Parental Burnout- Why You Need to Know about It and 6 Ways How to Prevent It

Important sociological changes in recent decades have increased pressure on parents to bring up healthy, secure and successful children who will become well-rounded and engaged citizens. Combined with a drastic decrease in stay-at-home mothers, these changes have made parenting both increasingly demanding and increasingly difficult. It is in this context that the concept of parental burnout started to emerge.

https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00163

You didn’t sleep well the night before but it’s getting late and the kids are hungry. You pull yourself off the sofa where you managed to sit down undisturbed for all of five minutes before you had to get up anyway to break up a fist fight between the boys. I’ll make spaghetti, that’s quick and easy, you decide. You open the cupboard and there’s a sticky mess where one of the kids has spilt a drink. After clearing it up you realise there’s no spaghetti as you forgot to buy some and let’s face it, no one else is going to think of these things are they? As you scrabble around in the cupboard looking for something else, the baby starts whingeing. He’s not feeling well and doesn’t really want to be put down. Balancing him on one hip, you find something to cook the kids and start cooking.

There is a mountain of washing up and you unsuccessfully start trying to wash the dishes. Your phone beeps and it’s your husband telling you that he’s running late so won’t be able to help with bath time and by the way he can’t get annual leave for the day when you really need childcare for the training course you absolutely must attend for work. Your daughter walks in and asks where a clean school skirt is for tomorrow. You realise that the mountain of clean washing hasn’t been folded for days because you just been so tired and had so much to do. Your other daughter walks in and tells you the school is asking where the permission slip is and the £180 payment for the school trip. It needed to be in last week. You finally serve up dinner and one of the kids has a full on meltdown because he doesn’t like what you’ve cooked. He is hungry and tired but refuses to eat. Resigned, you decide it’s just easier to cook him something else.

So evenings like the above are probably something we can all relate to. We all have our bad days undoubtably and most of us get pretty stressed from time to time. What if every day is like my description above? And what if there are other outside factors making our lives even more stressful? You may have heard of professional burnout but did you know that you can suffer from parental burnout too? And it’s no laughing matter. Parental burn out is characterised by overwhelming exhaustion, distancing from loved ones including your children, and inefficiency at every day tasks. At its worst it can lead to depression and low self esteem. A study in 2017 found it can affect between 2- 12% of parents, with slightly more mums affected.

I think we will be hearing a lot more about parental burnout as it is still a relatively new concept. But for now, here are my tips on how to avoid getting burnt out.

  • Learn the art of saying no.

  • It’s easy to get stuck into a mindset of believing we always need to agree to do things when we are asked to or offered them. The reality is we are all humans and there is a limit to our capacity. Your kids don’t need to go to every single party they are invited to especially if you have a lot of kids like me! This is just an example. If there is something you’ve been asked to do or offered and it is going to make your life difficult take a balanced view of it. Will it really matter if you don’t agree to volunteer for the school fair this year? Do you absolutely need to attend that meeting? I’m not by any means suggesting we become recluses or never help anyone else out but there comes a point where we need to remember our own needs.
    • Make time for yourself.

  • This phrase is so overused but it is so important in preventing burnout. Whether it’s making time to catch up with a friend for coffee, going to the salon to get your hair done, taking up a hobby or simply shutting and locking the bathroom door and having a long soak in a scented bath with me maybe a cheeky glass of wine on the side it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s something you know that will relax you it will help.
    • Slow down

    Try to get out of the habit of trying to squeeze too many tasks into a small space of time. Sometimes just because you can do something doesn’t mean you necessarily should for examples the other day all my kids are at school apart from the baby and he was having a nap. I could’ve cleaned the oven or done some dusting but for a change I force myself to sit down and catch up on some TV. It was amazing.

    • Consider Practical Solutions

    If you have the money or space in your home and you are struggling to keep on top of housework why not consider a cleaner or an au pair? This is something I have never personally done but I know a lot of people who have and it works wonders for them.

    • Communicate

    If you are feeling overwhelmed talk to your partner. He or she might not realise you are struggling and there maybe things they can do to help.

    • Ask for Help

    Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Stop trying to be a supermum.You will be amazed at how happy most people are to give you a hand. Trust me, I know because I’ve had to do it.

    Remember you should never feel guilty or self indulgent for taking any of the above steps. A happy Mum means happy kids!

    Have you ever felt burnt out as a parent? Did you know it even existed? Let me know in the comments below and it would really help me out if you could follow my blog!

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