Identifying Parenting Burnout and the Tools To Relieve It
When we think of burnout, we often think about our jobs, not about our home life. But the pandemic forced a new wave of limitless boundaries for working parents. Now with more companies opting into a remote-work structure, parents are finding themselves burnt out both at work and at home.
So what exactly is parenting burnout? We’ve identified some ways in which you can notice it when it’s happening and the tools that can help relieve it when it shows up. After all, you can choose to leave a job or take a mental health day—parenting is a 24/7 job that offers no paid time off—or paid time at all.
What is Parenting Burnout?
Parents often spend so much time focusing on the needs of their children, they neglect their own. But the existence of children does not equate to parents any longer having needs of their own. Parenting burnout is hard to identify sometimes because many people think it’s just a part of raising children, especially in the early years.
Parental burnout can show up in a number of different ways. Many times, parents, and in particular, moms, feel guilty for feeling tired or exhausted. They’ll often reason with themselves over their tiredness and push through. This can wind up having a negative impact on one’s overall mental health.
Burnout as a parent can look like this:
- Short fuses and temper with your kids
- Brain fog, an inability to focus, and confusion
- Forgetfulness (hello, mom brain!)
- A feeling of isolation and depression
- Poor sleep
- Higher stress levels
- Obsessive and compulsive behaviors
- Decreased sex drive
- Lack of interest in things you used to like
Cause and Effects of Parenting Burnout
When parents have high-stress levels and are short-tempered, many times the home situation can be tense. Children pick up on that tension. And that’s not to say to feel even more guilty, it’s just to notice that when it happens to check-in with yourself and your mood.
Some common causes of parenting burnout are:
- Not communicating
- Lack of boundaries
- People pleasing
- Last-minute schedule conflicts like early pickups, sick children, and others
- Unfair balance of responsibility in the relationship
- Lack of a village to help and support (enter, Helpr!)
- Lack of resources to ask and receive help, (money, childcare, etc)
Parenting burnout can affect a couple’s intimacy and overall relationship. When libido is lower and tension is high, couples are often reacting to situations instead of being present and communicating through them.
Burnout can also affect the relationship you have with your children. If you’re burnt out, you may not be able to be your full self during playtime or at dinner. And that’s okay. It’s important to not cast judgment on yourself, you’re doing the best you can!
Tools to Relieve Parenting Burnout
Okay, we talked enough about what burnout is and its effects. It’s time to focus on the tools you can use to feel less burnt out, connect with your family, and be the parent you know you’re meant to be.
Find a Therapist
Therapists can be extremely helpful when experiencing parenting burnout. They can also be helpful as a parent who isn’t. If you’ve got the resources to invest in a therapist, consider finding one with one of these tools:
- Mental Health America
- National Alliance on Mental Health
- Online Therapist Directory
If therapy isn’t conducive to your budget, there are apps you can use to help you through challenging times.
Try these mental health apps:
For a full list of resources and the top mental health apps for 2021, see here.
Communicate Your Needs and Set Boundaries
Parents sometimes feel guilty when they communicate their own needs. But what a child needs most is a happy, present parent. If the dishes are in the sink, if the laundry is overflowing, it’s okay. Work with your partner and your family to communicate what you need from them. Set appropriate boundaries with them and be consistent. They’ll learn to respect them and set their own in the process.
Avoid Feeling Shame After Bad Eating Habits
Our bodies crave sugar when we’re tired. Our bodies know that sugar will give us the needed rush to get through whatever it is we need to get through. But feeding into this craving may have some negative consequences, especially if you tend to feel guilty after a craving.
Cravings and bingeing on unhealthy foods often lead to feelings of shame and guilt, this can exacerbate stress and make you even tenser. Sometimes it’s okay to feed into your cravings, we’re human. But try to notice when shame comes up around those. That shame can send you into a restrictive eating cycle, which is inevitably going to lead to more unhealthy cravings.
Move Your Body in Positive Ways
Exercise is proven to help both your physical and your mental health. But exercise doesn’t always have to mean going to the gym or taking that spin class. If that’s what excites you and makes you feel good, then do it! But if you just like morning stretches or walking through nature, then make time for those ways to move your body.
The importance isn’t exactly in what you do, it’s that you stick to it. And that you take care of your physical and mental health.
Parenting is an overwhelming job. There will always be times when it feels like a lot. Parents are easily overstimulated at home, but you can overcome parenting burnout. You’re a great parent, remember that and remember that you deserve as much love and attention as your children.