Parenting done right: How to rise above parental burnout
As the saying goes, parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about. However, it is the hardest thing in the world to do.
Parenting during a pandemic has been twice as hard, and chances are, you’ve been experiencing some shades of parental burnout from time to time. This is quite normal for parents to go through, no matter how old your child is or how experienced you are as a parent.
There are a lot of parenting memes online about raising young kids, especially toddlers and pre-teens. We don’t see enough of the ‘behind the scenes’ of parenting when it comes to parenting teenagers and young adults.
There’s a lot of stress and conflict when your children go through adolescence, the decade of their lives that impacts the kind of adults they’ll grow up to be.
Besides the emotional swings they go through, these are the years where they’ll constantly be pushing back and questioning everything in the world around them, including your decisions as their parent.
There are a lot of those rebellious days when everyone’s tempers are frayed, and you feel that they’re always pulling away from you. At the end of the day, you’re left with endless worry about how your child is doing and whether you’re doing something wrong.
In a conversation with fellow parents, I remember one of them commenting that parenting a young adult is about being in a perpetual state of mental exhaustion. Sometimes, there is a sense of mental fatigue and emotional numbness that sets in where one feels tired of it all.
As parents, we’ve set high expectations for ourselves, and we want to do everything right for our children. That creates a baseline of stress that you’re already dealing with.
Then you have the mammoth task of helping your young adult navigate those tumultuous years, all while also inspiring, enriching, and encouraging them to fulfil their potential.
When one must do all of these without adequate resources like support, time, or rest, it leads to the feeling of constant exhaustion — the first stage of parental burnout.
Even though there are challenging moments in the parenting journey, it fades in comparison to the delight one feels in seeing one’s child grow up. However, once parental burnout sets in, the feelings of prolonged exhaustion will start to deprive you of the moments of joy and pride that you would otherwise feel.
One’s parenting responsibilities start to feel like a burden, often accompanied by a sense of guilt. The last stage of parent burnout is the most devastating, where one starts to emotionally distance oneself from the children.
In the long run, chronic parental burnout can also affect one’s mental health, sleep, health conditions, including blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and substance addictions.
Being burnt out can affect your relationship with your spouse and your children, to the point where it could lead to an increase in verbal or physical violence.
“This is not the kind of parent I wanted to be, but I’m too exhausted, and I can’t care anymore.”
If you’ve felt this way, you could be experiencing parental burnout. It means that it’s time to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your kids better.
Here are three simple things that you can do as parents to offset the stressors in our parenting journeys.
Me-time: You Need a Break
The years of teenage and early adulthood are perpetual states of conflict. It’s one of those things you need to get through without burning out because your presence and strength will eventually help your child grow into a distinct, independent, and morally sound adult.
It’s going to be a long ride, so you need to make sure to cut yourself some slack and take a break whenever you need it.
I find that it helps to carve out some “me-time” for rejuvenation, where you do something that allows you to relax or disengage from the stress of your day.
This could even be as simple as spending time with a friend or going for a walk. Not only will this help keep you energised, but it will also allow you to introduce your children to the concept of self-care.
Self-compassion: Be Kind to Yourself
You might wonder from time to time, “Why is my kid being difficult?” Well, it’s not just your kid. All young adults go through difficult years to varying degrees. It’s almost a rite of passage, so don’t be too harsh or spiral into guilt about your parenting.
It helps to remind yourself that you can’t control everything and you are not responsible for all of their actions. I’ve found that thinking back to my years as a young adult and my experiences with my parents helps me to bring a lot of compassion to difficult situations with my children.
With kindness and empathy — to the self and to each other — we can all get through without being burnt out.
Remind yourself to take a step back time and again
When they were younger, I was a lot more involved in the day-to-day minutiae and choice in my children’s lives. As they grew older, I started to step back a bit and let them take more control over their daily lives.
It helped them learn to be responsible and to be independent, and it spared me from micromanaging them to the point of burnout. While you can always keep an eye on things and step in anytime it is needed, it helps to ease your mental exhaustion and emotional stress to take a step back sometimes.
A lot of the stress in parenting comes from trying to live up to the goals or trends set by others, especially in your social circles. What we often forget is that our parenting style, goals, and techniques are supposed to be unique to us.
So let go of undue expectations, and do things in a way that works for you, your partner, and your children. If you’ll indulge me in a bit of dark humour:
In case of emergencies, take a deep breath and remember, “This too shall pass.”
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)