How To Avoid Burnout When You Have Little Ones
STORY: Priyanka Elhence
29 November 2022
Parenthood can be really rewarding, but it can be really tough at the same time too when you’re caring for one or more little ones, usually with sleep deprivation and little or no time for quality downtime. Common signs of parental burnout include exhaustion, emotional detachment from one’s children, loss of effectiveness and pleasure in the parental role, and a marked change in behaviour towards one’s children.
Here’s how to prevent parental burnout:
1. Schedule daily “me time”
For most parents, it is not always possible to take time for yourself, especially when you are a parent of more than one child. When parental burnout occurs, it is a clear sign that your needs as a parent are being neglected. You have to make time for yourself because if you're not taking care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else, especially a child who is completely dependent on you for everything. However, even taking 5-10 minutes for yourself per day will make a significant difference in your day-to-day life and prioritising time for yourself is so important! Start by blocking off just even 10 minutes every day for yourself, where you do something for you that has nothing to do with your child.
2. Make time to exercise
Finding and making time to exercise may seem like a ludicrous suggestion given what we’ve just said above, but exercise can help increase your energy levels and reduce stress, so it’s really important to try and get a little active during the day (even when you’re overwhelmed and sleep deprived). If you have a little baby, it could mean going for a brisk walk as you take the baby out for a little sunshine in the stroller. Do something easy that can fit into your day, rather than going out of the way to do something.
No one functions well if they haven't slept long enough or had quality sleep. Throw kids into the mix and you’ve got the perfect recipe for burnout. If you can, then ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’, or get someone to watch your child while you get a few hours of much needed shut-eye.
4. It’s ok to say no
You can't do everything so don't even try. Saying no may make you feel guilty that you're not doing everything that is asked of you. But it shouldn't. You have to know when to say no. Even if you have another child to look after, limit the number of commitments you make and make sure that you’re not the person coordinating the event, otherwise you'll set yourself up for mommy burnout on a massive scale. Put your needs first!
5. Rearrange your child’s schedule and activities
Toddlers can have very busy lives, with activities and enrichment classes quickly filling up the whole week. Just as you need to know when to say no for yourself, you need to know when to say no to your kids. Consider rearranging your child’s schedule and activities so that instead of over-scheduling him, you create healthy and manageable daily routines that saves you from being constantly on the go too and saves your sanity too. Prioritise your child’s schedule and cut one to two activities where possible. With a more open schedule for your child, you are also taking the stress off of your shoulders. Simplify your days to add in that free time and you'll make mommy burnout less likely.
6. Ask for help
You want to be able to do everything yourself and to the standards you want. But it’s not a realistic or a practical goal, so please don’t set yourself up for failure. A key step in preventing parental burnout is to ask for help so that you aren’t left emotionally and physically exhausted by the end of each day. There are some things that you will have to do by yourself, but other things such as doing groceries, babysitting, bringing over dinner, etc, can all be outsourced, leaving you with a little free time to relax and catch your breath.
7. Be kind to yourself
Parents, especially moms, always question themselves, often feeling like failures when it comes to parenting. Stop being so hard on yourself and cut yourself some slack! Recognising that you are doing the best you can and patting yourself on the back every now and then is crucial in preventing parental burnout. Become your own support system, don’t worry about needing to win every parental battle and watch the parental burnout diminish.