Parental burnout is real.
We’ve all heard of occupational burnout, and in recent years, many companies have even started taking measures to ensure that their employees don't incur it, but something you may not hear as much about is parental burnout. Much like occupational burnout, parental burnout is also a condition of exhaustion, impacting the mental health and overall quality of life of the parents who experience it.
Burnout occurs when we give and give to something without getting much in return. With the sort of self-sacrificing for consecutive years that is required as a parent, it’s easy to see how parental burnout may be a lot more common than we realize. Parenting can sometimes feel like a thankless job, especially for those with teens that have a propensity for defiance, and our current state of quarantined stress is liable to spare little to no respite.
The following are some signs of parental burnout:
Often feel misunderstood and/or disrespected by your kids.
You often don’t understand your son/daughter’s irrational behavior.
Experiencing frequent bouts of guilt and/or mood swings.
You feel like punishment is the only way you can get your kids to listen.
You find that you have more negative interactions than positive ones with your kids.
Your positive interactions with your kids are limited to a small range of topics.
You’re quick to react emotionally, get irritated or impatient when they start testing their boundaries.
If you found a lot of these ringing true for you, rest assured that you are not alone and that you can heal from it, but it will require a lot of self compassion. Here are some steps you can take to start recovering:
1. Accept that you may be experiencing burnout. Acknowledgment of what you're going through will help to separate the traits of parental burnout from your actual identity, meaning - you are not your emotions of the moment, and your reactions are a result of the burnout.
2. Allow yourself to have a pity party for a little bit. Complain to a friend, therapist, spouse, and if there’s no one to complain to, write it down and cry it out. It's possible that you may never have allowed yourself to mourn the loss of who you were before kids came into the picture.
3. Give your own self the credit and appreciation you deserve, but may not be getting. In fact, I can help you get started: As a former Math tutor for many years, one thing I always admired about the parents of my students was that they were often more than qualified and knowledgeable in Math to be able to help their kids with schoolwork, yet they would hire a tutor because their kids wouldn't learn from them and their greater concern was to meet their child's needs. It may seem like a small thing, but personally, I think it speaks volumes to their dedication and sacrifice for their kids' well being and should not be overlooked so easily. Whether you have done the same or not, surely there are some other small things you've given that have been taken for granted. Your efforts will likely one day be appreciated, but until then, some self appreciation, or perhaps mutual appreciation between friends, may help to restore some of your energy.
4. Do things that are just for you that no one else benefits from. It can be so easy to get lost in the trenches, and forget you're a human being too (speaking from experience here), but things like exercising, meditating or maintaining hobbies, even for a few minutes per day can keep your identity somewhat intact.
5. Keep a gratitude journal. This may be the most important of all the suggestions - to constantly keep the things that you're grateful for at the forefront of your mind as much as possible. Gratitude is a centering emotion, and when our minds get clouded with negative emotions, practicing gratitude can clear the fog within minutes.
6. Learn effective techniques to influence and understand your kids better. There are many great resources available online for learning influencing techniques that work for kids, and will make your life smoother and easier, but if you'd like to skip the google search, you can also just subscribe to our mailing list (excuse the shameless plug). We email articles and resources to help you to understand the psychology of your kids, including tips for influencing them to be self accountability and adopt a growth mindset.