If you’re like many working parents these days, there’s a good chance you’ve been facing some unprecedented parenting challenges throughout the pandemic. From school closings and lack of childcare to entire families working, learning and playing under the same roof, it could be argued that parenting has never been more demanding. Like many parents, you may be experiencing what many professionals are calling parenting burnout.
Although parenting burnout is not an official diagnosis, it’s a type of burnout, and working parents—especially women—are feeling the effects. A recent report from researchers at The Ohio State University (released in May 2022) found that 66% of those who responded met the criteria for burnout. The survey of 1,285 working parents was conducted between January and April 2021 when pandemic lockdowns were in full swing.
To be fair, parenting can be tough even during the best of times. But parenting burnout is defined by many as an overwhelming physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion on the part of the parent that could lead to ineffective parenting. It poses some additional risks, from depression and anxiety to increased incidents of irritability and anger. All too often, children suffer the brunt of these behaviors. With that in mind, it’s important to address the burnout head on. The following coping strategies may help.
Talk to someone you trust
In many cases, this will be your spouse, co-parent or other loved one. It’s okay to admit you’re struggling and ask for help. Don’t be a hero and think you can do it all. Instead, garner the support you need and be specific about how others can relieve some of the stress you’re feeling.
Another helpful option is to form a support group with other parents. This is not only a great way to share your concerns in a setting where you feel understood, but it also helps to know you’re not the only one struggling. Together you can swap ideas and solutions for getting through each day.
Take care of yourself
When you feel overwhelmed and overworked, it’s important to get adequate rest. Make sleep a priority, even if you have to grab a quick nap during the day. This is definitely not easy to do when you have a newborn, but you can always ask a loved one to take over for a few hours so you can get the shuteye you need.
Similarly, good eating habits and plenty of exercise are critical as well. If you’re short on time—and who isn’t—you may need to take some shortcuts in other areas of your life. Certain chores, such as mowing the lawn or cleaning the house, can wait. In the meantime, it’s more important to create a little time for yourself.
During times like this, it’s critical not to overlook your mental health. Breathing exercises can help when you’re feeling especially anxious or stressed. Other strategies include meditation, yoga, listening to music, or taking a walk. And if you only have a minute, make the most of it by closing your eyes and relaxing.
Focus on your kids
There’s a lot going on, so it’s understandable that you’re worried about your outside obligations. At the end of the day, however, your kids need you to be your best. Look for ways to ease some of the pressure. Create a consistent routine for everyone in the family, especially your little ones. And find ways to spend time together, whether it’s taking a short walk in the park, riding bikes, or simply reading a book.
Get professional help
It’s unfortunate that the pandemic has created unforeseeable circumstances that make parenting even more stressful than usual. If you’re struggling and need help, consider talking to a mental health professional. Nothing should get in the way of a healthy parent-child relationship.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.