As much as we now talk about professional burnout without too much taboo, parental burnout is not so much trivialized as that. However, according to a study by two Belgian psychologists, 5% of parents suffer from burnout and 8% of parents are at high risk. We know that it is difficult to talk about it, the fear of being judged is great, so we don't dare. Yet, you are not alone!
What is Parental Burnout?
The truth is that there is no "exact" definition of parental burnout. However, we can define it as parental stress over time with physical and mental exhaustion in the family sphere.
Of course, there comes a time for ALL PARENTS when they are tired from all the responsibilities and tasks that come with parenthood. But if a period of rest doesn't change that and we feel a bit of autopilot functioning with a decrease in our commitment to parenting... It's likely to be burnout.
Parenting burnout: symptoms
Fatigue is therefore one of the characteristics of parenting burnout, but not the only one!"
Parenting is exhausting
This is the characteristic that comes up most often. Feeling like you're at the end of your rope, not being able to do it anymore. It can manifest itself in an inability or difficulty thinking straight and intense fatigue.
It's kind of like a survival mode, any request requires energy we don't have.. or at least not anymore. Every task to organize seems like insurmountable, even thinking about dinner, how to dress your child.. We have the feeling of being E-M-P-T-Y.
Being a parent no longer gives us pleasure
It's a bit like seeing parenthood as a burden and only seeing the negative aspects, it's an "overload" that prevents us from being satisfied with this magnificent role.
For example, we used to love to play with our child, now we do it because "we have to" but take no pleasure in it.
This probably results on...
An emotional distance is created with our child
We used to be able to listen to our child for hours, overreacting to these stories (which have no rhyme or reason), now listening is passive, in one ear, we pay less attention because we don't have any more energy actually. Even emotional displays like kisses or hugs aren't as frequent.
Of course, we still do all the necessary things, feeding, packing, brushing teeth, taking him to school/nursery, but we just don't manage to invest as much as we used to in that parent-child bond.
Guilt and feelings of failure as a parent
With the previous symptoms, we feel guilty. We feel unworthy of parenting, insensitive, and ashamed of who we are. We had an image of ourselves as parents and were different in the past with our child and it's hard to accept that.
Yet, we don't have to feel ashamed. This happens to many parents and remains "situational", it is an overflow and in no way reflects your true identity and role as a parent.
Parental burnout VS depression, baby blues and postpartum depression
Depression is not contextualized, it is a general state. Burn-out only affects the family whereas depression affects all aspects (professional, family, relationship..).
However, a burn-out can, in time, lead to depression.
Baby Blues last only a few days and occur at the birth of the child.
For more information: Postpartum depression: we tell you everything
How to get out of parental burnout:
For a professional burnout, it is possible to get away from the source of the problem: work. A work stoppage can therefore be prescribed.
For a parental burn-out, this proves more difficult. There is no prescription for parental leave......
Talking to your spouse
It is very important to involve the spouse when we become aware of the burn-out. Already to be listened to but also to be able if possible to get support and have time for yourself. The goal is not to unload EVERYTHING on the other, but if the spouse has the energy to, delegate certain tasks to breathe and simply take care of oneself.
Consult a doctor/psychologist
Already, being aware of the problem is a first step to get out of it. But having outside support is even better. The psychologist will really be able to decipher the emotions felt, let go of certain thoughts of guilt, and help adopt new behaviors.
Acccepting that you're not always perfect
Wanting your children to eat only home-cooked meals is really good, but it's a heavy mental burden and it takes time. It's a good idea to have your children eat only home-cooked meals, but it's a heavy mental burden and takes time. Same goes for getting your child's hair done to perfection, one day you don't have time? No big deal!
The psychologist will really be able to help you accept that too :)
Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it...
Talking is to take a weight off your shoulders. There are associations that support parenthood and can help during discussion groups, for example. By listening to the testimonies of other parents, it is easier to accept one's situation and this can help.
How to avoid parental burn-out after all?
By accepting that you are not perfect and offering yourself the right to make mistakes. No one is perfect, doing your best is already very good.
Delegating certain tasks when we feel emotional and physical fatigue to take time for ourselves is also important.
There are online tests to find out if you're in parental burnout, but at the slightest doubt it's always better to prevent it by consulting your doctor :)