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Parental Burnout – Why it’s OK Not To Be OK

Parental burn out

First Things First – Why Parents Self-care is So Important

“I was trying to organise, manage, balance, feed them, cook, clean, answer phone calls, eat, help with online learning, cook again, go shopping, take the kids for a walk…and at the end of the day, I used to explode, because I could not take it anymore. I tried to unload myself first on my partner and when he wasn’t around and I was losing it, I started to insult my children…it was really horrible. One day, I shouted at my children so badly, that they started to cry. I could see they are scared – of their own Mother. This is when I realised, I need help. “ Kate, mother of 2 children

parental burnout

Parenting is not an easy job but parenting during pandemic is even harder. A job from which one can never resign or be put on sick leave from one’s children! Over the past months we have observed major sociological changes. The global pandemic has profoundly impacted parenting. We parent more intense, parental involvement has increased, we had to take on additional roles and responsibilities (online learning, 24/7 childcare, which was balanced when our children were attending school. 

Are you feeling overwhelmed, physically, and emotionally exhausted? Observing emotional distancing from one’s children? Do you have a sense of being an ineffective parent? Are you fed up and in contrast with your previous parental self? These are all the symptoms of Parental burnout.

How Does Burn-out Differ From Ordinary Stress?

Stress as a specific relationship between a person (parent) and the environment, which is assessed by the person as burdensome and exceeding their resources and threatening their well-being. Normally stress or stressful events release the resources needed to re-evaluate the stressful situation. But when there are too many stressors, or they are too strong, and the parent doesn’t have resources to cope with them – they can cause dangerous conditions. Parental burnout is not ordinary parenting stress, it’s very different.

  • You feel completely run down by your role as a parent. 
  • You do what you’re supposed to do for your child(ren), but nothing more. 
  • You feel like you can’t stand your role as a mother/father anymore.
  • You are no longer proud of yourself as a parent. 

It is particularly important to understand, that Parental burnout consequences can be severe. Not only for the parent(s), but more importantly, for the children and the whole family. Consequences for parents range from: long lasting irritability, experiencing feelings of guilt, shame, self-hate, alcohol use, family escape/abandonment ideations, physical symptoms (elevated cortisol = stress hormone levels, fatigue, physical dysregulation) and suicidal thoughts. When parents struggle to cope, consequences for children can become severe. Parents can become violent towards one’s children (verbal first, physical later). Children affective needs, educational needs and physical needs are being neglected.

Mental health

What To Do Next – Ask For Help

Yes, Parental burnout can be treated. The first step is realising that you, as a parent need help. In the beginning it will be difficult for you to overcome the guilty feeling – you will think that you are useless, that others will judge you, that they will call you out for being lazy and week.

STOP RIGHT THERE.

You are not lazy and weak. You are experiencing Parental burnout because the number of stressors in your life, has out weighted the number resources you had available to cope. 

Parental burnout is a dangerous condition due to the gravity of its consequences. Remember, that the damaging effects can be stopped when you reach out for help and receive help or treatment via targeted psychological intervention.

Mental Health stigma
  • Make a list of things that are causing you stress.
  • Put down the resources that are helpful next to every stressor – if there no resources, put it down too. You will see where you need help. 
  • Talk to your partner (if possible). Tell them that you are struggling, not coping with the situation and need help. Try to agree how your partner can best support you. Not all partners are understanding. If you feel you are being left alone, contact a mental health professional.
  • Practice self-care. You can start to do it immediately. Schedule a time during the day that you will dedicate only to yourself, you can start with 30 minutes. The best times are when the children are still sleeping are already sleeping – so early morning or late evening. If you try to schedule your self-care time during the daytime, there is always a threat that the children will come to ask for something and this will irritate you even more. What can you do during your self-care practice? Anything that helps you to relax. You can meditate, watch a short movie (without being asked 100 questions), read a book, or just drink a cup of tea and watch the skies. 

Editors Note: Please find attached here a list of mental health providers in Bangkok. This list is not an exhaustive list of counselors available in Bangkok, it has been generated by actual personal recommendation. We highly recommend contacting a few of the above and finding who you personally feel most comfortable with. What works for one person doesn’t always suit another.


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