Parental Burnout and Managing Emotions

9 September, 2021

Written by Claire Bennett – Mental Health Practitioner

As we slowly but surely return to some kind of normality, it has prompted me to reflect on the last 18 months, thinking about where I have been and how I am feeling both physically and mentally. As a working mum of two, I have many mixed feelings about how things have gone. I have spent time sat on my bathroom floor in tears because of my perceived failings as a mum, wife, and consultant. But the most impactful area that I find I worry, stress, and feel most emotional about is my role as a mum. Now I am not aiming this blog solely at mums – in fact, any parent or guardian of a child or children may also feel this way.

As a mental health and wellbeing consultant, I feel I am in a position where I know and understand what tools I need to manage my emotions in this area. However, I am not embarrassed to say I have not been immune to what I would call ‘parental burnout’ during the pandemic.


What is Parental Burnout?

So, what do I mean by ‘parental burnout’? Well to me it’s the result of too many things on my plate at any one time, without my usual capacity to be able to manage that load. We as parents have been asked to step into roles we have never had to play before, whilst still being expected to hold everything else that we normally would together. Support networks, childcare, family and friends connections have been distorted beyond recognition. So really, if you think about it, more and more was being asked of us with less and less support and resources to achieve it. Less time to ourselves, less time to do things that refuel us and keep us refreshed.

What I found is that my usual boundaries were flattened, I just pushed through and ignored my own needs. The issue with this approach is that slowly the red flags will appear, irritability, short temper, feelings of failure, anger, and frustration. These feelings will generate behaviours that impact not only us but all of those around us.


How to Tackle Parental Burnout

The biggest issue we face here is that these feelings will not go away on their own. But there are some things we can do now that things are easing to help ourselves manage those emotions.

  • Talk to people – it can be such a release to just get the words out there and let people know you are struggling. Connection is an important part of who we are and how we feel about ourselves. Self-esteem is a big part of building our resilience and our relationships directly impact our self-esteem, so it’s a great place to start.
  • Plan and organise – much of the frantic state we can find ourselves in sometimes is that we are not organised. Taking a little bit of time to plan and prepare for the following day or chunking our time can help manage the ‘self-generated’ pressure we can experience when we are disorganised.
  • Pay attention to what your mind and body are telling you. Ask yourself “what do I need today?” then give yourself whatever that is. It could be an early night or a nice hot bath or listening to some soothing music.
  • Close your eyes and breathe for a few minutes each day, or as much as needed when the feeling of overwhelm creeps in.

Burnout is composed of unmet feelings and needs, so to ignore it is fuelling the issue itself. It’s now time to stop and to reestablish those routines and boundaries. Remember you are not a failure – you are exhausted, but there is a way to make you feel better.

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