Are parental duties starting to burn you out? Parental burnout is real, and it’s showing up in our offices more and more. Parents feel continuously tired, overwhelmed, anxious, and unable to meet the fast tempo that life seems to expect of the modern-day family.
These feelings are heightened even more for single parents, two-household families, and those with small children or children with special needs. So don’t let burnout creep on you. We’re here to help.
Noticing Signs of Parental Burnout Is The First Step
Many parents don’t even know they’re experiencing burnout – or significant parenting fatigue – until we start asking questions and explaining our suspicions. Parental fatigue, which can evolve into burnout, is not unlike postpartum depression. Of course, there are varying degrees, but noticing the signs is always the first step in getting the support and relief you need.
Unlike other forms of burnout, parents experiencing parental burnout often feel ashamed or embarrassed. However, parenting is the most demanding job you’ll ever have, so feeling overwhelmed is natural – and completely normal. And the demands of the pandemic only increased the number of parents feeling overwhelmed, out of their element, and unable to cope.
Signs and Symptoms of parenting fatigue and burnout
Some of the most common signs or symptoms of parenting fatigue and burnout include:
● Not having time to do anything for yourself anymore
● Feeling chronically tired
● Lack of concentration, focus, or inability to remember the basics
● Overeating or undereating
● Sleep disorders – including trouble falling or staying asleep OR wanting to sleep all the time
● Uncharacteristic moodiness, anger, irritability, etc.
● Feeling emotionally distant from your children
● Continuously doubting your ability to parent or to parent well
These are the initial signs and symptoms. They continue to escalate if you don’t get the space, support or rest you need. As parenting fatigue worsens, symptoms do too:
● Crying all the time or feeling like you cry for no reason at all
● Losing interest in the things you used to love doing
● Feelings of hopelessness
● Using alcohol, drugs, and other mind-altering substances to numb out or cope with parenting burnout
● Resenting your children or wishing you’d never had them
● Thoughts of wanting to harm your children
● Suicidal ideation (meaning you may fantasize about suicide, or not being alive, or actually make plans about how you’d end your life if it comes to that)
If you experience more serious effects of parenting burnout, schedule an appointment with your physician ASAP or contact the National Parent Hotline (1-855-427-2736). Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and is the fastest way to get the support you deserve.
Risk factors For Developing Parenting Burnout
Some of the risk factors associated with parenting burnout include:
● A previous history of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues
● Being a single or two-household parent
● Having several children under the age of 10 OR having more than three children
● Being a stay-at-home parent
● Working more than one job OR being unemployed
● Having a child diagnosed with ADHD/ADD or a child on the spectrum
● Parents of children with special needs
● Having serious financial challenges (wondering how you’ll pay rent next month or where next week’s meals are coming from)
Ultimately, parenting burnout compromises your mental and emotional well-being, and that deserves to be supported ASAP!
Tips For Relieving Parenting Burnout
If you suspect (or know!) you have parenting burnout, it’s time to find some relief. Your health, and the well-being of your family, depend on it.
1. Gain a realistic perspective on parenting/family expectations
No, it is not your job to accommodate a child’s every want. Children do not need much more than basic needs (love, food, shelter) to feel content. Today’s culture makes it feel like it’s your job to ensure kids are in multiple extracurricular activities, have every new toy/gadget, and hear “yes” more than they hear “no.” That is not the case. Your job is to create a safe, loving, and secure environment for the family and raise kind and resilient humans.
Sit down, decide what can stay and what needs to go for your well-being, and then set that boundary with the family. Do you need help setting – and keeping – boundaries? Read How to Set Healthy Boundaries For Kids and then practice it like it’s a religion.
Remember that your spouse/partner needs to be on board. Make sure to include them in the process before you lay out the new ways things need to be. Find age-appropriate ways to let kids know “the way we’re doing things isn’t working for me, which makes it hard for me to be the parent I want to be. Now, it’s time to create a new path where everyone’s well-being is the priority.”
2. Get the support you need
Support comes in many forms. It make look like:
● Setting an appointment with your OB/GYN so we can rule out any hormone imbalances that could contribute to fatigue or mood swings.
● Connecting with a therapist (feel like you can’t afford it? Check in with local clinics where MFT/LCSW interns work with sliding scales)
● Joining a parenting support group
● Confiding in a friend or family member you trust
● Working with the family to create new, healthy sleep schedules ensuring everyone’s well-rested
● Taking a social media break (we promise; all those “perfect families” aren’t as perfect as they seem – they’re only posting the glossiest photos. Their shadows are just as shadowy as yours)
● Making sure you’re getting the nourishing food your body needs to weather the parenting demands.
3. Find ways to spark joy and fun in your life
Parenting fatigue is a sure sign you need to spark joy and fun in your life. That might mean getting together with your funniest friend to make sure you get some good laughs in every once in a while. It also means planning Fun Time with the family that isn’t based on a family member’s extracurricular activities. For example, picnic at a local park, hike, ride bikes, visit an interactive museum or schedule a family movie or game night.
Overlake OB/GYN Is Here to Relieve Parental Burnout
Are you experiencing the signs of parenting burnout? Please contact us here at Overlake OB/GYN. We are here to support you and have all kinds of referrals and recommendations to ensure you have personalized resources at your fingertips. Schedule an appointment, and let’s find that light at the end of the tunnel.