Parenting is difficult. Raising little humans is challenging with late-night feedings, tantrums, meltdowns, and school assignments and projects. And it’s particularly challenging if you often put your child’s needs ahead of your own, as many parents do. Parental burnout is when you are exhausted and believe you have nothing more to give. Even though the exhaustion of being a parent is not glamorous or boastful, it is a natural everyday battle for many parents.
It should be noted that there are numerous different types of tiredness. Physical tiredness, burnout, boredom, frustration, and feeling defeated or fed up belong to the same category. Most of the time, it is very likely that a parent possesses a combination of some, if not all, of these traits. By identifying the type of fatigue, you may choose the course of action that will most likely restore your ability to cope with the demands of parenthood. Remember to put on your oxygen mask before helping others.
What is Parental Fatigue?
Physical, mental, and emotional tiredness brought on by the constant stress of parenting is known as parental burnout. It may show as emotional withdrawal from your child, irritation, or the tendency to get angry quickly. Many parents experiencing parental burnout doubt their abilities to be parents in the first place, and some may become forgetful or feel more anxious or depressed. It’s typical to feel inadequate, bewildered, and alone. Burnout results from ongoing stress where an individual’s workload exceeds their capacity to perform. Physical depletion, emotional exhaustion, a loss of drive, a feeling of hopelessness, and a disconnection from others and enjoyable activities are all symptoms of burnout. However, parental burnout is temporary and can be overcome by taking necessary measures.
Parental burnout is a phenomenon that develops over time, according to psychologists and family specialists. It is initially characterized in the first stage as overwhelming fatigue. Parents may feel different sorts of exhaustion depending on the age of their children; for instance, parents of young children typically feel more physically exhausted, whilst parents of adolescents or teenagers may feel emotionally exhausted due to disagreements with their children. Many parents put off working during the day because they were too busy caring for their children. As a result, they were more irritated and agitated the next day. Burnt-out parents typically exhibit persistent tension over how they’ll manage to do everything. That may interfere with sleep, exacerbating worry and irritability, creating a cycle that continues daily.
To conserve their energy, exhausted parents often distance themselves from their children. A third phase occurs after this one, during which parents feel less fulfilled in their role. Like how job burnout symptoms worsen over time, parental burnout symptoms also progress in stages. Phase one weariness persists despite distance and loss of fulfilment. Because of this, parents who are burnt out often describe a gap between the parents they were, the parents they would like to be, and the parents they are now. Because of this inconsistency, burnt-out parents may experience unavoidable discomfort, humiliation, and guilt.
Parental burnout has distinct effects from job burnout, which can lead to severe issues in people’s life. Parents who are burned out frequently feel stuck in their positions, which can have more severe effects, such as suicidal and escape thoughts. Even when the parents are morally opposed to such actions, burnout can lead to parents abusing or neglecting their children. According to several research, parents who reported higher degrees of burnout also reported higher amounts of coercive or punitive parenting techniques and were at a higher risk of abusing their children.
Whether a burnt-out parent spanks or yells at their child, this conduct hurts everyone, not just the child. Burnout symptoms and their aftereffects can lead to a vicious cycle. Parents who engage in these activities frequently experience shame, which causes them to dwell on their actions. As a result, they wake up the following day wearier and more sensitive, intensifying their bad habits.
Causes of Parental Fatigue
More than 30 years ago, the idea of parental burnout was first brought to scientific inquiry. However, fresh research is expanding how people view this phenomenon. Recent studies have found that an imbalance between parenting demands and rewards is the primary cause of parental burnout. Parenting is stressful and challenging in every situation. But in theory, parenting has more advantages than disadvantages. However, parents risk burnout if they consistently experience more stress than satisfaction. Parental burnout symptoms appear when the balance shifts to the negative side and occur daily. Here are the common causes that may cause parental fatigue or burnout.
1. Cultural Norms
According to a study, cultural norms are a significant factor in predicting parental burnout: parents from more individualistic nations, including Western nations, had higher rates of burnout than those from nations of Eastern cultures. Individualistic cultures prioritize rivalry, excellence, and perfection, which raises stress levels and depletes resources by dissuading parents from seeking assistance. And while Western cultures frequently uphold principles of self-improvement or independence, and Eastern cultures typically encourage children’s obedience and respect toward elders, this can result in kids being less likely to listen to adults.
2. Experiencing Multiple Stressors
Parents of children with special needs, single parents, and parents who are immigrants may already be dealing with several stresses. Because of the constant demands of parenting, they may already have a reduced threshold for further stress. Groups already subjected to long-term, persistent stressors are more susceptible to mental health problems and burnout.
3. Individual Risk Factors and Structural Oppression
Individual risk factors combined with structural oppression might make people more vulnerable. For example, immigrant parents experience hardship, including financial security and feelings of social support, in addition to everyone’s anxieties about catching an economic crisis and persistent racial trauma.
4. Childhood Traumas
Parents who experienced traumatic childhoods frequently hold negative ideas about their parental responsibilities. Many parents who grew up in dysfunctional families think that because they have never experienced typical parenting, they lack the same skills as other parents. Burnout may be significantly influenced by such shame.
5. Trying Hard to Please Others
Poor boundaries, a lack of communication, and a general need to please others can all be reasons for parental burnout. When you overextend yourself or take on too much, leaving little room for mistakes, you put yourself in a situation where parental burnout is highly likely.
Symptoms of Parental Fatigue
While it’s simple to understand how challenging it might be to raise a child, it’s not always easy to recognize when your tiredness has reached a stage where you need help. Thankfully, there are several warning signs of parental burnout that all caregivers can learn to recognize, allowing you to seek help from loved ones, friends, or a professional if you start to feel like you’re losing it.
1. You’ve Reached Your Breaking Point
Parental burnout includes more than stress and weariness, even though these signs may be simpler to spot than others. Parental burnout is when you feel overwhelmed physically, intellectually, and emotionally. We all occasionally experience stress or fatigue, but not necessarily to the point of breaking. If you’re debating whether you require assistance, now is the moment to do it. There is no such thing as “bad enough” or “not bad enough.” If you feel it badly affects your life, you should consider talking to somebody or a professional.
2. You Have Aggressive and Suicidal Urges
Though they can indicate fatigue, violent desires can also be a symptom of postpartum mental problems. Be honest with yourself about your thoughts and urges, especially if they turn aggressive, to ensure the security of your kids. Parents’ behaviour and mental health greatly influence their children. Therefore, it’s imperative to seek professional help as soon as you discover your burnout is having an impact on them.
Normalizing the idea that parenting is challenging and perhaps draining can be beneficial since it makes one feel less isolated. Still, it can also downplay the intensity or “dark place” someone may be experiencing. Seek assistance immediately if you think about injuring yourself or committing suicide. Researchers say it’s crucial to seek help before reaching this point because, for worn-out mothers, suicide is not uncommon. And if you’re already thinking these things, get assistance right away.
3. You’re constantly arguing with your spouse or co-parent.
Parental burnout may affect more than simply a parent’s kids. Couples raising children can experience burnout, and as household chaos increases, they may get angrier or feel more distant from one another. Take a minute to reflect on the possibility that one or both of you may be experiencing parental burnout if you find yourself frequently bickering with your co-parent.
4. You experience a distance from your child(ren).
According to researchers, one warning sign of parental burnout is when your relationship with your kids changes from being fulfilling to being burdensome. If you dislike having your kids around, talk to your co-parent about it and consider getting support, especially if you can’t find a way to delegate some of your responsibilities to them.
5. You’re beginning to disregard your own physical, educational, and emotional needs and those of your child.
According to research, parental burnout causes increased parental neglect, which causes further burnout, and so on. There is cause for concern if you consistently overlook your child’s needs because of weariness. It’s necessary to receive aid as soon as you reach the point where you can no longer look after your own needs.
Tips on Managing Parental Burnout
To assist parents struggling after their exceptional parental experience, here are some recommendations for developing post-traumatic resilience that relies on the many learnings and coping mechanisms from other parents who have experienced and coped with parental burnout. Here are a few suggestions that might lift your spirits, whether you recently discovered that you are weighed down, or it has built up over time.
1. Speak with a therapist or seek assistance.
It might be as easy as arranging ridesharing for a child’s after-school activities. Another option is to consider residential care for a teen dealing with depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue. You can choose the best support by speaking with a qualified mental health expert. There are numerous possibilities, including group treatment programs, couples counselling, and individual therapy. Try to schedule the first sessions because every therapist and practice has a different style to assist you in determining the best fit. The results will be better the more you understand a program or experience.
2. Reconsider your level of stress
If being a parent is wearing you out, consider your perspective again. Look for areas in your life where you can improve or things you are grateful for. Reframing the obstacle as something you can overcome rather than as a danger that makes you feel helpless may be helpful. Reappraisal can provide you with a tool to help you cope, but it won’t remove the challenging circumstances from your life.
3. Visit a support group
Support groups typically provide greater involvement flexibility and are frequently peer-led, meaning no designated group leader exists. Support groups are not always led by qualified mental health professionals but rather by individuals who have gone through or felt the same things. A few support groups can be tried before you locate the ideal one. Utilize existing supports or look for new ones if you run low on energy. This may entail asking family members, close friends, or babysitters to give you a brief break from the kids every so often so you can rest.
4. Begin with where you are.
As parents, we frequently prioritize our children’s needs before our own. But when we stop checking in with ourselves, burnout sneaks up. Although some want to keep moving forward, lockdown stress is still etched in our bodies. Take a conscious break, take a deep breath, and then exhale slowly throughout the day to gradually open to what you are experiencing. Plant your feet firmly on the earth as you focus on your five senses. Keep an eye on your thoughts and emotions. Finding quiet periods can help you feel more grounded and provide you with the room to connect with your children more deeply.
5. Grow Your Parenting Toolkit
Every parent has their own particular set of parenting skills developed over time. Some of them we picked up from our parents, others from parenting books, education, or even media, while some may have just come naturally to us. If you’re like most individuals, you possess some more valuable abilities than others. Therefore, even though we are only trying to the best of our abilities to raise our children, experimenting with different behaviour management methods may enable you to find what will work best for you. At the same time, it’s crucial to realize that change is a process; some behaviours might change immediately, while others might take longer. There is no shame in attempting to prepare oneself better because not knowing how to handle the difficulties that come with parenting is stressful and empowering. Taking this action can be just what’s required to gain momentum.
6. Gain Better Self-Care
Self-care is individual to you, just like anything else. What you find stimulating and helpful may be the most awful thing to someone else. You’ll start to boost the mental energy needed for parenting once you consistently perform those activities. The more time between self-care activities, the more quickly burnout sets in. Start simple if you don’t have time for a self-care routine. Set aside two minutes every morning to focus on yourself before checking your phone or getting the kids. Then, smile and pat yourself on the back for all the accomplishments you have made thus far.
7. Make modest changes
In contrast to occupational burnout, parental burnout can be difficult to recover from. You may feel trapped by the stressor because you can’t constantly take a vacation. Rebalancing the variable stresses that, over time, make you feel exhausted is preferable to focusing on the major stressors. For instance, if your to-do list makes you exhausted, assign specific tasks to your partner or children. Reduce obligations if a child’s continual activities are a burden or arrange carpools with other parents. Being flexible and balanced is the key.
8. Leave the “cult of the perfect parent” behind.
In this day of overparenting, many of us strive to meet an impossibly high standard. Additionally, we can receive so much parenting advice that it overpowers any faith we have in our judgment. The most significant way to avoid parenting stress is to give up on being the perfect parent and obtain some perspective on the various parenting suggestions so you can decide which ones work for you. The idea of the ideal parent is fiction—a myth. We can still berate ourselves for our struggles, though.
9. Eat Healthily and Prioritize Healthy Habits
Exercise should be prioritized because it is the best thing you can do for your mood. An excellent way to relieve tension and anxiety is to exercise. Take the dog for a stroll. Happy animals have a way of improving mental well-being. Eat healthily; fast food, takeout, and packaged snacks are sometimes unhealthy. A balanced diet of fresh foods works wonders and is typically less expensive over time than prepared meals. Sometimes giving the body the energy it requires is necessary to boost the mood and cope with the stress brought by parenting.
10. Plan Your Day Well
The secret to overcoming parental weariness is preparation. Plan your day, leave time for rest and naps, go to bed and eat regularly, move at your child’s pace, and avoid packing the day with too many events. Recognizing the first indications of exhaustion and resting sooner rather than later.
Parenting is an endurance race for which there is no preparation. While certain parts of the journey will be thrilling, others will drain your energy. Although you might see much of this from your kids once they are much older, juggling the responsibilities of a family is an extraordinary effort that deserves recognition and appreciation. Finding ways to recharge and change one’s viewpoint will keep one sane and productive while enabling us to access the joy that children may bring.
You will rediscover the joy of parenting, even with a difficult child, when you accept each day as it comes and are conscious of methods to replenish your heart. Although it occupies a significant portion of your life now, your identity extends beyond your parental position. When things get too much, seek support, ask for some assistance, and try to take care of yourself regularly. Remember those trying first days and weeks after your child was born? You were successful. You may enjoy the journey if you make it a point to fill your heart intentionally.