Parental burnout: 5 things to do when parenting feels exhausting

parental burnout

Do you find yourself hiding in the bathroom, longer than necessary? Do you harbor thoughts of disappearing even if for a minute? Are you that parent, who always seems to be cranky, and ready to blow up? If yes, know that you’re not alone. Parenting is exhausting! And parental burnout is very much a real problem. Anyone who tells you otherwise may not have much experience parenting! 

Why do we trivialize parental burnout? Is it because it does not fall under the social norms of the “job” category? Unlike other jobs, you cannot quit being a parent at any time (unless you’re abandoning your kids). The pressures and demands are high and you’re on call 24/7 for the rest of your lives. Besides that, you have to hold down ‘real jobs’ along with managing home, work, and kids.

Sounds like a cakewalk! It’s nothing parents can’t handle. Right?

Wrong! If the pressures at your workplace can cause you to experience burnout, then the same is true for parents. The only difference being, your home is one of your many workspaces.

To help you keep it together, here is everything you need to know about parental burnout. We’ve also got some suggestions on what you could do when parenting feels exhausting.

What Is Parental Burnout?

Moira Mikolacjak, a researcher from Belgium describes parental burnout as a “condition characterized by overwhelming exhaustion related to one’s parental role, an emotional distancing from one’s children and a sense of parental ineffectiveness.”

Here’s what this means for us:

  • Exhaustion: You’re not only physically drained. You’re emotionally and mentally low. For some parents, this obstructs their ability to perform daily routines and responsibilities. They can even neglect their health and fitness.
  • Emotionally distancing from children: You might feel detached in your responses to your kids. Or fail to connect with them on an emotional level. Moira found that parents with parental burnout engaged more in escape ideation. They were more likely to exhibit neglectful and violent behaviors towards their children.  This shines a light on the severity of the issue.

This behavior is often a coping strategy to protect yourself from your stressors. However, the downside is that it damages your relationship with the kids.

  • Parenting ineffectiveness: Parents will fail to find joy and pride in their work. They will feel unaccomplished in their roles and question their actions. You go through all your routines and tasks in auto-pilot mode, without giving yourself to it.  It’s almost like watching television with the sound muted. You’re not invested in the movie, yet you sit through it all.

Why Does Parental Burnout Occur?

An imbalance between the needs and protective factors (resources) of parenting causes parental burnout.

This is basically the definition of stress. When the demands of the job (sleepless nights, patient discipline, toilet training, weaning, feeding) outweigh your skills (parenting), or resources (financial situation, work-life balance, health) you tend to burn out.

Mikolacjak identified three main factors that contribute to parental burnout:

  • Parental traits.
  • Parenting factors (such as beliefs and standards on parenting.)
  • Family functioning factors (marital satisfaction, co-parenting, and family disorganization.

And sadly it is prevalent among 14% of the parent population.

Tackling Parental Burnout:

What can we do to reduce our risk of burning out? The answer- reduce the risks and strengthen the resources. And here’s how we do that:

Catharsis

It’s important that you let go of your feelings. Talk to others, vent a little, write down your feelings, anything to bring you some relief. Share your emotions with other parents. This will give you an outlet to vent your pent-up feelings without feeling judged. They’ve all been in the same boat as you.

Take A Little ‘Me’ Time

One mistake all parents make, is to forgo some vital ‘me’ time. We’re programmed to put others first. As a result, we forget to invest in ourselves.

You need to be in the best of your health, both physically and mentally, to care for your little ones. Learn to take a break, indulge in your hobbies, work out, and relax. The 10 minutes that you invest in yourself will go a long way in uplifting your spirits.

Find your happiness so you can spread it to others within the house.

Say No

Parents always have a loaded plate. How many times have we had to finish cooking, send in that last document to work, and help the kids with their project due the next day? The answer – too many times to count.

As parents, it is imperative that we learn to say No. Say no to the additional work, social commitments, and the hundred other things that can bury us. Instead, take the time to focus on the important things- us and the family!

Celebrate

Find reasons to celebrate your success as a parent, even the little things. Were you finally able to potty train your child? Or did they eat a full meal without spitting it out at you? Throw yourself a mini-party.

I’ve felt that celebrating my kids’ first birthday was more of a celebration for me. For completing my first year of parenthood, with all its ups and downs.

Stop waiting for the big wins. Celebrate the small wins and slowly you will regain the joy of parenting.

Don’t compare

We say every child is unique! Well so are you as a parent. Parents differ in their personality, circumstance, parenting style, and beliefs. Why beat yourself up, by comparing yourself with others. What worked for them and their child may not be ideal for you.

We now have surplus parenting information available to us. Be it on how to raise your children, improve their academics or manage their behavior. Although useful as a reference source, avoid considering them as the golden standards of parenting.

The truth is, parenting is like an experiment. Your first time definitely is! Try out different practices and identify those that suit both you and your children the best.

Be flexible

It’s only natural to want to be ‘best’ at parenting, but at times, too many expectations can set us up for failure. Parents who adhere to a higher standard of parenting are more likely to feel frustrated and dejected when things don’t go well. Give yourself permission to fail and you will be better parents for it.

Be flexible when needed. For instance, it might be important to you that your kids follow rules and routines. But be open to the fact that there will be sudden changes or disruptions. Understanding and being open to it will help you be less stressed when changes do take place.

Think Positive

The monotonous routines and chores are sure to overwhelm and frustrate you. Not to mention, having to battle changing moods. All these can cast a dark cloud on your parenting journey.

This is why it’s important to practice positive thinking. Positive thoughts give rise to positive actions and changes. For example, listen to a podcast or your playlist while washing the dishes. Transform your less favorable tasks into fun and positive tasks, and you will find yourself not dreading them.

Search for the silver lining in every situation, and take a moment to be grateful for all that you have. Such moments of self-reflection will help you to appreciate your family’s true worth.

Lower Your Standards

A lot of parents strive to be the perfect parent. The good news, there is no such thing as perfect parents. Parenting is not about preparing a balanced meal each time or keeping the house spic and span. It’s all about being ‘good enough’ for your child.

In fact, it’s completely acceptable to lower your standards. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. In doing so, you will be teaching kids that being imperfect is acceptable in this imperfect world.

Conclusion

Parental burnout is inevitable if you don’t take the time out for yourself. Take care of yourself. Rest, refuel and restore yourself, because ‘a happy you, are a happier parent.’

Author bio

Sara is a super author here at famous parenting and is an absolute wealth of knowledge. She has studied many topics including creative writing and journalism and loves to study how famous parents and entrepreneurs raise their kids. Her biggest passion lies in raising her 5 children. Between working from home, homeschooling her youngest 2 children, and navigating the world of teenagers she really is a parenting guru

Cover picture by Keira Burton from Pexels

13 comments

  1. I can so relate to this post! Burnout is real, and it affects so many parents. Me time is so important to recharge your batteries! It’s like a bank – if you don’t give yourself time to recharge, you can’t expect to always be an effective parent. Love your tip on lowering your own expectations. It took me a long time to realize that perfection was only MY own expectation. Kids don’t care about perfection!

  2. I can say that burnout is so real. I experienced this last week which was the first week of the school year. And yes, a small me time really helps to refuel yourself and to go back to action again.

  3. I have been through this parenting phase. I did not like the “me” during that time. I love my children, but burnout is real! Thankfully, having that me time helped a lot!

  4. These are all helpful information. I used to think that taking a break is a waste of time and that I’m not being an effective parent. Turns out is does more good to you when you take a break.

  5. Parental burnout is real. No one should underestimate it. And it`s very important to know and learn how to take care f yourself too as a parent. Thanks for this helpful information

  6. I did not know that there is such a term but I definitely had experienced this. Thank you for sharing these tips on how to handle it. I actually feel guilty with this but I quite relieved to know that I am not alone.

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