Have a newborn? Establish those good habits now, Laurie Warren writes
Parenting can be amazing and a gift and most parents wouldn’t trade it for the world. Yet the truth is, parenting can also be difficult, exhausting, and fraught with stressors. Parent burnout is on the rise, and parenting can cause burnout all on its own, aside from work/life balance and other life stressors – and it’s rarely discussed, even among friends, because our culture tells us that we should love every minute of being a parent. This is a harmful bar that we’ve set and it discourages real discussion about a real issue. The constant pressure to be the perfect parent while juggling our career or struggling to keep food on the table has today’s parent fraught with guilt, shame and fatigue, while we all pretend that parent burnout doesn’t exist.
Parent burnout is characterized by physical and mental exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, and/or a sense of being an ineffective or “bad” parent. We become more short-tempered and more self-focused. Parents sometimes experience escape fantasies—of simply leaving parenting and all its stressors. Parents in burnout are also more likely to lean into neglectful behavior or verbal, psychological, and physical aggression. And unfortunately, when a parent is experiencing burnout, they tend to subconsciously distance themselves, emotionally, from their kids.
Before you become a parent, learn these five steps that can help you avoid or recover from parent burnout.
- Release the idea of “perfecting parenting” and focus on what matters.
- Set healthy boundaries by being clear — in both your work and personal life — with what is OK and not OK for you.
- Find one trusted friend, who’s also a parent, with whom you can discuss the ongoing challenges of parenting — not so much to complain as to vent, be heard, and get support for what’s real for you.
- Recover time in your life. Free up time by using services whenever possible. Hire as much help as you can afford, create childcare swaps with friends, and line up after-school activity carpools. Create a to-don’t list where you flush out your top three to five biggest time wasters and commit to not doing them for at least a week. You’ll likely find you never needed to do them in the first place.
- Practice consistent physical, emotional, and mental self-care, which is a main tool in avoiding, and recovering from, parent burnout. Self-care IS child care. Food choices, sleep, hydration, meditation, yoga, fun and exercise are all powerful influencers in your ability to remain healthy.