Before you even sip your morning coffee you’re exhausted. Tackling your to-do list makes you want to curl up into a ball and hide. How are you supposed to even tackle that list with your toddler shouting “Mommy, help me!”, “Come heeeeeeere!” and “Uh oh – teddy fell in the toilet.”
You’re NOT alone! You love your kids dearly and absolutely. But it’s normal to feel burnout. It doesn’t mean you love your kids any less.
So what is parental burnout and why do parents experience this? What is self-care and why is it important? And what are the ways parents can practice self-care?
What is parental burnout?
Parental stress or burnout occurs when you feel like you just can’t cope any more as a parent. It’s a situation in which you are so drained you feel like you have nothing more to give.
Every parent has a different reason for parental burnout. It’s a different situation for everyone and there is no easy solution to any of these problems.
For some, it’s overwhelm from a never-ending to-do list. For others, it’s worry about the health and well-being of their family, especially during this pandemic.
What is self-care and why is it important?
Contrary to what most people think, self-care isn’t about beauty treatments, going to the salon or getting a manicure or spa massages. And most of all, self-care isn’t done only when you feel everything is going well. When things are not right, the more you need to practice self-care.
The World Health Organization defines self-care as, “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider”.
Practicing self-care promotes a healthy relationship with yourself so that you can share good vibes with other people. Remember that you cannot give to others what you do not have. While most people think of self-care as being selfish, this is far from the truth. Self-care allows you to pay adequate attention to your well-being and in effect transforms you to be the best version of yourself around others.
Here are some of the benefits of self-care especially for us parents:
- Promotes better parenting. Bear in mind that the best way to take care of your family is to take good care of yourself.
- Promotes better emotional regulation. Parents who practice self-care are more patient and are less prone to an emotional meltdown.
- Modeling to our kids. Everyone around you, including your kids, will benefit from the restored energy and happiness you radiate.
- Better resilience. Practicing self-care will promote better stress coping techniques.
What are the ways parents can practice self-care?
These are some of the most practical ways parents can practice self-care. Not all of these will be possible for everyone, but try to do as many as possible.
- Take care of your health. Eat healthy meals at the right time. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Get enough exercise and sunlight. Sleep for at least 7-8 hours during the night. While this is easier said than done, the remaining tips will help make this goal more doable.
- Maintain a routine that includes self-care as a non-negotiable. Remember the principle, “Pay yourself first?” The same thing goes for self-care. Make a deal with yourself that no matter how busy you are in taking care of the family, make this a priority.
- Have downtime from screens and social media. Digital stress is real. And it not only affects children but the parents as well. Schedule downtime everyday, where you can unplug from gadgets and social media.
- Be clear about your goals and priorities. What do you think is the most important? What is your focus? Don’t let social media make you feel guilty. Sometimes parents are being pressured into doing things they don’t really want to do because of social media.
- Give your kids age-appropriate tasks. It’s not our job as parents to do everything for our kids. Don’t try to solve all of your kids’ problems. Teaching your kids age-appropriate tasks will not only be beneficial to you but to your children as well, for they can use these tasks later in life. Also, this will promote independence on their part.
- Let’s support each other. Parent-shaming is real, and makes parental burnout worse. Let’s all support each other as parents.
- Seek help. Parenting is not meant to be a one-person job. Instead of asking, “How can I do everything that I need to do, by myself” – maybe we can try asking, “How can I get help for tasks that overwhelm me?” And If you think you need to seek professional help, then do it. It is okay to seek help for mental health problems. There’s no shame in doing this.
- Practice saying NO. As parents, we often feel guilty when we say no. But remember! Each time you say yes to something, you are really saying no to something else. So before saying yes, ask yourself if this will be worth it.
- Pray. Strengthen your relationship with God. Pray every day and share your faith with your family.
Everyone’s definition of self-care is different. Only YOU decide what really fills you up and energizes you. Whatever self-care practices worked for me, may not work for you.
So at the end of the day, always consider the things that make you feel alive. And once you decided to practice self-care, stick to it. Make a promise to yourself to do it no matter what. Remember that taking care of yourself will better equip you to take care of others.