Parental burnout can affect anyone. It is a syndrome that occurs when parents are chronically struggling to deal with the demands of parenting. This condition generally affects those parents who are continuously exposed to situations that raise their parenting stress level, and who lack of resources to compensate or who face a lack of support from external sources.
Although many parents are affected by this problem, moms burnout more often than fathers (among burned out parents, there are 2 mothers for 1 father). This is because, in the first place, they are the ones that have to take care of the household and everything else while additionally carrying out homemaking tasks as well as employment or educational activities. Furthermore, there’s a lack of support systems for mothers and many feel they have to do it all alone. Not many women have the feeling that they have partners to lean on and be supported emotionally and concretely throughout their parenting journey. This being said, men can also suffer from parental burnout.
The symptoms of this syndrome can be detected as soon as you stop paying attention to things you love in parenting and the activities that used to bring some joy. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or some combination of them, we advise you to immediately seek professional help:
A feeling of being constantly overwhelmed by your responsibilities as a parent as well as unable to cope with them anymore
Feelings of being distant from your children, acting on autopilot or as a robot
Disappearance of interest in things related to parenting, loss of parental fulfilment,
Loss of pleasure in being with your children while you still love them
Anger on children for acting inappropriately, in situations that would not have upset you before
Loss of interest when your children are putting themselves at risk, while you would have been worried before
Also, it is totally natural to feel the above symptoms in certain situations. However, if these feelings are just becoming part of your daily routine, you need to seek help from a professional psychologist. It is very important to make sure this situation does not deteriorate for risk of suffering more severe health problems that may ensue from burnout.
What is the treatment for parental burnout?
In order to be able to move on, one useful thing to do is a thorough self-evaluation and find out what triggers your feelings of being overwhelmed. Although one factor may be more sailient, one factor is not sufficient to cause burnout. It is always a combination of several stress-enhancing factors (e.g., a child with special needs; very high parenting standards; conflicts among siblings) and a lack of stress-relieving factors (e.g., lack of support from the co-parent; lack of support from the community; lack of stress-management abilities; lack of time to breathe out from parenting…). Thus, parenting can be represented as an old scale with stress-enhancing factors on one side and stress-alleviating factors on the other side. When the scale leans to the wrong side for too long, parental burnout may occur.
What is in the parent’s scale is different for each parent. The common point among all parents suffering from parental burnout is that they have faced too many parenting stressors for too long, without enough personal or external resources to compensate.
After identifying what’s in your scale, try to either eliminate some stressors (if removing the biggest stressor is not possible, consider removing several smaller stressors) so that your stress level can go down. Start by working on the most malleable or controllable stressors, then work on finding more complex ways of reducing your stress.
When you cannot remove stressors, an alternative way is to add resources. You can get relaxed by utilizing various relaxation techniques or do some deep breathing exercises. If you like meditation, that’s also an option. If you hate the idea of relaxation or mediation, going out for a walk is also an option. Actually, anything that helps your body and mind to relax is good. When performed in the evening, these actions can also help you relax your mind and body so that it can get ready for sleep. Additionally, taking time to do something you enjoy can help boost your mood. And, perhaps the most important step you can take is to get support from friends and family members. You are not obliged to tell them that you feel bad, you can also simply rely on your friends to breathe out from parenting (eg., going to the movie, to the restaurant, or simply gathering together for a walk or shopping…).
If these techniques do not work for you and your burnout is getting worse, it would be best to schedule an appointment with a psychologist. They will be able to provide you with professional counseling and help you get through this difficult time. It may indeed be useful to work on more profound issues such as your standards as a parent (possibly too high or unrealistic in your situation), your coping with the pressure from social networks or other parents, your parenting practices, your relationship or communication with the co-parent, or reasons why you can’t ask for help or get it when you ask for it. The treatment for parental burnout is always customized to the specific situation of the parent.