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Providing for the Provider: 10 Ways to Help Prevent Burnout as a Parent

Motherhood, and parenting in general, is a beautifully complex and chaotic journey that we embark on the day our newborns arrive. The baby bottles, the sleep cycles, the regressions, and developmental milestones all tend to keep us guessing about what is coming down the pipeline next. Oftentimes, we find ourselves going along with the motions until we eventually develop a sense of routine and structure. Before you know it, your baby is crawling, then walking into their “terrible 2’s”, and then you’re standing in line on their first day of kindergarten. It is a whirlwind, but let’s be honest, where do you fall into all of this? How do you prioritize yourself, your time, and your own self-care? If we’re sticking to honesty, most parents probably allow their self-care to fall to the wayside to prioritize the care and development of their kiddos. As a mother, and a therapist, I believe that it is important to take care of yourself in order to be the best caretaker for your little ones. Here are my top 10 tips and tricks to preventing burnout as a working parent:

1.    Recognize signs of burnout

You may have heard about burnout in the workplace before, but how do you recognize the signs of burnout in yourself? Here are some key examples, feeling emotionally drained or “tapped out”, physical fatigue/low energy, feeling unmotivated/lack of excitement, having trouble with sleep, diet, appetite, and/or personal hygiene. Sound familiar? If so, keep reading.


2.    Set boundaries

Boundaries are one of the hardest concepts to implement in your daily life because, well … PARENT GUILT! How am I supposed to attend the team building event after work while simultaneously driving my kiddo from school to sports practice? I cannot physically do both, so this is where boundaries come into play. Make it clear with both your workplace and your family about the hours that you have available to perform each role. Then, say no as needed and stick to it!


3.    Outsource help when possible

Does your school offer an aftercare program? Do you have a family member nearby who enjoys spending time with your kiddos and wants to help? If so, USE those supports and lean on them when you need them. Are you scrambling to cook dinner while the kids are running around the kitchen? If so, can they go to that aftercare program so that you can prep and cook the meal with 30 minutes of quiet time? Can you run to the gym while your mother-in-law serves a snack and takes a walk with your child? If so, do it! You are not a bad parent for asking for help, you are an honest and real parent with real needs. If outsourcing isn’t an option try to get the kids involved in task completion as much as possible. Have your toddlers rinse the fruit before you slice it for breakfast or ask them to take the bread out of the fridge to make sandwiches for lunch. Small and simple ways to outsource can make a world of difference.


4.    Schedule a "Me Day"

A “Me Day” is a day where parent/caregiver can make plans solely for themselves, with the understanding that the partner will cover all child-related matters. Now, let’s be honest, a “Me Day” does not need to be the ENTIRE day! (though that would be nice). It can be as short as a one-hour massage, a quick lunch with friends, or a half day where your partner takes the kids out of the home for a few hours so you can veg on the couch and catch up on a good TV show or read a good book. Aim to get in one “Me Day” per month, and make sure you hold one another accountable to getting these scheduled. This time for yourself is crucial to helping you reset, recharge, and refresh both as an individual and as a parent.


5.    Connect

One of the biggest complaints we hear from new parents is that they feel like they have grown apart from their partner or friendships. Between balancing work, household tasks, children’s needs and activities, where does that leave time for you to connect with your partner or friends? Make sure you try and prioritize one hour a week where you can spend uninterrupted quality time with someone other than your child. It is important for you to keep your sense of self and your connections to adult relationships. You were an individual before you became a parent, try not to lose sight of that.

6.    Single Task, Don't Multi-Task

We often assume that multitasking is a great way to kill two birds with one stone, but research suggests that it actually negatively impacts levels of productivity and stress. How many times have you tried to help your son do his math homework while simultaneously layering the lasagna for dinner before you realized that the lasagna was missing sauce? Multitasking diminishes our level of attention that we are paying to each given task, therefore, creating poor results. Do your best to take each task on your to-do list one at a time. 


7.    Create routine

Children strive within structure, parents strive when expectations are set, and as a whole the family will be met with fewer obstacles along the way when routines are set in place. Routines help to avoid small detours, minor missteps, and easily avoidable potholes in our day to day lives. Does your child have school, then soccer, then bath time/dinner/bedtime? Does he know? No? Well….expect a meltdown! When kids know what to expect, they have lower levels of anxiety, and therefore, lower levels of irritability and reactivity towards the day progressing. Create a calendar, a picture chart, or whatever works for your child to ensure that they know what is expected of them for each day.

8.    Find joy, energize hobbies

Are you an avid coffee drinker like me? If so, find one pocket in your day to enjoy a fresh cup. Do you have a favorite musician? If so, play one to three songs of theirs while you wash your face and get dressed for the day. Find one moment, even if just for a few minutes, where you do ONE THING that you enjoy. A simple yoga pose, a quick walk down the street, or a cup of hibiscus tea- whatever it is that brings you joy, find it, do it, rinse, and repeat.

9.    Learn to regulate your own emotions

As parents, it is our core job to be calm for our child when they do not know how to find their own inner calm. Learn skills to help regulate yourself in moments of frustration so that they learn how to manage their own emotions. Remember, tiny humans still have BIG emotions! Take three deep breaths before you turn towards your child to respond. Lower your body to their level so that they feel you are on the same page as them. Count to three before helping your teenager find her soccer uniform for the 87th time this week. Remind yourself of what is developmentally appropriate and adjust your expectations of them accordingly. 

10. Seek therapy

Lastly, if you have tried all of these steps and you still feel like you are overwhelmed in the chaos of parenthood, give us a call. We are more than happy to help link you to the appropriate services either inside or outside of Worrywell. You are always there for everyone else, let us be there for you.

Interested in more parenting tips?

Ask about Worrywell's Parent Management Training today.

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