Parental burnout is a prevalent issue that became more pronounced during COVID; and yet it is still not addressed nearly enough. According to the World Health Organization, parental burnout is an occupational phenomenon and it is not a diagnosable medical condition. It’s been found to be associated with impaired functioning, increased anxiety and depression, substance use, difficulty managing stress, poor sleep, health issues and even child abuse and neglect. According to the Parental Burnout Research Lab and other studies, American parents are experiencing rates of parental burnout that are amongst the highest in the world. These rates are highest amongst mothers, who are often primary caregivers for their children while also working.
So, what is parental burnout? Parental burnout is an imbalance between demands and resources resulting from chronic stress. It’s been found to surface in different ways, such as exhaustion, feeling emotionally distant from your child/children, feelings of incompetency as a parent and a low level of pleasure in parenting. There can often be a lot of guilt, shame, fear, anger and insecurity around these feelings. Some parents who are feeling burnt out might find themselves thinking, “I can’t believe I just yelled that way,” or “I can’t believe I just said that,” or “I’m always dropping the ball, I’m a terrible parent.” It can be easy to fall into the trap of comparing your parenting to the ideal parent or your earlier parental self, and easy to question your abilities as a parent.
One of the factors related to higher rates of parental burnout in western countries like the United States is that it has a more individualist rather than collectivist society. In other words, fewer Americans have an “it takes a village” approach to parenting. In fact, there’s an inverse relationship between social support and the number of children one has. As demands of parenthood increase, it becomes more and more common to put self-care and connections with friends, family and community to the back burner. Low social support is not just associated with parental burnout, but also with increased anxiety and depression as well as difficulty with postpartum adjustment.
Parenting is amongst the hardest jobs anyone could have. Do not suffer in silence. Get help. Here are some things you can do:
- Talk to loved ones if you’re struggling.
- Meet parents at your kids’ school that you can connect with and relate to.
- Try to find time for yourself, with or without friends, to try to reconnect with other important values and parts of your identity besides being a parent.
- Look for opportunities to just HAVE FUN with your kids.
At Miracare, we work with families and individuals struggling to find balance in their lives and to better manage all the stressors they are dealing with. We help to find a treatment plan that will move you towards the change you’re seeking, and we work with you to build coping skills and resources to better manage demands in your life. Parenting is hard but it becomes easier when you are not carrying it alone.
Learn more about our Outpatient Services for people of all ages – call us at 708.726.MIRA.
Amanda Slater, Psy.D. of MiraCare Group
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
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