Written by: Sarah Park, Library & Communications Coordinator
Burnout can happen in anyone’s life. Burnout occurs when you are overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to keep up with life’s never-ending demands. It is no wonder parents are susceptible to burnout when many of them these days need to keep up with both childcare and work. In this post, the Family Care Office has introduced what parental burnout is and gathered a list of preventative strategies.
Parental burnout is intense exhaustion in parents which make them feel uncertain about their parenting ability and a sense of detachment from their children. Specifically, it suggests a chronic stress of parenting that comes with physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Symptoms of parental burnout and impacts on health include: Brain fog, limited tolerance, confusion, forgetfulness, depression, self-doubt, irritation, feeling isolated, poor sleep pattern, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, chronic fatigue, body aches, and more.
The COVID-19 pandemic also made parental burnout more common: Reports of parental burnout have increased and a number of factors like losing jobs, houses, and income have generated more stress and anxiety. Emotional and practical demands of working from home and child-rearing for 24 hours a day and 7 days a week have also worsened parental burnout and stress during the pandemic.
To help parents find more balance in their life during this challenging period, the Family Care Office has organized a list of practical and easy tips on preventing themselves from experiencing parental burnout:
- Speak with your partner or co-parent:The first thing you should do is explain your experience and feeling. Tell them what you want and remember to discuss clear steps. It is okay to admit you are having difficulties in your life.
- Refrain from feeling guilty: Don’t parent-shame yourself. You won’t become a bad parent by focusing on your own needs occasionally. In fact, engaging in self-care can help you become a better parent.
- Be patient: It is important to allow yourself to feel your emotions. Be kind and patient with yourself, and remember that you don’t have to be a super-parent. Treat yourself better!
- Stop the ‘perfectionism’: Research suggests that perfectionist parents are more susceptible to burnout. Dr. Dattilo, a clinical psychologist, suggests that parents should discard unrealistic expectations and stop using the ‘should’ statement. For example, instead of saying “I should spend more time playing with my kids!” try saying “It would be great if I had more energy to play with my kids.” Dr. Dattilo argues this type of reframing helps parents focus on their current reality and the resources they already have.
- Take a break: Even a micro-break can make changes in your life. When it is not realistic for you to take a long break, try taking mini breaks like briefly taking a deep breath in a quiet space and listening to a meditation while sitting in your car.
- Connect with like-minded parents: It is important that you share your experience in a non-judgemental environment to avoid ‘parent-shame.’ Remember to participate in virtual communities having moderators who can enforce a code of conduct. If you did not know, our Family Care Office hosts a number of events where parents in the U of T community can listen to advice from professionals and share their own experiences. This can be a good opportunity to meet other parents in your community. You can find more information on the relevant events on our events listing.
- Teach your child to do chores: Your no.1 job as a parent is not just to love your child. It is to prepare your child to survive in this world with appropriate skills. Do 3 steps: Demonstrate the chores (e.g., organizing toys and clothes), let them watch and learn the steps, and allow them to do the chores by themselves. You will encounter different life-challenges as your child becomes older, so training your child to help you do chores when they are young will be helpful. Remember to offload age-appropriate chores to your child.
You can also assign chores to your partner as well. Making the rest of your family members do chores is a good opportunity for them to genuinely understand your emotional and life-challenges. In this way, they can be ready to act as a part of your supportive network when you feel stressed.
To summarize, an important approach you should take is having more self-compassion: People tend to criticize themselves a lot and assume they did something wrong when things go off track; but remember that the situation is often out of your control. Focusing on the moment allows you to parent more mindfully while taking care of your child and yourself. Don’t be harsh on yourself. You’re doing great!
February 18, 2022.