Why you might be feeling that way & how you can make it better
Hey, Practice families!
I’ve been fully back to work for two weeks, and I’m already thinking about parenting burnout. Having two kids in a family with two working parents? It’s intense. No matter what your family configuration– or how you spend your days– let’s face it: parenthood is a marathon.
A couple of months ago, a close mom friend asked me for therapy referrals for herself; she was feeling anxious and down, and wanted to find support. She started therapy, was considering medication… and then her husband and preschooler took an extended trip while she stayed home, caught on work, went to see movies, worked out, took many naps, and basically did whatever she felt like doing, whenever she felt like doing it. And guess what? She felt better. “I was just TIRED!” she reported.
There’s bad news and good news here. The bad news? As parents, we are almost constantly on. We’re endlessly at risk for getting overwhelmed, feeling tapped out. The good news? The power to shift how we feel is in our hands… even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
We can proactively structure our lives in a way that makes burnout less likely.
- We can identify our values and set priorities for the way in which we spend our time that are in line with those values.
- We can fall back on our values to help us set boundaries and say no to tasks and requests that move us away from our priorities.
- We can delegate and ask for help– from our partners, from our families, from our friends and extended community. Leave your partner on their own with the kid(s). Get a babysitter, or trade childcare with another family. Hire a cleaner.
- We can schedule activities that fill our cups– whether that’s exercising, connecting with friends, or just sitting on the couch, savoring a little silence.
We can also adjust our expectations for ourselves and those around us as a means of reducing our stress– pick our battles, let ourselves (and our kids) off the hook. Everyone was dressed and fed today? EXCELLENT, YOU DID IT. Honestly, one of the things that I got out of parenthood the first time around was simply a higher tolerance for things left undone, or not done as well as I might like– after months of feeling guilty, it became apparent that I wasn’t ever going to manage to be any more on top of things, and either I could keep on feeling guilty or I could just cut myself a break, keep trying my best, and let it go. 🤷🏻♀️
Finally, we can pay attention to the way that we’re feeling (this is mindfulness!), and course-correct when we notice that we’re feeling fatigued. And we can own and share our own experiences with one another with honesty in a way that facilitates connection, recalibrates our expectations, and reminds us: we’re all in this together.
None of this is easy, and none of it happens overnight. It’s a perpetual work in progress. But it’s worth making the effort. Take a moment and think– what is one small thing that you can do (or shift that you can make) this coming week?
And remember– if you’re looking for more help or support as you navigate the demands of parenthood and life, remember: we’re here for you. Our clinical team offers one-on-one support for parents around all of this– so reach out to us if you’re tired of managing it all on your own.
P.P.S., Interested in burnout? Values-based parenting? Interesting links below.
- From moms to medical doctors, burnout is everywhere these days (Washington Post)
- Parenting burnout is real, and strikingly similar to job burnout (Working Mother)
- Facebook post goes viral because it speaks to burned out moms (Sarah Buckley Friedberg, Facebook)
- ‘Self-care’ is not enough to fix how much moms are burnt out (Motherly)
- Living in the age of ‘continuous parenting’ is burning out parents (Motherly)
- Grieving father’s warning to other working parents goes viral (Hamilton Spectator)
- Why I didn’t answer your email (NYTimes)
- Three questions, from Tolstoy, for mindful parenting (CNN)