Burn-Out; Parenthood’s Open Secret

If you’re not yet a parent and see kids in your future, I promise that the intention of the following piece isn’t to put you off. If you are a parent, you’d know that the below barely exposes the tip of the iceberg.

And what an iceberg it is! Whether or not you are the proud owner of a mini-human, it is pretty much universally accepted that parenting is just about the toughest journey a person can ever embark on.

I’d recently come across a post/vent-session on Facebook written by a mother fresh into the Parent Club, courtesy of her lively 6-month-old daughter. In it, she stated of her utter exhaustion; never having more than 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep, juggling baby-rearing with working full-time, and the general mound of responsibility which comes with having a child.

Almost as though apologising to her audience, she ended her post stating that, much as she adored her new bundle of joy, she needed a break from the non-stop slog if she wanted to preserve her sanity.

Admittedly, this post got me thinking about my own experiences of raising a child. A gruelling, selfless, often-thankless job. Work that doesn’t come with the perks of your average 40-hours-a-week gig; no weekends off, no Christmas or Santa Marija holidays, no 9-to-5 hours. No pay, no bonuses, no calling it quits. The reward is, hopefully, a happy, well-balanced kid ready to face the world and the obstacles it presents, and – just maybe – make a positive impact in the world.

And yet, in spite of the tremendous workload and sheer exhaustion that comes with such a huge life change, we parents are expected to soldier on unaffected, fatigue be damned. We are taught that the happiness of our little ones is infinitely more important than our own. What’s the occasional touch of burn-out in comparison, right?

In an ideal world, our children’s happiness would indeed serve as a parent’s one and only fuel source. Indeed, the notion that the love of a child is all one needs to keep going is very touching. However, we also need to keep in mind that before we become parents, first and foremost we are people with wants and needs. And that is nothing to feel guilty about.

Through my own parenthood journey, I’ve found that blood, sweat, and tears isn’t just a metaphor when your kids are involved; there is next to nothing that most parents wouldn’t do for their kids.

(Except for sharing their delicious, calorie-laden treats. You’re on your own there, kiddo)

However, can you imagine if your current day-job had only half the strain as the demands of raising a child? Safe to say, most of us would risk our health and sanity if we didn’t have the occasional break from work. So, why should parenting – a non-stop job – be the exception? Why do we keep perpetuating the notion that parenthood equates to near-martyrdom?

The idea of burnt-out parents having a break from child-rearing duties needs to stop being so outlandish. Whilst it may be true that our wants and needs may no longer come first, it certainly should not have to mean that they now automatically come last.

For goodness’ sake, there is no glory in working your way to the point of total breakdown. If you’ve got supportive friends or relatives, ask them for help. If you don’t have that support, childminding services are there entirely to help parents take some well-earned time to themselves. And if all else fails, take a day off when the kids are at school, and use that time to unwind.

Potentially, your next parenting break!

Chronic stress has been shown to have negative repercussions, such as high blood-pressure and gastrointestinal issues. There’s no point in lecturing our children about safeguarding their health when we’re ignoring ours and are practically falling at the seams.

Finally, and most importantly, there is no shame in admitting to feeling overwhelmed/exhausted/stressed-out-of-your-skin as a result of the most taxing job on Earth. We are all only human with our own very human limits, taking on the most challenging (albeit rewarding) role life has to offer.

If you, doting parent, are making time for your kids’ extracurricular activities, “me-time” needs to hold the same significance. Your kids would want for you to be happy and healthy, so make the effort to make time for yourself, because you and your kids deserve that.

Running on empty is going to be beneficial to nobody. After all, you can’t pour from an empty jug.

“The best kinda jug” – parents everywhere.

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