Total Burnout … not like the days of old where teenagers would burn out their tires while “scooping the loop,” but that PARENTAL burnout. We have all been there, are living it, or have yet to experience that ultimate in fatigue and stress. Quite honestly, my color-coded Google Calendar doesn’t help me feel any better, and only increases my anxiety.
Being a parent doesn’t always mean leaving “work at work” – it’s a 24/7 job. There is no option to quit or find something new in parenting. It can be difficult to balance your life, and spreading yourself too thin won’t affect just you, but your kids, too.
Why the burnout?
Parenting needs your attention all day, every day, year-round, so it completely normal to be concerned about burning out. Managing children, a job, school, other relatives you need to care for, and/or pets, can combined add to your levels of stress and burnout.
“It can take a long time to teach children new skills and behaviors, so parenting involves lots of patience. If you have many other things going on in your life, your patience can be spread thin. Oddly enough, being a good parent and setting a high standard of parenting can add even more stress to your life and lead to burnout more quickly.” — www.healthline.com
Are you at risk?
The following types of parents are often at risk from burnout.
• Parents of infants from meeting the physical needs of a young child as well as the lack of sleep can be exhausting.
• Parents of teenagers risk burnout because the demands of keeping up with their child’s schedule and their mood swings.
• Single parents or parents who feel they don’t have enough support from their partner
• Parents of children with special needs
• Parents with chronic physical or mental health problems
• Parents in poverty, unstable relationships, or with other significant circumstantial stresses
Be especially cautious if you fall into more than one of types! Parents who fall victim to burnout typically feel irritable constantly without any reason or cause, resentful and frustrated towards children with whatever they may need, feeling as though your job as a parent is never good enough, and/or withdraw emotion from your children.
Avoid the burnout
The website www.healthline.com provides the following tips for avoiding parental burnout:
• Taking care of your own needs: Parents often put their needs last, but a well-rested, well-nourished parent with interests and friendships of their own is not only a good role model, but a happier parent.
• Managing stress: Parenting is stressful and so are other aspects of life, such as work, school, friends, and other family members. Find ways to relax, whether it be meditation, exercise, or having someone to talk to about your worries.
• Cultivate a support network: Asking for help isn’t weakness, it’s a sign that you know your limits. Never underestimate the power of friendship or the importance of babysitters.
• Be realistic: You can’t expect to do everything, and sometimes you may have to say no when your child asks to add another activity to an already full schedule, or for another request.
• Avoid comparing yourself to other parents: Someone you know may look like they’ve got it all figured out, but you have to figure out what works for you and your family. If you constantly compare yourself to other parents, you’ll never feel that you’re doing a good enough job.
• Most of all, focus on the things that have gone right, not those which have gone wrong. You can’t reverse your mistakes, but you can learn from them and build on your successes.
I am hoping you can find some time in your hectic lives to focus on the quiet or happy moments with your children. As Spring approaches, hopefully you can find time to play at the park, go for a walk or take a family bike ride…and hopefully avoid the parental burnout.
Carrie Kube is a director for Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area Board. All thoughts and opinions expressed are that of the author and not the board and/or its community partners.