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Parenting Is Hard! How to Conquer Burnout and Exhaustion

Parenting is hard. Parenting burnout, parenting exhaustion is real. See what causes burnout and learn tips to stop feeling overwhelmed, on HealthyPlace.

Parenting is hard, and burnout is real. Many parents feel overextended and drained. When your physical, mental, and emotional resources are nearly empty, raising kids can seem impossible. Worse, it’s not unusual for parents to stop caring that they can’t meet their old standards of parenthood. Burnout is a mental health experience that falls on a continuum between stress and depression, say researchers studying the phenomenon (Roskam, et al., 2017). If you have found yourself frazzled and frayed because parenting is hard, don’t beat yourself up for it. You aren’t the only one.

In a study analyzing parental burnout, researchers discovered that almost one third of parents experience moderate burnout while raising their children, and 13 percent of parents suffer from high burnout. Altogether, just under half of all parents deal with parental exhaustion and burnout during the parenting process. Further, this stressful overload applies almost equally to mothers and fathers. In the study, rates were slightly higher for women than men, but the difference was just a few percentage points. (Roskam, et al., 2017).

Many parents face burnout at some point. Here’s a look at what it is.

Parental Burnout and Exhaustion are Overwhelming Because Parenting Is So Hard

Exhaustion from parenting creates crushing negative thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Overwhelmed parents often experience such difficulties as:

  • A sense of defeat
  • Hopelessness
  • Isolation, being the only one who “can’t handle” parenting
  • Thoughts of incompetence, inadequacy
  • Emotional distancing
  • Lack of pleasure in their children
  • Resentment of the kids
  • Irritability
  • Guilt
  • Increasingly strained parent-child relationship

Most parents don’t intend for parenting to dovetail like this. They used to want to spend quality time as a family, and they liked most of the tasks of parenting, even when parenting was hard. So where does burnout come from? What gets in the way of healthy parenting?

Where Do Parenting Exhaustion and Burnout Come From?

There are myriad reasons that parenting is hard, and they accumulate to create unhealthy levels of stress. Parents face societal pressure to raise successful kids because, everyone cries, today’s world needs well-rounded, active citizens. Parents don’t dare be sub-par and risk raising children who don’t measure up.

The pressure to be perfect parents with perfect children is seemingly everywhere. Social media posts and images show off perfection at every turn: perfect bedroom designs, backyard playgrounds, teens doing the stuff of professional adults.

These false standards of perfection are impossible to live up to. Trying to do so and having guilt for falling short are primary causes of burnout. Technology, too, plays a role. Devices lure and capture kids with flashy apps. Courtesy of the Internet and social media, kids are exposed to too much information beyond their developmental level. Online dangers lurk. Videogames corrupt. The hypervigilance required of parents is exhausting.

Then there’s the fact that life is just plain busy. Trying to juggle work, family, and all other responsibilities is a delicate balancing act. Kids are overscheduled, and parents and kids are constantly on the go from one activity to the next. While activities are happening, laundry, shopping, cleaning, meals, homework, and other responsibilities of living pile up. Many parents see adult friendships fall off in the harried pace of their lives. This leads to isolation and decreased moral support.

In all this busyness, there is no time for self-care. That, however, is part of what contributes to burnout.

Tips for Reducing Parental Exhaustion and Burnout

When you’re exhausted and burned out, trying to change your situation can seem daunting. That belief is part of stress-induced fatigue and problem-solving difficulties. You really can regain your positive parenting experiences. Try these tips to help (start with just one, and gradually add others).

  • Let yourself be “good enough” since perfection is impossible (it’s positive role modeling for your kids, too).
  • When all feels negative, find something positive and focus on that.
  • Create parenting goals that fit your family; goals give you purpose and shape action.
  • Prioritize. What must be done now? What can wait?
  • Consider cutting back on the number of structured activities your kids are doing. Involve your kids in a healthy discussion and let them have input.
  • Seek support from people you trust.
  • Restore and refresh every day, even for a short time: exercise, meditate, do yoga, meet a friend for coffee, take a nap—whatever feels good to you.
  • Sleep.
  • If you have a spouse or partner, map out a plan that creates equally shared responsibilities.

To make parenting less hard and reduce your risk of burnout, make your parenting thoughts and actions less about the pressures of others and more about the harmony you seek in your home.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, July 6). Parenting Is Hard! How to Conquer Burnout and Exhaustion, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/parenting-help/parenting-is-hard-how-to-conquer-burnout-and-exhaustion

Last Updated: August 8, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD