns.
- Ask your partner to take something off of your plate or utilize daycare to give yourself time to rest or do something that makes you happy.
- Give yourself permission to say no to demands that will stretch you too thin.
- Communicate your needs to your partner/loved ones.
- Prioritize your sleep.
- Take care of your body through exercise, healthy eating, etc.
Another good way to do a self-check is to use Dr. Oscar Serrallach’s acronym SPAN. Identify what your true needs are and determine what you need to do to fulfill them.
Parenthood, at times, can be a difficult and thankless job, but it is a job many of us would not trade for anything. Being mindful of your needs allows for a better version of yourself, and your kids will directly benefit.