Parenting Burn Out – What it is, and how to heal from it

I thought that ‘self care’ was a bit of a buzz word. I thought it was a good idea, but really, who has time for that? My own version of self care was a hot bath once a week after my babies were asleep – if one of them didn’t interrupt me over the monitor in the middle of it then it was a success, box ticked, 20 minutes of relaxing done, but oh, the kitchen really isn’t as clean as it ought to be tonight, and I’d better put another load of washing on as the basket is overflowing again..

Image Credit Gianni Zanato
Image Credit Gianni Zanato

I’d never heard of parenting burn out until this week. I was browsing Facebook, and saw the term on a ‘Gentle Parenting’ page that I subscribe to. It told me that ‘Gentle Parents’ are less at risk of parenting burnout. This post isn’t about Gentle Parenting – it’s about the burnout. I thought I’d do some research into it. I know you can burnout from a job, but parenting? Parenting isn’t a job is it.. it’s not something that you go home from, it’s a way of life.

So, what is burnout?

It’s lack of self esteem – feeling that you’re not good enough. At your job, or, in this case, as a parent. The feeling that others are better than you, and whatever you can do just isn’t enough.

A feeling that there is no end in sight, things aren’t going to get easier. They’re only going to carry on as they are, or get harder.

It can cause feelings of depression and anxiety.

What causes burnout?

Control Battles. I remember control battles from the workplace, they were definitely a very stressful aspect of the job. And now, I have control battles at home. A sentence I utter almost every day is, ‘Why does there always have to be a fight?’ Be that a fight between my children, or a fight between me and my children. Please stay still so I can change your nappy. Please eat the meal that I’ve cooked for you. Please don’t throw your toys. Please don’t throw your food. Please put your shoes on. Yes you do need to wear a coat, is 3 degrees.

Lack of support and appreciation. In the workplace, it’s so important to get feedback. If you’re doing a good job, a positive word from your manager or colleagues can really make a difference. Very young children don’t say thank you. Not without a control battle to get them to say it first. And your thanks for the meal that you’ve cooked from scratch? ‘I don’t like it. I want ice cream.’

High expectations. The expectation that everything needs to be perfect. That your house needs to be in order, that your children need fulfilling, educational activities to fill their days. And the guilt that you’re not providing that.

Lack of time away. This is where the self care comes in. That ‘buzz word’ that I didn’t think anyone had the time for. You can’t do your job properly, be it your career or parenting, if you’re pouring from an empty jug.

All of these factors can lead to an identity crisis, feeling of despair, as though nothing you’re doing is working. As though every day you’re going into battle. And of course the guilt, from feeling like this in the first place. And it can be very isolating.

What are the signs of burnout?

Exhaustion. From the lack of sleep, from doing the same jobs every day around the house just to have to do them all again the next evening. There is always something to do. There is alway so much to do.

Lack of enjoyment. Not finding the joy and connection in things the way you used to, not finding the pleasure and beauty in the everyday. Maybe even starting to feel disconnected from your children.

Image Credit Ivan Jevtic
Image Credit Ivan Jevtic

How to heal from burnout

After discovering all this, my next question was of course, what can be done about it?

And this is where I hit a small stumbling block. The suggestions I found were great, useful. But in my situation, untenable.

Ask for help – Ask family, friends or neighbours to help you out. To stay with your children for a while while you take some time out. To perhaps run some errands for you. This is a great idea, but I have two problems with it. Firstly, for the majority of the time there is nobody to ask. I am a single mother, and when the boys are with their father, I go to work. When they are at childcare, I work. And if I don’t work, if I do use that time to do something for myself, I feel guilty to the point of panic.

Go for coffee with a friend – I keep reading this advice. You’ll feel better if you can take the time to go for coffee for a friend. I’m sure it’s true, in fact I know it’s true because at the end of last year I did take a few hours when my children were with their father and met a friend for lunch, I tried so hard not to feel guilty about it, and I came home feeling completely refreshed. But generally, it’s just not possible. When I took my children to stay with my parents over New Year, I’d half arranged to meet two different friends for a quick coffee. I had to cancel both, because I couldn’t leave my whirlwind children with my family, (think broken lamps, christmas trees toppling over, toilet paper being pulled out all over the floor, tantrums, and so on) and I couldn’t possibly take them to a coffee shop.

Tell yourself that you’ll never have this moment with your children again. They’re growing fast, and one day they won’t need you any more. Personally I really struggled with this advice. I know my children are growing fast, and I know that one day this will be over. And that makes me feel even worse.

Tulips

So, what am I going to do about it?

I took an e-course this month from Gabrille Treanor called ‘The Warm Embrace’, where you receive one email a day for a week to ease you into 2018 with love, patience and compassion. Now I haven’t had the opportunity to read most of the emails, but from the ones I did, one thing stood out to me. And that was the advice, on Day 7, to practice self compassion.

Gabrielle says,

Practising self-compassion isn’t about conjuring up good feelings and pushing away bad ones or being self-indulgent. It’s about being kind and compassionate to yourself when you’re in pain, just as you would to a friend who’s struggling.

With self-compassion we accept that we’re feeling upset or hurt or anxious or in pain. And we give ourselves love and comfort. We’re our own best friend, if you like.

Lisianthus

Be your own best friend

And that, is where I’m going to start.

I’m going to fill my house with spring flowers, that I’ve bought for myself. (Oh I can’t wait for Spring!)

I’m going to nourish myself with good, healthy food. (Mainly a rich tomato and lentil soup which I can’t get enough of.. I’ll share the recipe soon!)

I’m going to attempt to look after myself the way I would look after a good friend. And that will include telling myself not to feel guilty. Telling myself to give myself a break. Sleeping when I need to. Eating chocolate when I need to.

Self care isn’t a buzz word. It’s crucial.

Parenting Burnout

Thank you to the following websites which helped inspire this post..

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/05/09/health/parenting-burnout-professional-burnout/index.html

http://www.tiltparenting.com/2017/08/15/episode-70-parental-burnout-what-it-is-and-how-to-recover-from-it/

https://www.thecut.com/2017/04/just-like-at-work-its-possible-to-burn-out-on-parenting.html

https://gabrielletreanor.com/courses/warm-embrace/

Mudpie Fridays

About The Author

thesparklenest

Mama of two beautiful boys. I’m veggie, vintage loving, a bit of a crafter and a bit of a hippy. I love the countryside and pretty things.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Olivia Jade🐰🌸🌈 (@dungareesdonuts) | 10th Jan 18

    This post is so brave, great for those who are also struggling, it raises awareness and lets others know they’re not alone in this situation. You should definitely treat yourself to all of the colourful flowers, it gives your house a lovely sense of happiness.
    Olivia Jade🐰🌸🌈 (@dungareesdonuts) recently posted…Fashion Faves.My Profile

    • thesparklenest | 10th Jan 18

      Thank you! I found some daffodils today which really cheered me up!

  2. Joanna | 10th Jan 18

    I think that burnout occurs in many different situations, to parents, to people who work too much, to whoever can’t maintain a balance in life. Which honestly is very hard to do because you can’t just pause life and decide to take a break.

    • thesparklenest | 10th Jan 18

      Thanks Joanna, you’re right, it is all about balance which is very difficult to achieve for lots of people.

  3. Yeah Lifestyle | 10th Jan 18

    Parenting burnout is so common but parents don’t realise it as they don’t have time to stop and think ans they are so busy. Really glad your blog address this issue.
    Yeah Lifestyle recently posted…Tri-Dosha Ayuverdic and Holistic Beauty Treatment *My Profile

  4. Christy | 11th Jan 18

    Thanks for raising awareness of this. I think it’s something we all need to be aware of. I definitely found I set my expectations (for myself) too high and suffered from a lot of mum guilt as a new parent which only fuelled my anxiety. The first step I think is definitely just self-awareness and then you can take it from there. Some good tips here!

  5. Rhian Westbury | 11th Jan 18

    Personally I don’t know how parents do it as I experience burn out sometimes just from trying to keep myself alive never mind caring for a child. But I think everyone needs proper time to themselves every so often x
    Rhian Westbury recently posted…Items To Help Me Prepare For My First Trips Of 2018My Profile

  6. Rebecca Smith | 11th Jan 18

    Thank you for posting about this. I’ve occasionally suffered from burnout but never properly realised what it was, I just kept plodding on despite feeling more and more exhausted and upset. I’ve realised I need to ask for help more often if I feel I need it
    Rebecca Smith recently posted…Why You Should Go And Get Your Smear TestMy Profile

    • thesparklenest | 11th Jan 18

      Thank you Rebecca, I didn’t either. It was just a feeling of, ‘I’m failing, nothing is working’. I think at least having an idea of what could be happening and giving yourself a break when you can is a good start.
      thesparklenest recently posted…Parenting Burn Out – What it is, and how to heal from itMy Profile

  7. Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes | 11th Jan 18

    This is such a great post to raise awareness. Self-care is so important, a burn-out can creep up on you so unexpectedly!

  8. Alison | 11th Jan 18

    I’m never sure what to say when I read about parenting issues today. its both amazing and horrifying at how different it is to the 80’s when my two were small. There is so much more pressure and frankly, what I perceive as unrealistic expectations about what constitutes good parenting. My daughter is a single parent to an eight year old and works all hours, so she doesn’t spend too much of her free time worrying if the house is a mess or not or if Amelia’s diary is full or not of play dates and creative activities. I like to think what my granddaughter will remember is not whether or not the floors were spotless, but instead, will recall the adventures she had with her mother.

    • thesparklenest | 11th Jan 18

      Thank you Ali. There is a lot of pressure, and a lot of it I know I put on myself. The best times I have with my children are when I just forget about it all and have fun! And my floors are certainly not spotless… I’m not sure they ever will be!
      thesparklenest recently posted…Parenting Burn Out – What it is, and how to heal from itMy Profile

  9. Melanie williams | 11th Jan 18

    I am not a parent, but the awareness you have raised writing and sharing this is amazing and I am sure that this will help many stressed out parents x

  10. Mayah Camara | 11th Jan 18

    I’m not a parent but I can imagine the challenges that parents face today. This is such a fab post!! Thank you for sharing i’ll defo be passing this along to my family and friends with kids! xx

  11. Super Busy Mum | 12th Jan 18

    Aaah yes, the parenting burnout, I know it well and currently in it right now. I feel suffocated by the mess of the house, weighted down by my to-do list and leaving no time for ME to actually mentally sort stuff out. Great post!

  12. Emma-Louise Dean | 12th Jan 18

    What a great post to raise awareness for this – not only for parents, but for those of us struggling with burnout in everyday life. xo

  13. Linda Hobbis | 12th Jan 18

    I think parental burnout just comes with the territory – it’s not a walk in the park for many and we shouldn’t feel guilty for admitting we struggle. That said, my mother and grandmother would have just said ‘get on with it’. Previous generations had it far tougher than we have.
    Linda Hobbis recently posted…10 Easy Ways To Get You Moving Towards Your DreamsMy Profile

  14. Baby Isabella | 12th Jan 18

    If you’re pouring from an empty jug everything can get on top of you – its definitely worth looking after yourself first and foremost so you can help other s x

  15. Laura H | 13th Jan 18

    Burnout from any activity is the WORST feeling, but it must be so stressful when you’ve got other humans relying on you!!! I think setting too high expectations can be a really popular cause of this – it definitely is with me.

  16. Dan | 15th Jan 18

    thank you for raising it and writing about it. In my experience (2 little kids at home) it happens quite frequently, and the older your kids get, more and more challenges arise.
    Dan recently posted…Drone Photography: 10 Important TipsMy Profile

  17. Ashton Gibbs | 15th Jan 18

    I’ve not had to experience this yet, but what a great post! I bet some people don’t even realise they’re going through it, so it’s great you’re raising awareness. :-)
    Ashton Gibbs recently posted…My first festive weekend in London with ibis HotelsMy Profile

  18. Becca Talbot | 16th Jan 18

    Though not about parenting, I often feel that “burn out” feeling about work :( sometimes even just the smallest things can trigger me to feel emotional about something I know I shouldn’t really be bothered about. It’s great that you’re talking so openly about this subject, as I’m sure a lot of parents can feel like you too – so stay strong! x

  19. Rachel | 16th Jan 18

    I’ve definitely experienced parenting burnout before. I felt really guilty and even more guilty when I started to take time for myself. But it’s so necessary.
    Rachel recently posted…Dorothy’s Customised Play KitchenMy Profile

  20. Briony | 17th Jan 18

    Love this. We all suffer from burn out from time time. Who wouldn’t? Parenting is tough. Every now and then you’ll see me rocking in the corner of Costa, nursing a hot chocolate and just slowly refreshing!! #BloggerClubUK

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