Do you ever feel exhausted by parenthood? Does it seem like you just don’t have the power to produce the effect you want to have on your kids? Do you ever feel like throwing in the towel, walking out the door, and not looking back?
Most parents experience one or more of these things at some point (or lots of points) in their parenting journey. But if you’re experiencing all of them for an extended period of time, you might be suffering from parental burnout.
No, really. It’s a real thing.
Researchers examined survey responses from approximately 2,000 parents to gauge whether or not parental burnout really existed. And shocker of shocks, they found that it does. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, states that between 2% and 12% of parents likely suffer from burnout.
Honestly, I don’t know how that number is only 2–12%. I have three kids, the oldest of whom is 16, and I know I’ve approached burnout more than once.
However, I’ve learned over the years how to avoid it for the most part. Here are my best mom-to-mom tips:
1. Ask for and accept help.
Many of us feel like we should be able to handle things on our own, but that’s just silly talk. We live in communities for a reason. We have family and friends for a reason. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it or accepting help when it is offered. If you are a helpful and generous person when you’re in a good place, it all comes out in the wash anyway.
2. Lower the bar.
High expectations are great, but parenting is a 24/7 job, and sometimes you’re going to have to let things go. It’s okay if your house is a mess sometimes. Your kids aren’t going to lose all capabilities if they have a day with “too much” screen time. They don’t have to do every extracurricular under the sun. You don’t have to mediate every sibling squabble. Ease up on your expectations of yourself and your kids when you start feeling stressed.
3. Find a tribe — or at least one good mom friend.
No one understands the daily struggles of parenthood like other parents who are in the same stage. Support from people who are in the trenches with you is vital. Join a parenting group. Strike up a conversation with parents at your kid’s school. Take the plunge and invite a family over for dinner to establish a relationship. Some of us have a harder time making friends than others, but mom friendships are invaluable.
4. Take real time for yourself.
Easier said than done, I know. But it’s also 100% necessary. Don’t wait until you’re so far past the end of your rope that you have nothing to grab onto. Your kids need you to take care of yourself, so make self-care a part of your regular routine. No guilt over this one. None. Hand the kids over to your spouse, your mom, a friend, or a hired babysitter and get your butt someplace that feeds your soul.
5. Maintain an identity outside of motherhood.
Motherhood is the most important job you’ll ever have, but it’s not everything. I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but I’ve had to work part-time for financial reasons — and now I’m grateful for that because I have something outside of motherhood that fulfills me. Even if you do stay at home, make sure you have a hobby or do volunteer work or get involved in something that has nothing to do with your kids. Trust me on this one. It might not seem that important when your kids are little, but you’ll be thankful to have it later on.
6. Read parenting blogs.
This isn’t just a self-plug here — having someone put tough feelings into words for you can be incredibly therapeutic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten e-mails from readers saying, “Thank you so much. I truly thought I was the only one who felt this way.” There is strength in solidarity. Unfortunately, parents are not always as upfront in real life as they are in writing. I devour the work of other parenting writers because honesty is fresh air, understanding is a lifesaver, and we cannot do this alone.
If you feel yourself ramping up into burnout mode, step back, step away, call a friend, message another mom, take a bath. Do whatever you need to do to give yourself a little space and grace. Kids need parents who aren’t at the end of their rope. If we can’t avoid burnout for our own sake, let’s do it for our kids.