Keeping the Fire Burning
Understanding and Coping with Parental Burnout
Published: March 17, 2021
photo c/o @jan_twentii
Being a mom or a dad to children may be a dream to many, but one has to be prepared to fulfill the many responsibilities that go with the title. Unlike usual 9-5 jobs, being a parent is an adventure of a lifetime, a position that impacts not just you but the kids that you have brought into this world. While many take naturally to the role, there are some who struggle with the stress of maintaining order at home. Left unchecked, people from the latter category can succumb to parental burnout. This is defined by researcher and professor Moïra Mikolajczak as “an exhaustion syndrome that occurs when a parent has been exposed to too much stress in their parenting role for too long, in the absence of sufficient resources to compensate for the effect of stress.”
Studies on parental burnout reveal four typical symptoms that usually occur in an order. First, parents may feel exhaustion at the emotional, cognitive, and physical level. This stems from the feeling of no longer being able to give, losing the ability to think rationally, and fatigue. This can lead to parental displeasure, which in turn can result in parents distancing themselves emotionally from their children. The energy to get involved in the relationship dwindles until, finally, the parent realizes that he or she does not have a firm grasp of their identity. They lose sight of what kind of parent they wanted to be in the first place.
Research shows that parental burnout can affect the parent, their spouse, and their children. For those who are suffering from it, they can be burdened with sleep disorders, health problems, increased alcohol consumption, and suicidal thoughts. Exhausted parents can unload their frustration on their spouse, causing an increase in marital conflicts. Children may feel neglected, and in worst cases, subjected to parental violence.
Before you even come close to your breaking point, practice self-care to replenish your energy and renew your vigor as a parent. Here are some steps that you can take to prevent parental burnout from destroying your relationship with your family:
1. Let People In.
Don’t feel embarrassed about your situation. Acknowledge that you’re a human being with limitations. If the burden becomes too hard to bear, allow people who you trust and genuinely care for you help you in their own ways. Take comfort in their words and give them a chance to offer some advice, or just enjoy their company.
2. Let Go of Expectations.
Trying to become a parent to gain people’s approval can add unnecessary pressure that robs you of the joy of being a mom or a dad to your child. Think about the best interests of you and your kid, and do what will make both of you happy regardless of how others will react.
3. Unload As Needed.
If your priority is being a good parent, take a break from or relieve yourself of responsibilities that may hinder you from this goal. Doing so can save you time and energy that may be better devoted to your family.
4. Schedule “Me Times”.
Give yourself time and space to breathe. Allot a schedule where you can allow yourself to focus on you for a change. This can be a great opportunity for self pampering or doing activities that can serve as a reward for holding down the fort.
If the above doesn’t work, always remember that you have an option to seek professional help.