Parenting burnout is a real thing. Research published by Clinical Psychological Science states that parent burnout is: an exhaustion syndrome, characterized by feeling overwhelmed, physical and emotional exhaustion, emotional distancing from one’s children, and a sense of being an ineffective parent.
As a mom who raised three kids, I know that there were days when I was close to emotional and even physical burnout. However, at the time, I was not always able to interpret the warning signs. It often took a friend’s or even my husband’s intervention to help me see the signs and stop long enough to fill up my “gas tank” and keep me from running on fumes.
In his book Get Your Life Back, author John Elderidge explains that “We all need a quiver of gentle reminders–signs, symptoms, barometers–that let us know if we are living a sane life.”
Consider these signs as gentle reminders that you might be running out of gas.
You flinch when a friend asks for help.
When you get a text from a friend asking for your time or a favor, an email seeking some wisdom, or when you hear about a friend in crisis and everything in you wants to pull away instead of turning towards them to help, you are most likely running on fumes.
The flinch, wince, long hesitation, unhappy sigh; the avoidance, the inability to enter in–those are symptoms that we’re running on fumes again.*
Of course, we cannot be available for people all the time, with no boundaries, but what about the people in your life, the loved ones–coworkers, neighbors, family? If you’ve lost the desire for enjoying people, then there’s a good chance you are running on empty.
You are dependent on artificial things to boost your mood or energy.
Maybe it’s the coffee addiction, the sugar rush, or the energy drink that you rely on to get through the rest of the day. When you’ve gone from enjoying those things to needing them, it could be a sign of emotional burnout.
You don’t have the energy to enjoy physical activity.
Do you take the time to get outside for a walk? To play with your kids in the back yard? To get to the gym? Maybe you do have the time to squeeze in that workout or that walk, but you feel drained and just can’t find the energy to follow through when the time comes.
The lack of motivation to do things that we know our body and spirit need is a sure sign of emotional burnout.
You snap at your kids.
Combine feeling weary with kids who are testing your patience and you have a recipe for blowing up or snapping at your kids. In your mind, you know that they don’t deserve it and that you are over-reacting, but you are too tired to stop. Later, you may apologize, but then it happens again and again. My friend, you are running on fumes.
Your kids feel more like a burden than a joy.
We all have days when the burden of being a parent feels overwhelming, but if this happens daily it could be a sign of parenting burnout. Your patience is thin, you perform parenting duties as if on auto-pilot, and you count the hours and minutes until the kids are gone to school or tucked in bed so you can finally enjoy a few moments of peace.
If this is your lifestyle–not just a random bad day–then it’s time to consider ways to fill up your gas tank and keep yourself from running on fumes.
Parenting Burnout Can Be Beat.
Perhaps as a parent, you may often feel like you miss your soul. You have no time to enjoy life, to feed your mind, to care for your body.
The busy-ness of raising kids has a way of monopolizing your habits and routines. The honest truth is that if you are going to get your soul back, you’ve got to push back. Enjoying a good book, a long walk, a good movie, or a leisurely dinner with your kids may become an act of self-defense.* The ability to simply enjoy anything is a goal and a good sign to celebrate.
Along with this I would add “the ability to hope and dream.” Are you looking forward to your future? What are you dreaming about these days? Or are you hunkered down, braced against the world, just getting by? Let that test be a sign to you.*
Parenting burnout is not just something that causes parents to suffer, it also affects your children.
The thing is, we can’t give what we don’t have. If we’re disconnected from ourselves, we can’t give attachment, love, and nurturing. If we’re under stress, we can’t always respond with patience and model compassionate caring in the face of challenges. Since we are the parents, it’s up to us to know when that’s happening, when burnout is reaching critical levels, and what to do about it.**