Parenthood can feel like overwhelming and exhausting. Learn how to handle parent burnout and enjoy spending time with your kids once again.
Seriously, some days I’m too tired to even be tired.
In the evenings, I survive yet another day of giving my attention to three little people who want it all at the same time. I wash dish after dish, cook dinner, clean anything that looks disgusting, and pick up a never-ending supply of toys on the floor.
I’ve even ended the day sweating, as if I had come from an exercise session, when all I had done was bathe, dress, and read to them.
One night, I wanted to crash after they were finally asleep only to remember I still had to pack lunches for the next day. I have to do this every day for the next several years, I thought. Not a good way to start a supposedly relaxing evening.
How to handle parent burnout
Parenting comes with its own fatigue and stressors that arrives right along with the baby, no matter how organized or prepared you normally are. Irritability and anxiety are all too common. And you realize that changing diapers and giving baths aren’t going away soon, or that time alone becomes instantly rare.
We’ve all felt the signs of burnout, sometimes for weeks and months at a time. Left unchecked, the mental load can lead to depression, pressure, and difficulty connecting with your kids.
There’s no shame in admitting that you’re hanging on the last thread, from mild burnout to severe. When the days feel rough, consider the following ways you can prevent and deal with parent burnout:
1. Don’t over-commit
With parenthood, we not only have our former responsibilities, but must now adopt new ones with the kids. Commitments come in many forms, from invitations to go out to accepting projects at work.
But commitments can also result from self-imposed pressures and obligations.
Decide which commitments are both necessary and enjoyable. I happened to love making homemade baby food and eagerly spent time to do that task. Yours might be your morning jogs, attending play dates, or cleaning your home. And once you have your priorities, feel free to say “no” to other commitments.
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2. Take care of yourself
Our time is so consumed with others, we forget to take care of ourselves.
We speed through taking a shower in case someone needs something in the meantime. We scarf down meals so we can focus on feeding the baby. And we fork over money for the kids’ swim lessons while canceling our own gym memberships (Who has the time to go to the gym?).
And for obvious reasons—we have no time, much less inclination, to focus on our well-being when so much else needs our attention.
But allowing ourselves to crumble actually does everyone else a disservice:
- We can’t take care of others when we’re physically unwell.
- Chronic unhappiness can lead to resentment and a difficult relationship with our kids.
- We resent parenthood when we’re all about survival mode or cramming as many things on a given day.
- We’re not able to be present and our kids start to test our patience all while we lose our tempers.
Instead, focus on your wellness and self-care. Squeeze in that workout, get your partner to help with the baby—anything to find time for yourself, even if it’s so you can better care for others.
3. Set realistic expectations
One challenge with parenthood is reconciling our former lives with our new ones. Maybe you had high standards for home maintenance or had a nightly routine of reading for an hour before bed.
So, when the kids come, maintaining the same lifestyle you’ve grown used to can be hard.
Truth is, we can’t do everything we used to do before having kids. We have less time and more responsibilities that prevent us from doing so. Instead, set realistic expectations. What can you do given your current circumstances?
Maybe you won’t deep clean every weekend and instead focus on a daily wipe down. You may not be able to read for a long stretch, but you can find pockets of time while you nurse the baby.
Accept—don’t resist—the season you’re in, and find creative ways to include past hobbies and standards of living. For everything else that isn’t a priority, learn to let it go and be content crossing off the top items on your priority list.
4. Make time for yourself
Part of the emotional exhaustion we feel is the sheer lack of time we have for ourselves. Every minute seems dedicated to someone else, from work to kids to family. When you feel yourself burning out, that’s when you know you need to make time for yourself.
Ironic though, isn’t it? You’d think the moment you realize you have no time is when you should put yourself on the back burner. But finding time for yourself is key to avoiding the symptoms of burnout. Think of it as a way to recharge and see your challenges in a new light.
Even a few minutes to yourself is enough to feel refreshed. The activity doesn’t matter, as long as you feel good and emerge restored. For some moms, it’s finally getting some chores done alone, while for others it’s the opportunity to sleep in.
5. Find support
Do you feel like you’re shouldering all the responsibilities on your own? Find support to help ease them away. The lack of support can contribute to parent burnout and chronic stress. Share household duties with your partner and older children or outsource tasks you’d rather not do.
Or maybe social isolation is getting too much, and you need a listening ear, someone who understands what you’re going through without judgment. Join a local moms group or an online community to share common struggles and wins.
As I say in my book, 31 Days to Better Parenting:
“You are not alone, no matter how you may be feeling. It’s a stigma I wish we could get rid of. That no one else feels the frustration, sadness or pressure you feel. Find that support, whether through friends and family, your partner, or online groups. You’ll lift the weight off your shoulders knowing you’re not carrying it on your own.”
Finding time to reconnect with those around us is key to self care. Don’t neglect your relationship with your partner and instead find ways to open communication on a daily basis. Reach out to local friends and family for monthly lunches, or give them a call to catch up.
Wading through motherhood can feel lonely and scary without the support of our social networks.
6. Don’t compare yourself to others
If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself feeling immense guilt by comparing yourself to others, only to feel worse for doing so.
Maybe it’s that time you logged onto social media and saw friends’ travel photos or amazing weekend activities they did with their kids. Or it was hearing news of your coworker buying an enormous house, one you can’t see yourself affording anytime soon.
But every family is doing what’s best for them with the means they have. You could be biding your time to travel until the kids are older, or saving money for a down payment in the meantime. Comparing yourself only stresses you out, especially when there’s little you can do about it.
7. Create memories, not perfection
Ask yourself: How do you want your children to see you?
More often than not, you want them to see a loving mom who shows them that life is beautiful even when it’s not perfect. No perfectionism here, mama. It’s not about providing everything you wish they could want, but helping them appreciate what they do have.
It’s also not about being a perfect mom, but showing them how to cope with the lows and mistakes we all face. When we remind ourselves of what’s important, we realize that it’s our own loving company, and not a tidy house or busy schedule, that matters most.
Once in a while, you might still get those days when you realize with horror that you’ll be packing lunches and bathing kids for a long time.
But it’s exactly in those moments of feeling stuck that you should re-focus on managing parent burnout. Because it’s not healthy or sustainable to run on little to no energy.
Take care of yourself physically and mentally, finding pockets of time for you. Avoid committing to too many obligations, and set realistic expectations of what you can do. Turning to supportive friends and family is a lifesaver, as is not comparing yourself to those around you.
And remember the legacy and the memories you’re creating. How do you want your children to remember you?
Parenthood doesn’t have to feel stressful all the time. Make the changes to stop feeling burned out—especially on those days when you wonder about packing yet another lunch for the kids.
Get more tips:
- 6 Not-So-Obvious Reasons You Can’t Keep Up with Cleaning Your Home
- Top 7 Tips to Keep Your Sanity as a Mom
- Smart Ways to Cope When You Feel Tired All the Time
- 6 Surefire Ways to Stop Feeling Like an Overwhelmed Mom
- Time Management for Moms: Tips You Can Actually Apply
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