Most of us knew parenting wouldn’t be easy, but it’s impossible to understand the rigors of the job until you’re swimming (or dog paddling) in the midst of it. Parenting burnout is a real thing, and if you’re not careful, parenting fatigue and burnout have negative impacts on your health and well-being – as well as the well-being of your family.
5 Signs You’re On Your Way To Parenting Burnout
Parent or caregiver burnout doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow process, which means the victims of burnout rarely realize they’re floundering until the pot boils over.
Understanding the causes of burnout, recognizing the signs, and then finding personalized solutions leads to happier and healthier families that have more fun together.
The following five signs indicate you’re on your way to or have officially landed in, the burnout zone.
1. Chronic physical and mental/emotional fatigue (you’re exhausted all the time)
The thing with parenting is that it never “turns off,” and smartphones have solidified that deal. Then, there are the hectic extracurricular activities to contend with. If life is out of balance in terms of work/extracurriculars/rest – you’ll burn out. Rest is essential to replenishing the energetic coffers. The first step to feeling rested is establishing healthy sleep boundaries for the whole family. The family who sleeps well – lives better – and has far more patience.
Ironically, it’s not uncommon for those with burnout to feel exhausted but struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep. If this is the case for you, adhere to the tenets in the above-linked post. If they don’t work, speak to your doctor to investigate further.
2. Constantly snappy and impatient with kids (even when they don’t deserve it)
Nothing brings on parenting shame and remorse, like snapping at kids when they don’t deserve it. However, that lack of patience and inability to take a breath before reacting is a tell-tale sign of overwhelm. There are two common causes of this snappy or reactive behavior:
The schedule is too full.
Don’t let society dictate your social schedule. As a parent, you dictate the schedule, which must accommodate your needs for reasonable downtime and spaciousness. Condensing which afterschool activities are staying and which are going is a smart way to clear lots of time. Children have their whole lives to try out different things, and they’ll also benefit from more downtime after school.
You’re saying “yes” when you should say “no”.
Not holding your own emotional boundaries builds resentment, and there’s nobody to blame but yourself if you’re a “yes” person. It’s time to learn to say, “Let me think about that,” or, “I’ll check my calendar and get back to you.” And, FYI – downtime, the opportunity to exercise, and self-care time are scheduling priorities. Consider those time blocks as essential as a doctor’s appointment or work shift.
Need help learning to say “No?” Read Ask Dr. Sear’s post on How to Say No. The strategies are sound for children and adults.
If it’s your children you’re humoring, it’s time for them to learn healthy boundary setting too. It’s okay if they cry or get upset because the answer is “no.” And, remember: sticking to your “Nos” is the only way to redirect their pleading, arguing, and wheedling. Caving in teaches them to wear people down to get their way.
Other reasons you may be impatient or reactive are:
● Lack of sleep
● Not eating properly
● Being angry about one thing but taking it out via another
3. Moodiness, depression, a sense of detachment
If you are a new mom (you had a baby in the last year or so), this could be a sign of postpartum depression rather than actual burnout. They’re similar but different. However, parenting fatigue and burnout also cause a sense of helplessness or an unending aspect of mundane life.
You are not alone, and it’s time to figure out what you need to lift yourself up.
● Schedule a wellness visit with your g.p. Or OB/GYN and be honest. They’ll see if any underlying issues are partly to blame.
● Use affordable online therapy options if you don’t have time for in-person sessions.
● Beware of the social media trap (regular social media interaction. We assure you – all those “shiny happy people” are hiding lots and lots of shadows behind those glossy posts. There is no such thing as “perfect” or even “way better.”
Be honest with your kids in age-appropriate ways. It’s okay to let your children know that you’re not okay all the time. They need to see how to handle complicated emotions and real-world ways to cope with them. Taking care of your needs in healthy ways helps children do the same. We also recommend starting a Gratitude Journal and sharing the concept with the family. Focusing on what we have helps maintain a balanced perspective.
4. You’re a star player in The Victim Triangle
If you find yourself in the starring role of the Victim Triangle, you’re burning out and need to flip the script. The Victim Game requires three players: The Victim, The Persecutor, and The Rescuer. If your family uses these roles to navigate conflict and get what they want, you’re part of an age-old family dysfunction known as “codependence.”
Spoiler Alert: People who play The Victim Triangle typically participate in all three roles depending on the situation. Visit the Wellness Institute post on The Victim Triangle and print a copy. Post it. Notice when you’re taking a role, and then redirect communication accordingly.
The great news is that recognizing you’re participating in the Victim Triangle, and opting out through healthy communication and boundary setting, stops the game and recharges the emotional batteries.
5. Escalating addictive behaviors
If you’re starting to drink more, smoke more, vape more, get high more, eat more – as a way to calm or wind down, you’re in dangerous territory. Use your tools to create healthier coping strategies – communication, self-care, rest, healthy diet, exercise, and self-discipline – to set new boundaries around addictive behaviors. If that doesn’t work, connect with a trusted healthcare provider to get the support you need to reverse the dependence.
PANW Is Here To Alleviate Parenting Burnout
Are you feeling overwhelmed? The caring team at Pediatric Associates of the Northwest is here to listen and provide support. We have many tricks up our sleeves to help parents and caregivers find a better balance in their work, parenting, and personal lives. Schedule an appointment, and let’s get you back on track.