In Part 1 we began a conversation about parental burnout and we’ve got more help coming to you this week. But…
Instead of giving you tips or things to do, I wanted to share more personally what I’ve learned about myself and my own burnout during the last couple of years (and specifically the last couple of months).
First, let’s just get real about one thing…
If you’re reading this you’re probably feeling like a bad parent and your child is possibly struggling too. I know what that feels like.
So, before we go any further I just want to offer you a big hug.
Here it is… ((((HUG))))
Parenting right now is really difficult, for a lot of us. For me, sometimes just acknowledging “wow, this is hard” can give me a little more freedom.
There is a part of me that feels guilty admitting “this is hard”. I know I am privileged in many ways. I don’t want my kids to think that they are a burden to me. I love being a parent, I love my kids, and if given the chance, I wouldn’t change anything about them.
And at the same time…
This is hard.
The Cure for Parental Burnout – Part 2
One of the things that is helping me through my recent burnout is self-compassion. Self-compassion is about befriending myself, saying kind things to myself in my head, and cultivating an inner ally rather than an inner enemy.
Here are some sayings that I use in my head when I’m especially burnt out. (Notice that these aren’t like affirmations or overly positive statements that can come off sounding false. These statements are believable, true to what is happening, and still inspiring.)
“I’m only human.”
“I’m not the only parent feeling this way.”
“This is not an emergency.”
“This is how we all learn to get along.”
“This is not what I expected parenting to be like.”
“This is not what I wanted my morning/day/week/year to be like.”
“My child is not giving me a hard time, they are having a hard time.”
What is a statement that is both inspiring and true, that you can say to yourself when you’re feeling burned out?
Another thing that has been helping me is to reach out to other people, usually other parents, who I know will understand. Mostly this is about getting some deep listening–not advice or help–from others.
Jason and I get together each month informally with a group of parents and talk about what is happening in our homes (it’s been a lifesaver). Other parents do listening partnerships or join a small group led by a professional.
Another way I reach out is by going for a walk with a friend. We’ll take turns talking about our lives and asking each other questions. Sometimes I walk with a friend in-person, sometimes I walk and talk with a friend over the phone.
If you’re looking for a community of like-minded parents, here is an incredible resource.
Understand Your Brain
One of the things I’ve noticed recently is that when I feel burned out, everything seems like an emergency. It’s overwhelming and it feels like it all has to get solved right now. In these moments, I remind myself that my brain is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing–scanning for threats to keep me safe. When I’m emotionally tired, then a lot of things–in my family, community, and current events–feel like a threat that has to be solved right away.
I’m learning to first give myself some compassion and unburden myself by talking to others, and only then can I begin to see that perhaps everything isn’t really the emergency that I think it is. I can start feeling more open, creative, lighter, and relaxed.
Recently, I also looked for areas where I could create more “slack in the system”.
During my low point, I got better at saying “no”. I canceled plans, got out of things, didn’t volunteer or get involved except for the most critical things. I looked for other areas (in work, at home, and socially) where I could give myself more time or space.
Can the bathroom stay messy for a little while longer? (Yup.)
Can I put a frozen dinner in the toaster oven instead of spending an hour cooking something from scratch? (Absolutely.)
Is that work commitment “mission critical”? (Nope.) Can I say “no” to it?How long can I leave those weeds in the garden? (A long time!)
What are the 3 most important things I can do today that will move my work or family forward?
Recently I’ve found myself at work saying to others, “I’m laser-focused on xyz, so I’m not able to do that right now.” People have been respectful and supportive. And I do my self-compassion practice, so I don’t beat myself up thinking that I’ve let other people down.
Which leads me to the last point…
Solve problems “outside the moment”
One of the most important shifts that we’ve made in our family is to solve problems “outside the moment” rather than in the “heat of the moment”. When I feel connected to our kids and calm, our kids feel it too. Everyone has an easier time listening, hearing each other, and coming up with creative solutions. Solving problems outside the moment is even more important when I am feeling burned out.
You might be thinking “But what do I do in the moment if I’m not supposed to solve the problem?” This is a fair question.
Certainly, if our kids are hurting each other, we step in to provide some firm and gentle limits. After the kids (and I) have calmed down, then I can start listening, teaching, and problem-solving with them.
Or if our kids are late getting out the door I will step in and ask, “How can I help?”. Then when everyone is in the car–or better yet, later in the day–we can problem-solve “How can we make it easier to get ready to leave?”
Or if our child went over their time limit for video games, I will help them turn off the screen first. Then later on we can talk about why the time limit didn’t work and what would meet my needs and their needs for video game time.
Simply put, problems get solved faster “outside the moment”. If my child is calm and connected, they’ll be ready to listen, I’ll be ready to teach, and we’ll both be ready to hear and problem-solve. Problem-solving “outside the moment” is especially important when you are burned out because you have less time and energy in general.
Thank you for reading this. I hope that you feel less alone.
If parenting has gotten you down and you’d like to join an online group for parents that we host, click here. You can get coaching with me and Jason, and access to a wealth of resources and events (all for a low price).
If you’re burned out, you are not alone, check out Part 1 for some more support.
We’re cheering for you!
If, after reading the blog today, you’re interested in stuff like this WITH me… here’s how you join the Village.
You and I can personally talk in there if you’re struggling to figure out how to talk to your child.