Cultural conditioning gets us to think about parenting in the most idealistic and romanticized way for many of us. Of course, as any parent knows, the sunshine-and-roses aspects of it are only part of the experience. Some moments are far from joyful or wonderful, and they can lead to parental burnout.
Yes, burnout in parents because of parenting is a thing, and it can affect your physical and mental health, as well as your relationships with your children, partner, and other family members and friends. The good news is that there are ways to deal with it.
What Is Parental Burnout?
Professor Moïra Mikolajczak of Belgium’s University of Louvain researched parental burnout and its impact. She explained it as an exhaustion syndrome that happens when parents are exposed to significant stress in their role as a parent for a long time. Those parents typically don’t have enough resources to combat the effects of that stress.
Symptoms of Parental Burnout
There are four main symptoms of parental burnout, and according to Dr. Mikolajczak’s research, they develop in this order: First, the parent experiences emotional, cognitive, and physical exhaustion. Second, the parent no longer finds pleasure in parenting.
Third, the parent becomes emotionally distant from their child or children. Fourth, the parent realizes they’re not parenting as they’d done so previously, and they aren’t the parent they want to be.
Other symptoms include behavioral changes, decreased interest in doing things, and irritability and frustration. Fatigue, difficulty sleeping, self-isolation, and the urge to harm yourself or others are also associated symptoms.
Those most at risk of parental burnout include children with special needs, parents of children who require mobility support or additional caregiving, single parents, and parents with current or past mental illness. Parents who are isolated or have little to no emotional or practical support and parents who tend to be perfectionists are also at high risk.
How to Deal With Parental Burnout
The following five ways can help you deal with the stress of parenting and the burnout it can cause.
We can be our harshest critics, and our self-criticism usually manifests as negative self-talk. Focus on forgiving yourself when you become aware that you’re being self-critical.
As parents, many of us put our kids first. As noble as that is, it can lead to non-existent self-care. Make a point of practicing self-care every day, even if it’s as simple as repeating a few positive affirmations while enjoying a hot shower.
Speak to a friend
If you’re experiencing burnout, reach out and speak to a close friend who understands you.
Join a support group
You can find parental burnout support groups online, and there may even be one in your town or city. Check out a few different groups until you find the right one for you.
Speak to a therapist
A licensed mental healthcare provider can help you identify possible issues and potential solutions, and sources of support.
Parental burnout doesn’t happen because you’re a terrible parent. It happens because we’re human, and there’s only so much stress that any of us can take. Use the above tips to navigate the stress you experience and reduce the chances of burnout.