Are you experiencing this type of burnout?
I see you. Yes, you. Hiding in the bathroom with your cell phone trying to steal just a few minutes of solitude. You know who you are. You’re exhausted. Overwhelmed. Stressed. And at the same time, feeling guilty. Why?
You may be experiencing parental burnout, an overwhelming sense of exhaustion related to your role as a parent. You might even feel a sense of ineffectiveness as a parent.
It can feel near impossible to combat this problem, but it’s critical. When we are burned out, we tend to have a “shorter fuse.” We are less in control of our emotions, less patient, and generally less fun to be around. While your children may not be able to name what you’re experiencing as burnout, they definitely feel it. Our children are highly attuned to changes in our emotions and stress levels.
Modern-day parents, especially mothers, often feel guilty when they set boundaries or do things for themselves. Yet, one major antidote for parental burnout is “me time.” This cannot be side stepped. Taking time for ourselves is essential for our physical and mental health. It’s also key to enjoying our role as parents.
Still, if you’re looking for “on the job” ways to ease your sense of burnout, try engaging your children in activities you also find enjoyable –for example, spending time outside, exercising, listening to music, watching a movie or making art.
When possible, finding ways to reframe daily routines in order to make them more enjoyable can also be helpful. Here are a few ideas:
- Think of your commute time not as means to an end, but as quality alone time. Use the time to talk with friends, listen to an audiobook, or enjoy the quiet.
- When children are old enough or there is another caregiver present, light candles, dim the lights and escape for a bubble bath. (Note: music might have to be turned up loud to drown out the knocks and voices at the door, which must be locked!)
- Play your favorite tunes while cooking.
Though not life-altering, these little tweaks can be refreshing, and there is some power in taking control of usual chores and redefining them.
In the big picture, what we teach our children about how to be healthy and happy individuals is so much more important and impactful than whether they miss out on a few activities or feel temporarily sad because we went out without them.
When we take care of ourselves, we are modeling self-care behavior for our children. We’re teaching them to become adults who know how to set boundaries and manage stress.
About the Author
Dr. Gabrielle Roberts is a clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill.