The never-ending demands of parenting can feel overwhelming at times, leading to parental burnout — a condition that is more common than you think. Here are a few ways to avoid falling prey to it.
By Amrita Gracias
Parenting is an exciting journey but one filled with stresses that can overwhelm you at times. So, are you feeling exhausted, irritable, less productive and hopeless? Do you feel like you just don’t have the drive to go on? If your answer is yes, then you are probably suffering from ‘parental burnout’.
So, what is parental burnout? The term can be used to describe the feelings of physical and emotional exhaustion, frustration, lack of motivation and, in some cases, depression, that parents experience as a result of the stress caused by parenting and other responsibilities.
Parental burnout is not as uncommon as we may think. In fact, it is now officially considered a ‘syndrome’ following a recent study by Roskam et al entitled, 'Exhausted Parents: Development and Preliminary Validation of the Parental Burnout Inventory', published in the Frontiers of Psychology (2017). The researchers found that several social and cultural changes in our lifestyle have contributed significantly to the increasing instances of this condition.
Some of the warning signs include, feeling:
Chronic stress because of exhaustion, thoughts of being an ineffective parent, and emotional withdrawal can affect a parent in many adverse ways. Some manifestations of parental burnout include the development of:
Here are a few causes of parental burnout and some strategies to deal with them:
1. Excessive commitment: Along with parenting responsibilities, you need to take care of your work and social obligations as well. But some of us tend to over-commit. We become a part of social initiatives that demand regular attention or, enrol our children in various activities such as martial arts, dance or music. The result? We end up shuttling from one class to another. Such over-commitment can stretch you to the limit.
2. Braving it on your own: Trying to deal with everything on your own will, ultimately, leave you stressed and exhausted. And it will also make you less efficient. Accept the fact that you need help because you can't handle everything on your own. Acknowledge that you need some time to take care of yourself as well.
3. Lack of time for yourself: Some of us are constantly racing against time to meet our commitments — both as parents and as individuals. Such a lifestyle will leave you with almost no time to relax or wind down. Over a period, such constant pressure to perform, coupled with the inability to de-stress, can lead to burnout. So, do not burden yourself to such an extent that you can't make time for yourself.
4. Unrealistic expectations: Quite a few of us set unrealistic goals for ourselves and feel frustrated and unhappy, if we are unable to achieve them. Think about whether you have unrealistic expectations from yourself. It can prevent you from enjoying a sense of gratification, and you will always feel stressed about achieving your impossible goals.
5. Comparing with others: Comparing our parenting skills or achievements with other parents, or our child with other children, only leads to resentment, dissatisfaction and frustration. Are you someone who can't help comparing yourself (or your child) with others?
6. Trying to be the perfect parent: There are no perfect parents. So, striving to be one is an exercise in futility. Trying to achieve this unrealistic goal can be immensely exhausting and frustrating. Besides, you will face resentment from your children and family members, which will only add to the existing negative feelings.
Unlike a regular job, parenting does not allow you to quit or give up. But, by keeping these simple tips in mind, you can ensure that you will always feel happy and satisfied, and never suffer from burnout!
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