Parental Burnout: It’s Ok to Ask for Help
We all hear that “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” but what does this really mean? How do we know when the cup is empty or full? How do we fill the cup? What is going in the cup? Are we pouring the right stuff out of the cup? How much is too much? Wow! This list of questions pretty much sums up the mental and emotional toll of parenting: so many questions and decisions to be made, and are there right and wrong answers?
Everyone’s experience is different, but parenting definitely took me by surprise! I always knew I wanted to have children. The idea of caretaking little ones, being there for snuggles, and helping them with little struggles sounded enticing. I loved the idea of going to recitals and cheering on my child on the sidelines of games. Watching them learn who they are as they turn from preteens to teenagers and on into adulthood seems so rewarding to me.
I guess I didn’t think about the 24-hour worry fest that was going to happen. I didn’t know that the constant stream of needs (and I am the one who has to meet them all) would happen the minute the little bundle came into the world. And then, the constant stream of needs turns from feeding and changing diapers to making sure children are supported academically, physically, and emotionally. Parenting comes with constant emotional (and physical) attunement to your child, which can be overwhelming and cause emotional (and physical) burnout. It’s easy to get caught up in the to-do’s and not notice the toll it is taking on our emotional well-being.
The reality is that we do not have to do everything on our own. It is ok to ask for help! I know social media (and our self-imposed ideas of what parenthood should be) make it look like working parents should be able to everything. From making every (organic) meal from scratch while attending every sport and tucking their littles into bed every night. All while keeping the house clean and having thoroughly organized cabinets. Oh yeah! Laundry is always folded and nicely stored in tidy drawers. Although it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that this is possible, for many, it is not!
Letting go of the idea that parents do everything can be very freeing. There are a lot of ways to seek out help. If your means permit, maybe think about a few hours of childcare added into your week. If you are on a tight budget, I bet there is another parent that would love a break just as much as you! Set up a trade (bonus playdate for your child!) so that you each get time away. Many parents report that knowing there is a break in the week boosts their mental state, and they are more likely to value their time with their children. Letting yourself have a break can help you be a better parent when you are with your children. And bonus: you are more likely to even attune to your partner when your tank isn’t empty.