Resolving Parent Burnout
I have reached screaming point,” Julie said. “I have three small children that are driving me crazy. I get so frustrated and angry that I’m scared I might hurt one of them. I need help.”
“I’m tired most of the time,” said Ron, the father of twins. “When Karen had to go back to work to help with family finances, I had to accept more of the work around the home. By the time we both get home from a busy day at work, take care of the children and household chores, we’re both so weary we collapse into bed. We wake up tired the next morning, and it’s the same thing all over again. We have no time for each other, and our marriage is suffering.
Julie, Ron and Karen were all experiencing parent burnout, which is not uncommon in today’s pressure-cooker society.
Exhaustion, frustration, and anger are typical symptoms. Others include a feeling of working harder for the family but enjoying it less—of feeling overworked and underappreciated—resulting in apathy, resentment, and increased arguments between yourself and your spouse, or becoming physically ill. “In the more advanced cases of burnout,” writes Debra Bruce, “the weary, confused adult simply quits caring—leaving the child basically to rear himself.”
When parents experience prolonged burnout, the children also suffer. Some will become irritable, restless, touchy, and argumentative. Others will internalize their frustration, thereby setting themselves up for later problems.
Single parents are particularly susceptible to burnout, but so are married parents. Small children need constant attention. They are a twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week responsibility. Years ago, in the days of the more extended family, there was more help from other family members, but in our day of the nuclear family, there is often little or no help from outside family members.
Exhaustion, frustration, and
are typical symptoms.
If you are a parent, here are some suggestions to help you resolve, or better still, prevent, burnout.
- Ration your time. Learn to set priorities and say no to the less important demands on your time. Do only those household and other tasks that are essential, and forget the rest.
- Take time for yourself. Some parents feel guilty when they relax and take time to meet their own needs. Arrange for a day off every week anyhow, or at least a half-day, just to do what you want. Be sure to include time for a hobby or play.
- Meet your own physical needs. A well-balanced diet is essential for averting and overcoming the effects of burnout as is regular aerobic type exercise. Proper rest is also imperative. Even Jesus, the Master Healer, said to his disciples, “Come apart and rest awhile.” Or as somebody else put it, “Come apart and rest awhile before you come apart.”
- Set realistic goals. Without clearly defined goals it is easy to run every which way at once, and thereby dissipate your limited energy and run yourself ragged. Avoid the temptation to seek to fulfill your unfulfilled dreams through your children. Encourage them to do and be their best, but don’t put unrealistic demands on them. Let them know they are loved and appreciated even if they can’t hit a ball or don’t get the highest grades in their classes. Treat yourself the same way.
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