That painful feeling when you just don’t know how to cope any longer with the stress and frustrations of being a parent. The urge to scream, cry, or hide in a closet. The guilt that sets in as a result of the urges and sometimes even the resulting actions. There are so many ways to describe it, and they come down to being burnt out. Parent burnout is a real thing. It can take hold of all of us, at any moment, even when we think we have it all together. With a toddler at home, I become aware of burnout when I find myself yelling back “What are you yelling about?!” In that moment, I find myself pausing and reflecting on where this is coming from. I am not usually one who yells, so something is going on. While it can feel like forever, burnout certainly does not have to be.
Be Mindful Small acts of mindfulness can lower stress and help you become aware of burnout so you can address it and even prevent it. Yoga, meditation, stopping to appreciate something in nature/music/humor, tasks that require focus (counting, organizing, puzzles) can bring about more awareness of the mind and body. Sometimes it is a physical response that tips us off that there is something more subtle lurking. Mindfulness can foster increased awareness.
Am I a Failure? No, but it sure can feel that way sometimes, especially after the explosion of social media. From perfect Instagram pictures with every detail in order to the super-parent status updates…it is too easy to fall prey to comparisons and self-criticism. Work on challenging those thoughts. Where is the evidence to support the idea you are failing? Be honest with yourself. Replace the thought with something more realistic or positive.
Self-Care is not a luxury, it is a necessity. How can a parent be there to support a child physically and emotionally if he or she is not similarly strong to start? Learn what refuels your tank and energizes you besides coffee. Schedule it in as you would a playdate, appointment, or dance recital. Make the time for what soothes your soul and mind, brings you joy, or simply lets your mind and body relax. Reward yourself for all your hard work and effort. Aim for balanced meals, adequate sleep, and moderate exercise (yes, chasing kids around the playground counts!).
Seek Help When Needed whether it be for a break for self-care or someone to do the chores around the house that are adding to your stress or lack of sleep. Need to vent? Find a local parent support group. Sometimes looking to a professional can be beneficial if there are behavioral issues adding to an already stressful situation. Parents of children with behavioral issues are at higher risk of burnout. Parent management training has shown to be effective in decreasing burnout. More information on this can be found here: https://anewapproach-counseling.com/what-is-parent-training-all-about/
If there is nothing more you take away from reading this, know that you are not alone in feeling burnt out as a parent. Parenting is one of the toughest jobs and can drain all the stamina and resources we have. It can be exhausting, infuriating, and saddening at times. However, with support, awareness, self-care, and other tools you can avoid or overcome parent burnout.