I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the last few months have been pretty ugly for a lot of people. A global pandemic, massive unemployment levels, and upheaval due to the righteous unrest in our communities due to police brutality don’t exactly make for the most calming of environments. But lately I’ve been battling something that I’ve struggled to put a name to.
I’m familiar with the term ‘burnout’. As a writer, I’ve even battled creative burnout, especially in the last few months. I’ve also battled depression and anxiety, which can lead to similar feelings of burnout. But here lately, I’ve had a different kind of creeping burn sneaking up on me.
I’m burned out on parenting.
Before you rush to remind me that ‘I wanted to be a mother,’ just hear me out. I love my kids. I’d die for them, kill for them, even give up appendages for them. And I know that there are people who would give anything to be parents (I’m grateful to be a mother, I really am!) But I’m burned out on parenting them 24/7 while the world writhes in such stressful times.
I’m sure I’m not alone. Most special needs parents probably feel this way at one time or another. And with no options for respite, I know I have to ‘suck it up’ and deal with it, but oh-my-gosh does it feel heavy sometimes.
I think Mommy Burnout is actually the culmination of several stressful situations all happening at once. It’s hard to have a child with special needs. It’s hard to battle your own mental illness. It’s hard being hyper-empathetic when there is so much pain going on all around you. And it’s hard living in uncertain times.
I know this sounds like I’m whining — please know that I’m not. But I think we need to acknowledge and address the stressors and the emotions we experience so we can deal with them in a healthy way. Being responsible for not only your own well-being but also being responsible for the well-being of your children during stressful times is HARD.
Dealing with Mommy (or Daddy) Burnout (Or Caregiver Burnout because, let’s be real, it’s not just biological parents who are going through this — grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other caregivers can experience this) in a healthy way is important. Some days, the temptation to ‘run away and join the circus’ is almost too much to handle. But, come on — that’s not really an option. At least, it’s not a healthy one.
As a child of an absent parent, I know that just plasters on a whole ‘nother level of trauma for kids and the remaining caregivers. So, running away and hiding from our stress (literally or by indulging in alcohol or drugs to ‘escape’) is a terrible option. What can we do to climb out of this burnout?
Be patient with ourselves. Talk about it, even if it’s just on Medium so strangers can commiserate. Try to take some time for ourselves that isn’t child-centered, even if it’s just an hour after they go to sleep.
But don’t fill that hour with mindless tv binging. Do something that really brings you joy. Cook something just for you. Meditate or pray, if that brings you peace. Read a book (my personal favorite) or journal. Get those overwhelming, intrusive thoughts down on paper and free up some space in your soul for some emotional healing. Yeah, it sounds hokey, but it works.
And if you really are at your wits end, there is no shame in asking for help. Call a friend, a neighbor, or even call your healthcare professional and explain how you feel. Talk therapy can be a huge help in dealing with the stresses of parenthood. Just don’t try to ‘go it alone’ because you really do deserve help and so do your kids.
On a side note, while writing this piece I have discovered that there are horrifyingly few places that parents can call when they are having mental health crises related to parenting. Hey, USA, WE NEED TO DO BETTER. Parents and children deserve more support than is currently available.
You can call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Helpline (1–800–4-A-CHILD) if you’re having a childcare crisis.
You can also call the Crying Baby Hotline if you’re worried you might harm your infant (1–866–243–2229)
And the Boys Town Parenting & Youth Advice for Boys & Girls have a hotline — 1–800–448–3000.
You might be able to find resources in your city or state, too.
Personally, I’m trying to be a little gentler to myself and my kids. They’re probably getting more screen time than is healthy, but that works for now. And I’m reminding myself that, like other forms of burnout, Mommy Burnout won’t last forever. So if this article resonates with you, know that this mom knows how you feel and you aren’t alone. Hopefully, we’ll all come through this tricky patch of parenting unscathed and with kids who appreciate us even more for it.