Are you feeling tired or frustrated? Do you feel like nothing that you are doing is ever good enough? Have you ever wanted to run away and quit your job as a parent? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may be experiencing parental burnout. Parental burnout is a loss of enthusiasm, energy, mindset, and purpose in relation to parenting. It is being completely exhausted as a result of continual stress.
Admitting that you are feeling burned out does not mean that you have failed as a parent. In fact, Dr. Robin Goodman notes that parental burnout is often related to trying to be a good parent. With the demands of working all day, keeping the house clean, and making sure that the kids are healthy and happy, it comes as no surprise at how common parental burnout has become.
It is important that parents be able to recognize the signs of parental burnout to combat the issue before it becomes severe. Some of the signs include irritability, testiness, resentfulness, frustration, anger, feeling detached from their children, and a sudden lack of joy for parenting. Being able to recognize the signs of parental burnout is the first step. Parents must then find ways to manage and cope with the stress that sometimes comes with parenting.
There are five strategies that may help parents better manage stress and prevent parental burnout:
Be a “good enough” parent. Typically, parents strive to be the best parent they can be, doing everything possible to avoid “failure.” But, there is no such thing as a perfect parent.
Trying to be a perfect parent can lead to burnout and other pitfalls. Expect to make mistakes while parenting and give yourself credit for simply doing your best to make sure your children are taken care of.
Always have backup. Parenting can be stressful and parents can make mistakes. Therefore, it is a good idea to have a support system in place. This support system can include other parents, friends, grandparents, clergy — anyone you feel connected to. Even if you don’t want or need advice, it is good to have someone available simply to listen and support.
Avoid comparisons. Sometimes we get caught up comparing our Family to others — those seen on television, friends and neighbors. Every Family situation is unique. Embrace your Family’s situation, and view each challenge as an opportunity for growth. Just because your neighbor appears to be Claire Huxtable, doesn’t mean that you have to be. Give yourself and your Family credit for being different. Do what works for you.
Practice self-care. This may be the most important strategy of all. Parents should remember to always put their own oxygen mask on before helping others. How can you care for your children if you don’t first care for yourself? It is important for parents to take some time to do things they enjoy for themselves: a hobby, a sport, or a favorite pastime. Find an activity that is enjoyable, calming, and stress relieving. What do you like to do?
Expand your toolbox. Not all parenting situations are the same. Every Family is different and every situation brings its own challenges. There are many methods of parenting, and what may work for one Family, may not work for another. Also, just because a specific parenting method may work for one child or situation, doesn’t mean that it will work for another.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. During this month, organizations highlight all the great support options available to parents to help Families stay happy and healthy.
Visit Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program, your local library, Department of Social Services, or other local agencies for parenting education resources and classes. For more information, call ACS at 396-5521.