Parental Burnout: Why Self-Care is Child Care
October 31, 2019
Parenting is demanding, especially when you have more than one kid because then you’re outnumbered!
Raising healthy, happy kids is hard enough by itself but when you add all of your other responsibilities to the mix, life can become overwhelming pretty fast.
Even so, parents rarely admit when they’re struggling or feeling overwhelmed because doing so can make them feel inadequate or that they’re a bad parent.
Burnout is Not Stress
Burnout occurs when the daily stress of parenting turns into intense exhaustion. It leaves the parents feeling detached from their kids, and unsure of their parenting abilities. They stop enjoying parenting and start fantasizing about getting away from it all.
Exhausted parents are likelier to neglect their child’s physical, educational and emotional needs, and engage in verbal, physical, or psychological abuse. They’re also more irritable and have recurring thoughts of abandoning their families.
Self-Care is Child Care
Since parental burnout can be harmful to the children, any activity that allows parents to recharge their batteries and avoid exhaustion should be viewed to be part of child care. In fact, the best way to avoid becoming a “bad parent” is to take care of yourself.
Strategies to Avoid Parental Burnout
- Get Out and About
Every now and then, you need a break from the physical and emotional job of parenting. Let someone else handle things at home for a day so you can enjoy guilt-free time for yourself.
One way to do this is by taking turns caring for the kids on the weekends for a block of time so you and your partner can each have quiet time to yourselves.
You can also hire a babysitter or trade nights of babysitting with other parents so that you can spend time alone as a couple. If all else fails, try to meet up for lunch in the middle of the workday when the kids are at school, assuming they’re in school (hello pre-k!).
- Work Out
You need to take care of yourself to take care of your family. Exercise is one of the best ways to take care of your physical health. It releases feel-good hormones, boosts mood, and relieves tension.
A 30-minute workout three times a week can decrease anxiety, including parental anxiety, by up to 70%!
- Maintain Social Relationships
Parenting can be isolating; many parents lose touch with friends, family and activities outside of the home. However, social and emotional health are just as important as physical health.
Plan social activities with people who care about you, including friends who have no connection to your child!
Also, make time for activities and hobbies that you enjoy such as painting, reading, going to the movies, etc.
If you have a hard time taking a break from parenting without feeling guilty, think of self-care as building up your energy reserves, and also as a way to become a much better parent, so you have more (much more) to give to your child.