Did You Know That Parent Burnout Begins Before You Even Have a Child?
While it's important to ensure your child is okay, don't run yourself into the ground!
It wasn’t that long ago that you were brimming with excitement at the prospect of being a parent. Naturally, you’re a mixed bag of emotions when your little one rears his beautiful newborn head from your womb. But as the months and years roll on, you might begin to feel that you’re losing that upbeat attitude and a positive outlook—and begin to notice the signs of parent burnout.
With the pressures of life coming in hard and fast from every angle, you might feel like the worst. Parent. Ever. You may feel like work is too much to handle while being a supermom, and the time to achieve your lifelong ambitions is quickly ebbing away. But actually, a lot of parents feel exactly the same. According to a recent survey, 51% of mums reported they struggle to manage the stress of working while being a mother. Furthermore, 85% of mothers feel society, in general, doesn’t support mothers enough.
It’s no wonder parents get burnt out with so much on their plate. But if the fatigue kicks in and you realise the signs of parent burnout, is it enough to set aside “me-time”?
Is it too late to recover by the time you notice signs of parent burnout?
The report suggests that parent burnout begins way before the baby arrives. Most of us know that parenting would be a completely new ballgame from your single life. But nothing quite prepares you for the barrage of challenges that parenthood bring.
From the get-go, you probably received unsolicited advice from everyone telling you how hard the journey will be, as well as how to raise your little one. There’s the complete change in lifestyle as well (time to get used to eating leftovers, mum!) and not spending as much time with your friends.
Parenting involves different financial priorities as well, where you might struggle during some periods to make ends meet. Don’t forget about the daunting prospect of leaving your job for a long period of time and returning to it with additional pressure – no wonder 40% of mums report higher stress levels compared to their colleagues! And many parents lose the drive to continue pursuing their passion while caring for children.
It sounds like the odds are stacked against you to be able to work and raise the next generation to the best of your abilities. But mum, we hope you realise you are not alone. You are doing a wonderful job, and you didn’t do anything wrong to deserve burning out so quickly.
Setting aside fifteen minutes to soak in a bath won’t magically rejuvenate your spirit in the face of these challenges. But there are steps you can take to improve your situation.
What can you do to cope?
There are many things you can do to prevent parental burnout. Some of these might be obvious when you first hear them. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Mums, coping with parenting in modern society requires a change of perspective from yourself. Here are some practical tips for you to consider to improve your wellbeing in the face of parent burnout.
Be vulnerable and honest
Parenting is difficult.
That’s right, we said it! Parenting is definitely tough. Make no doubt about it. But admitting how hard it is doesn’t mean you are a terrible parent. In fact, it is the first step towards learning how to cope in a healthy manner.
Many parents’ coping mechanism involves lying in bed scrolling mindlessly through social media. Those posts of picture-perfect mums who just seem to have it easily dampen your spirit and reinforce this groundless accusation that you’re not as good a parent as they are. But shy away from comparisons. Instead of correcting on your apparent weaknesses (which seem to coincidentally look like other people’s strengths), focus on yourself and your strengths.
Simply being you and being open about your difficulty is brave. You’ll inspire other mothers to continue being uniquely them.
Owning your story
Many parents fall into the trap of filling the shoes of the “perfect parent”. And naturally, this means trying to raise the perfect child. While it’s good to encourage your little ones to try their best and strive for more, don’t let unrealistic expectations push everyone to their wits’ end. Your child might not grow up to become the next Joseph Schooling. And that’s okay. Learn to accept it and move on.
Managing your expectations allows you to set realistic goals that your children will enjoy achieving. Comparing side-by-side with another family rarely helps, as you’re measuring with the wrong yardstick. Your child is beautifully unique and he has unlimited amounts of potential. Forcing him to grow up like your next door neighbour can stifle his development and can cause more harm than you might realise.
Own your story, mum. You are a great parent. And your family is uniquely different from others. Embrace those values and live in the here and now. Forcing your kids to be people they’re not will make your relationships suffer, perhaps irreparably.
Ask for help
It sounds obvious. But going back to the attitude of authenticity and vulnerability, it means sizing up what you can and can’t do. There’s a stigma of parents asking for help signalling they aren’t responsible adults.
If anything, asking for help is a sure sign of responsibility. Otherwise, you’ll look like a stereotype of a stressed mum with frayed nerves as you try to carry your child, cook his food, answer phone calls, drive to work, do the laundry, and tidy up. All at the same time.
We only have two hands and two feet. No matter how awesome you are (and you truly are awesome), you need to learn how to let go of some things. Delegate tasks at home like cooking, food shopping, driving, and cleaning. You can even get the family more involved. Parenting burnout happens when you take on all of these responsibilities on your own shoulders. In fact, even your kids can help around the house! Getting them to do the laundry or wash dishes improves their gross and fine motor skills, so it’s a win-win situation (until they become teens, then you’ve got a real fight on your hands!)
Speak with other parents. Get more ideas on how they cope and brainstorm. You’ll be surprised to find out who else struggles with the same weaknesses.
Set aside time for yourself
Of course, me-time is an important aspect of staying sane. Don’t feel guilty – it’s actually necessary for your survival! If you recall, the protocol for oxygen masks on planes is to tend to yourself first before helping someone else put on their mask, even your own kids.
While it doesn’t fix and stop the pressures of the world from pouring in, do take time to unwind and relax. Binge on that Netflix series, enjoy a long soak in the bath or have a night out with the boys. If this requires you to do things you wouldn’t normally do, then make space for it. Shop online instead of rushing out and doing it yourself – that S$5 spent on delivery will be totally worth it in the long-run!
While society seems to be bearing down on you and casting doubt on your ability to parent (or even adult!), remember. You’re doing great. Keep being you and don’t conform to this idea of the perfect parent, because it doesn’t exist. Learn how to say no to things that undermine your worthiness and say yes to things that empower you. If you found these tips helpful, share them with a parent who needs to know their worth!