I’m pretty sure that the words above have struck a raw nerve with most who read this blog post, they definitely have with me as I read back through them to double check that I haven’t missed anything important (I have, but what is there is enough for now and you don't really need to hear the rest of it here, I'm sure many of you can fill in those omissions yourselves) and I’m the one who wrote them.
The truth is that most parents will feel this way at least once during their parenting journey.
Many will feel this way multiple times, sometimes for days, weeks and/or months on end.
And it’s because we’ve been burned out as parents.
We’ve spent so much time focusing on everyone else, doing everything for everyone else, that we’ve forgotten that we need to be taken care of as well.
It’s harder for single parents in some ways as many single parents don’t have much, if any, support around them, but it can be just as hard in other ways (and sometimes in the same ways as single parents) for partnered parents too, especially if one partner doesn’t help much or thinks that it’s the stay at home parent’s (or the parent who works the least’s) job to do everything from the housework to the child rearing to the cooking ALL while still trying to do everything else on top of that with very little or no personal time to themselves to relax, de-stress and recoup some of their energy while still being themselves and not just “the parent who does all the parenting stuff”.
Parental Burnout is real, and it can cause so many problems mentally (mental breakdown, anyone?), physically (yes your physical health can suffer from it, ever wondered why you’re so physically drained and tired and/or getting sick at the drop of a hat even after a full night’s sleep? If you’re lucky enough to get a full night’s sleep that is...) and emotionally (who ordered the emotional breakdown? I’d like a refund please!)... Burnout isn’t something that you can fix right away either, it takes time, effort and A LOT of support from the right people (the right people will be different for everyone) and some changes in your everyday life.
According to Psychology Today ‘Parental burnout is defined as a "unique and context-specific syndrome resulting from enduring exposure to chronic parenting stress." Its primary symptom is overwhelming exhaustion relating to one's role as a parent. Other symptoms include:
- Emotionally distancing from children
- Feeling fed up with parenting
- Losing one's sense of accomplishment from parenting’
Psychology Today also estimates that somewhere between 1 in 12 and 1 in 3 parents around the world will experience Parental Burnout. What's really shocking is that even with such high numbers experiencing this there is nothing, medical or government arranged, in place to help support parents get through it and recover from it.
What does this mean for those of us who are living with it? Well, not much on its own.
We’re already living it.
We know what it feels like.
We know what we’ve tried to make it better.
And we know what has and hasn’t worked.
And what has outright failed for us when we tried it before*.
(*Please note that that last part doesn’t mean that it will always fail every single time that you try it, it might just be that when you last tried it that it wasn’t the right time for doing it THEN and THAT was why it failed, because the other background work/things to support it so it could work hadn’t been done yet)
Empowering Parents has some really good tips on helping to prevent and reduce burnout throughout your parenting journey, not all of them will work for everyone (because we are all unique and act/react in different ways) and you may have to do them in different orders and ways in order to get them to work for you but they will give you an idea of what you CAN DO on your parenting journey to keep everything on a more even keel so it’s not becoming so overwhelming that you can no longer cope with it all.
Some may be wondering what brought on this specific topic for a blog post. It was a number of things: - first and foremost because I have personally been struggling with parental burnout BECAUSE I’m parenting an extra needs child. It’s extremely stressful most days (worse in the mornings) in my house with an extra needs 10 year old that has the emotional age of a toddler (Bloody Hell! I swear his meltdowns weren’t this bad when he was 2!) combined with the inquiring mind of an older child who is interested in everything science and sensory processing issues making every little random touch or odd sound a major issue and ADHD on top of that making his brain go a million kilometres a minute so he forgets what he was meant to be doing the moment something else catches his attention and can’t stay focused on anything until his medication kicks in AND... this morning’s meltdowns were over a freshly washed and dried school shirt “smelling bad” (it smelled like laundry powder) and his ankle socks (that fit him perfectly) being too tight and too small and not feeling right and not reaching all the way up to his knees... It’s so exhausting coping with that kind of thing every morning, my girls are so much easier to cope with than he is. I think I need a holiday! And then another holiday to recover from the holiday! *keels over from parental burnout*
- AND secondly, another mum, with kids the same age as my oldest two, reached out in one of the local parenting groups on Facebook to ask for help because her children wouldn’t listen to her and she was struggling to cope with that (and didn’t realise it was normal behaviour for kids to push boundaries and not listen) without yelling at them. She reached out for help, which is pretty darn awesome if you ask me, because many don’t reach out and she did, and she found out that she isn’t alone in this and that others have the exact same problem with their kids and she found some really good advice from other parents on how to make it easier to cope with and to get her kids to listen more often.
I want all parents experiencing this to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
It’s not just you struggling with this.
There are many of us out there struggling too.
And there is hope.
There is light at the end of that seemingly dark tunnel.
And it CAN, DOES & WILL get better if you put in that personal effort to make it better (yes I'm working on this myself, it is helping, but it's taking time and going slowly and we humans can be very impatient and want everything to happen RIGHT NOW).
Because without you, the real you, your family won’t be the same. And your children need you to be the best, happiest, most content, relaxed and most energetic YOU that you can be, even if the house is a pigsty because the kids didn’t clean up after themselves once again.
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