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Kids Driving You Nuts? You Might (Really) Have Parental Burnout

By Sara Butler

Experiencing Parental Burnout

There are some things parents aren’t supposed to talk about. After all, being a parent is supposed to be one of the most satisfying things you ever do with your life. I mean, you created a human out of thin air -- that’s a pretty cool superpower. But raising and caring for that human? It leaves a lot to be desired.

Sure, your children are the light of your life. The reason you breathe. The whole reason you were put on this planet. But all that love doesn’t make parenting easy and even the best of parents can experience something called parental burnout.

The solution to parental burnout is complicated. You may think you can simply hire a nanny and call it done, but that’s not all there is to understand about it. Here’s what you need to know about parental burnout and how you can cope with it to be the parent you want to be and a human that doesn’t feel stretched so thin.

Parental Burnout: What Is It?

You know that feeling you get when your kids wake you up from a deep sleep at 3 a.m. or have a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store? The feeling like you have nothing left to give -- emotionally, physically, or mentally? That’s parental burnout.

Of course, parental burnout can manifest itself in a myriad of ways. You can start to feel as if you’re becoming emotionally distant to your child or simply feeling grumpy all the time. Others may be quick to anger or feel more depressed or anxious. How you experience parental burnout may be very different from others, but the important part is to be able to spot when it’s happening to you.

Burnout is the result of a long period of stress in which the demands placed on you seem to outweigh your ability to meet them. You may experience burnout as a lack of motivation, feeling great despair, not participating in activities you used to enjoy, or simply feeling tired all the time.

Burnout can be a beast, but the good news is that there are things you can do to beat it back and even prevent it from happening in the first place.

Who Is at Risk of Parental Burnout?

Obviously, parental burnout is prevalent in those who are, well, parents. It’s something that has likely been around since the first human procreated, but recent events in the world may have exacerbated this phenomenon for a lot of people.

Increased anxiety and stress leads to parental burnout; anyone who doesn’t have the right coping skills to deal with the increased pressure surrounding them is at risk of experiencing parental burnout. Also, if you aren’t very resilient in general or have a low tolerance for frustrations, you’re at risk, too. But really, parental burnout can happen to anyone who is trying to raise and care for their mini-me.

What Can You Do?

If you are struggling with parental burnout, there are some steps you should take.

  • Talk to a loved one, your partner, co-parent, or spouse - If you’re feeling like you’ve reached your limit, reach out to someone for help. Explain how you’re feeling and be honest about it. Think about what you need that may help and communicate it.
  • Sleep more - With littles, this can be easier said than done, but getting enough sleep at night is key to improved mental health and coping. Prioritize sleep in your life as well as in your family and take a nap if you’ve had a tough night when you can. If you can get better quality sleep -- and more of it -- you will improve your ability to regulate your emotions and focus better, too.
  • Work out - You know all those parent blogs that preach about self-care? Well, they’re not wrong. You have to carve out time for yourself and do activities that will help improve your physical and mental health. Exercise is one of those things. Even if you feel exhausted, you may be surprised what a 20-minute walk can do for your energy levels and to help you deal better with stress.
  • Be patient - You need to give yourself a break. Raising kids is hard work. Sure, it can be rewarding and wonderful but it is also exhausting and frustrating. That’s perfectly normal! Treat yourself with kindness and allow yourself to go through all the emotions. You’re only human, after all.

Kids can be the worst. But they can also be the absolute best thing in your life. You just have to take each day as it comes and remember that burnout happens, but it’s what you do when you recognize it that will make all the difference.

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