Parental burnout is exactly what it sounds like: overwhelming exhaustion and chronic stress brought about by the daily responsibilities of parenting. Every parent has likely gone through it at one point or another, completely overwhelmed by every little thing that needs to be done at once and the pressures of being a ‘good’ parent.
Feeling tired and stressed is a normal part of being a parent, but when it reaches a point of physical, mental, or emotional decline, something clearly has to be done. In order to address parental burnout before it gets worse, here are the warning signs that every parent should look out for:
1. The intense exhaustion is not going away
There are many points in a parent’s life where he or she will feel completely and utterly drained. It’s a normal part of the journey. However, when the feeling of exhaustion and being overwhelmed goes on for weeks and it doesn’t seem to get any better, consider getting help, be it from your family, friends, spouse, or mental health professional.
2. Your kids are too much to handle
Parents take care of everybody before they take care of themselves, hence the lack of showers and constantly eating breakfast in the car. Sometimes, it even gets to a point that parents are neglecting themselves for the sake of their kids, which only leads to dangerous levels of stress and unhealthy coping mechanisms that can affect the whole family. This is especially true for families with kids who have cognitive and behavioral issues.
If your kids are simply too much to handle because of their mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, it’s a clear sign that you should get them to a child counseling center in order to address their issues and improve the situation at home, not only for their sake but for yours, too.
3. You can’t sleep well enough
Another sign of parental burnout, or burnout in general, is difficulty falling and staying asleep on most nights. Some people may see this as a natural effect of having a new baby in the house, but sleep problems, to a certain degree, may need addressing.
Moreover, if your kids are already old enough to not wake you up every hour at night but you still experience sleep problems, you may need to approach a doctor about it. Lack of uninterrupted sleep can easily affect every other aspect of your life, including your physical and emotional health, as well as relationships with others.
4. You are irritable and angry all the time
When your reactions to certain things are unwarranted most of the time, take a step back and analyze yourself. If a sink full of dishes or a set of toys left out in the open is enough to have you go on a full-blown parental rage, you are clearly burnt out and desperately need a break before your behavior starts affecting the rest of your family.
Increased irritability and anger can also lead to constant fighting with your spouse or co-parent. When the demands of parenting become too overwhelming, co-parents or spouses tend to turn on each other instead of working together to address the issues in the house. If this is the case for you and the other parent, it is likely that both of you are suffering from parental burnout and need help as soon as possible.
5. You feel withdrawn from your children
Becoming withdrawn from your children and feeling resentful towards them is another warning sign of parental burnout–one that can bring about feelings of guilt, loneliness, and fear because “all parents should love their children wholeheartedly,” and feeling something even remotely negative towards them is not what a good parent does.
However, keep in mind that these negative feelings do not mean you hate your children, and they don’t mean you are a bad parent. Instead of invalidating your feelings, try to find their root issues and address them accordingly, ideally with the help of a mental health professional or at the very least, a trusted friend that won’t judge your feelings.
6. You can’t take care of yourself anymore
When you are no longer able to take care of your own needs, seek help as soon as possible. You are likely suffering from the burnout that is lasting longer than usual, which may put your physical, emotional, and mental health at risk.
Parental burnout is not something to be taken lightly, even if it seems like a normal thing that all parents go through. Keep in mind that being constantly overwhelmed and exhausted is not normal, and if you get to a point when you start experiencing these signs, it’s time to seek help for yourself and for your family.