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Over the last year, as parents, we’ve all been juggling a lot (another understatement) and as a result, we’ve seen a rise in the term “parental burnout”. But we’re all exhausted, right? It’s part and parcel of being parents? Yes…although burnout is another kettle of fish. According to psychologists burnout refers to situations of “emotional imbalance” in “situations where exhaustion occurs as a result of being physically and emotionally overwhelmed by one’s parental role”.
It’s a topic shrouded in unwelcome stigma. Many parents still fear that they’ll be judged as not good enough, incapable or incompetent if they ask for help when they’re struggling. We’re conditioned to think that exhaustion is part and parcel of having kids but when parents are burnt out, the whole family suffers. A recent study even found that parental burnout can also lead to “neglectful and violent behaviour toward one’s children.” Parents suffering from burnout were more likely to use verbal, psychological and even physical aggression when communicating with their kids and were also more likely to fantasise about giving up on parenting. Burnout is real – but with a little bit of TLC, it can be dealt with.
Your body might be giving you the heads up that it’s time to take a break if you’re regularly experiencing:
But what causes parental burnout? A multiplicity of things. Being a parent is a complex role that comes with numerous challenges. There’s not a lot we can do about the sleepless nights, the cluster feeds, the eternal juggle and the day-to-day stresses that come with life as a parent, but there are certain things that we can do that may increase the risks of us developing burn out:
Believing harmful myths
Parenting can be magical. It can be wonderful. It can be full of beautiful moments. But it can also be really bloody hard. It can test you and it can push you to limits you never even knew you had. It is frequently exhausting and overwhelming. There are so many myths that we have been conditioned to believe around “perfect parenting” and as soon as we “fall short” we start to berate ourselves for not being good enough. Parenting guilt is real and a firm driver in making parents push themselves through exhaustion to burnout levels.
Not making time for yourself
Another myth we’ve been led to believe is that we should be available for our kids at all times, but believing this means that we often fail to take time out. That old chestnut “you can’t pour from an empty cup” has become the thing of widely shared Instagram memes for a reason. When you’re tired or stressed, you’re not able to give as much to your loved ones. It is impossible to take care of others when you’re running on empty.
Trying to be perfect
Parenting burnout is nearly always a sign that you’re trying to do too much, trying too hard to be the perfect parent. But with parenting, as with life, there is no such thing as perfect.
Lack of support is one of the main reasons why so many parents are exhausted. Parenting is even harder when you have to do it alone or when your child has additional needs. Parenting without support means having to do everything without backup and without someone to rally when you’re feeling the strain.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and a little burnt out, know you’re not alone. Recognising the signs of burnout and taking action is a really positive step to feeling better and brighter. Parenting is TOUGH, but remember, so are you. You’ve got this.
For more advice on managing burnout, Gi chatted to Dr Punam Krishan, Dr Shruti Nathwani and Dr Stephanie Jen Chyi Ooi at our Spring Virtual Meetup: