- Parental burnout can be felt as irritability, extreme tiredness, physical and emotional exhaustion, guilt, or anxiety.
- This happens due to the high demands that parents have in terms of their parenting performance and the false expectations they create for themselves, which do not match reality.
- It is important to set aside time to take care of yourself.
- In moments of burnout, take time and give yourself space to recharge your energy.
Deciphering Exhaustion: Are You Suffering from Parental Burnout?
Have you ever felt like you’re living in a perpetual state of exhaustion since your baby came into your life? You may be going through a phase of parental burnout, and if so, you can probably identify with the following symptoms:
- Extreme tiredness
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Feelings of guilt
- Panic attacks
What’s Behind Parental Burnout?
Raising a baby is challenging, and burnout can affect us at some point, especially if you are a first-time parent! This happens because we are exposed to high levels of stress. And even more so if you are a first-time parent!
Why? During pregnancy, parents create their own expectations and fantasies about how they imagine being as a mother or father. We want to be a certain way because books say so, because people around us say it’s what works, because we fear judgment from others, or because we believe it will give us a better connection with our children. So we fantasize and have this expectation that we will become perfect parents.
However, most of the time, these expectations don’t align with reality. There will be moments when you feel vulnerable, desperate, overwhelmed, and extremely tired. And that means it’s time for a reality check, because the expectations you created for yourself seem unattainable. This is where we can become overwhelmed, and lash out or feel like giving up. This is when parental burnout sets in.
Time for Myself: The Art of Taking Care of Ourselves
Often, we have the false belief that to be good parents, we must sacrifice everything for our children, and when we don’t put ourselves first, we feel tremendous guilt. But in reality, we need to heal that guilt and understand that putting ourselves last is not best for us or our children.
What we recommend is always keeping self-care in mind, because you also deserve time for yourself. You need to get back to the pastime you enjoyed, read a chapter from your favorite book, or hang out with your friends. Remember that you need to be well so that your children can also be well.
If you don’t talk about what you feel, your body will do it for you. If it feels too fatigued or stressed, the body will send signals that it needs rest, like catching a cold, fever, or stomach infection. That’s why it’s very important for your mental and physical health to take these moments for yourself- it’s part of keeping yourself healthy.
Overcoming Parental Burnout
Sometimes, we have so many things in our mind that we don’t even realize when burnout hits. The recommendation is to try to make that space for yourself daily, even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes. Find what makes you feel well, and give it a few minutes each day.
Get in touch with your body, take a moment of silence, and identify how you are feeling. If you have any sensation, any pain, here you can identify perhaps fatigue, anxiety, stress, a desire to cry, etc. When you identify the sensations in your body, try to relax, listen to your body, and if it asks for rest, then rest.
Seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed, tired, stressed, or if you suspect you’re experiencing postpartum depression. While raising children, you definitely need a support network, so ask for help from your partner, family members, or even a professional. Say what you feel, what you need, and what you expect. Don’t feel guilty if you leave your baby at a daycare or rely on the help of someone you hire.
If you’re feeling burnt out, take time and space for yourself, so you can recharge. Take any opportunity to care for yourself and do something that brings you happiness. Don’t forget that you also deserve love and care, and being a happy parent is the best you can offer to your children. Be compassionate with yourself and don’t demand perfection!