Month: <span>April 2024</span>

Parenting Burnout: Redefining Self-Care

Written by: Jessica Hauser-Harrington, PhD, LP

Parenting is hard, and it’s ok to say so! 

We often think of burnout as an occupational hazard, but it applies to parenting, too. The seemingly endless demands and expectations put on parents, both large (rising costs of child related-care) and small (another spirit week?!?), can leave parents feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and at the end of their rope.  Additionally, parenting children with emotional or behavioral difficulties brings added challenges and stressors that may lead you to feel isolated or different from other families who may not experience these things. We know parenting burnout is real, but we also know there are real ways to battle and overcome it! 

The hard fact is, we live in a society where people only show the happy, highlight reels of family life on social media, which can lead to feelings of frustration, jealousy, and even hopelessness. We are our own worst critics, especially when it comes to parenting. An important part of battling parenting  burnout is being mindful of the messages we are letting sink in from social media and wider culture. What is actually important to you in your parenting? Find small ways to live these values and make sure expectations fueled by the unrealistic, curated version of parenting on social media do not take root in your mind. You’ve got this, and you are doing amazing! 

If you yourself experience depression, anxiety, ADHD, or other mental health conditions, daily parenting tasks may feel even more overwhelming and tiring. Trauma or baggage from your own childhood certainly impacts parenting. In addition, so many parents feel that they lose part of themselves and their identity when they become parents. Addressing these issues can really reduce parenting burnout. At Monarch, we treat children and their families as a unit. Parenting support is often a key component of your child’s treatment, whether that is done as part of your child’s appointment or in separate parenting sessions. Our clinicians also work with parents in individual therapy to address issues related to their own health and wellbeing. Whether it is learning cognitive behavioral therapy strategies to challenge automatic thoughts, dialectical behavioral therapy to build distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness techniques, or mindful self-compassion skills, our therapists will work with you to customize your treatment plan to help you become the parent you want to be.  

You’ve probably heard the phrase “self-care isn’t selfish” before. It’s not only true, it’s necessary for parents! You cannot pour water from an empty well. Taking time for yourself, whether in the form of exercise, meditation, hobbies, socializing, therapy or simply taking time to be alone, helps to refill that well and recharge your batteries. You are a better parent when you are well-rested, well-fed, and have things to look forward to aside from your children.

Here are some self-care suggestions that can help combat parenting burnout:

  • Find and use your village, whether that’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, or trading off childcare with other families you know and trust. Ask for help and offer it in return.
  • Set aside protected, non-childcare, non-housework time for each parent during the week, whether that’s 45 mins or 2 hours. Make sure the time is equitable for both partners (a 1-hour spin class ≠ 4 hours of golfing)
  • Being a stay-at-home parent is a job too, make sure you get “time off”
  • Pursue your own hobbies, learn something new
  • Embrace the two-fer: go for a walk or take a class with a friend
  • Put those dates on the calendar! Dinner and a movie is great, but think beyond a weekend night: it can be a coffee break, a walk around the block with the dog, or meeting up on your lunch breaks. The same goes for getting together with friends—if it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to happen!
  • Learn to say “no” to the things that don’t serve you and your family. Your children don’t have to play every sport or every instrument or participate in every extra-curricular under the sun. You don’t have to volunteer for every school event. It’s ok to have a quiet stay-cation or holiday at home. Say no more often..
  • Try not to compare yourself to other families, especially to parenting “influencers”, no one’s house is that clean all the time! If you’re on social media, seek out more realistic, relatable accounts.
  • If your child has a diagnosis or health condition that adds extra challenges to parenting, seek out diagnosis- or disorder-specific support groups for families and parents for resources and social support.  

Further reading for parenting books that include parents’ well-being as part of their guidance:

Self-Compassion for Parents: Nurture Your Child by Caring for Yourself by Susan M. Pollak, EdD

Parenting with Sanity & Joy: 101 Simple Strategies by Susan G. Groner

How Not to Lose Your Sh*t with Your Kids: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Calmer, Happier Parent by Carla Naumburg, PhD

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Dr. Laura Markham

Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident Kids by Hunter Clarke-Fields, MSAE

If you are considering individual therapy sessions for additional parenting support, contact us and speak with one of our specialists!