Let’s talk about something that is too often ignored: parental burnout.
Parents seem reluctant to acknowledge that physical and emotional exhaustion is common. I might even go so far as to say very common. But in my experience, few parents admit to it as they’ve been brought up to believe that being a parent is unbelievably rewarding and fulfilling. So, they don’t feel comfortable admitting to parental burnout because they feel this is admitting that they have failed themselves, their child and their partner. This can lead to pushing, or repressing, their true feelings about being a parent down inside themselves which can easily build resentment and anger towards themselves and the child. Which inevitably it seems, leads to not looking after themselves as much as I might like.
“Do you allow your phone to be totally depleted before you recharge it?”
I think we all know the answer – “No!” It happens but that’s probably an oversight and rare because you, like most of us, are always checking and recharging as you go along to ensure you don’t run out of juice.
“Do you recharge yourself as often as you recharge your phone?”
I suspect the answer here is the same: “No.” But we all need our batteries replenished. You know this. And it’s not just our power bank that needs recharging with sleep, relaxation and exercise.
We have lots of other banks which all need recharging periodically, for example: the cuddle/physical contact bank; the hobbies/interests bank; the do-nothing bank; the good food/drink bank; the partner bank; the friends bank: and so on.
I’m lucky enough to go into schools to talk to parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting children, especially teenagers. When I do this I always ask what they have done in the past week for themselves. For most parents it’s nothing or very close to nothing. It seems the most common reason for this is lack of time which I understand. Upto a point. I explain that this self-love or self-care is, in my opinion, essential if they are to be on the top of their game as a parent. In fact, I usually trot out the old saying “Self care is child care” which sums it up pretty well.
When I dig a little more into the reasons why parents rarely fully look after all their banks it seems this tendency to neglect oneself starts when the child is a baby. And it sticks and grows. And it’s often added to over the years by the fear of letting the child down in some way if they are not excellent, or at least very good, in all areas and stages of parenting. And, of course, the plentiful images and stories of the ideal parent on social media fuels this massively.
Many parents also feel judged (by others but also themselves!) and are willing to sacrifice themselves to be (seen) more “successful” as a parent.
To me the better way to move towards whatever a “successful” parent is is to stop this and to focus on themselves more.
I usually ask parents to consider switching from this perfectionist tendency to a “good enough” approach. Why? Because this will reduce the pressure on them and gives them the time to recharge themselves more fully, more often and, hopefully, without guilt.
If they can do this, and they can, the end result is that they are not burnt out. This means their enjoyment of being a parent is more, their perception of themselves as a parent is boosted and there is less stress in the home.
So, to all you parents out there – recharge your banks of self-love, please!