The greatest job you will ever have is being a parent. But hey, let’s not kid ourselves; being a parent is not all sipping drinks with lime in a sunny clime. In fact, sometimes being a parent is more like eating a wrinkly lemon in a hurricane. One of the factors making parenting such a stressful job is the workplace. Your home. Your car. And all those places you travel together to get to. Add in the fact that it is almost certainly the closest you’ll ever come to working a 24 hour shift all seven days of the week and, well, burnout happens.
In fact, burnout happens to even the best, most dedicated parents who are not just paying lip service when they say it is the best job they could ever possibly have. The first step in DEALING with parent burnout is to reject the notion of avoiding parent burnout. Avoidance may be possible…but setting that extreme as your goal is simply added pressure that helps in no way. What can and does help is dealing with the probably arrival of burnout is lowering the bar of expectations just enough to allow you to rather easily limbo your way to the other side. You might want to listen to certain songs while you do that limbo by putting these tips to the test.
I Like to Move It, Move It
Pay attention to your body. Periodically check on yourself as getting stressed out can hugely affect your physical being. To deal this, get your body moving. Exercise is a scientifically proven way to lower stress, deal with depression and take the wind out of those particularly anxious moments when you just feel like you can’t take it anymore. Moving your body by means of the exercise of your choice—the specific do not matter one single bit—can also help you lose weight so feel like doing more with your kids and that is a clear path to avoiding burnout once you start mixing things up a little bit. Want your baby to include? Sure! Get your baby a gear that would help strengthen his lower leg muscles (walker), so he can be walking in no time.
You need somebody. Not just anybody, but somebody who has been through what you are going through. Seek out the advice and guidance of parents who successfully worked their way through burnout themselves. And you know the best place to start this quest for help? Your own parents! If you think that you were never enough of a problem to cause your mom and dad to suffer burnout…do not hesitate to seek their guidance before moving on to others.
Get Them Busy
You can listen to the Ramones while your children are enjoying their toys in play yard, but you probably don’t want your actions to be inspired by the lyrics. In fact, the key to dealing with parent burnout is taking a novel approach to the concept of babysitting. One paradoxical way of lessening the potential for burning out on your kids is to spend more time with other people’s kids. And vice versa. Set up a babysitting club with other parents you know and share the responsibility as a way to get some breathing time far more often than you will be saddled with taking care of all those other kids.
Behind the Wall of Sleep
Don’t ever let anybody try to convince you that everything about caring for babies and very young children is harder than taking care of older kids. When the devilishly inconsolable crying gets to be just a little too much to take, you can strap the baby into a car seat, drive around the block a few times and come home with a sleeping angel ready to put down for a hard sleep. Then that baby grows out of the toddler stage and the me-time that coincides with their nap time becomes a luxury of the past. The real principle at work is what goes on behind that wall of sleep rather than the sleep itself. When the kids grow too old for napping, simply substitute quiet play that doesn’t involve electronic simulation. Teach your kids the joy of board games, Lego, coloring books and any other activity they can be trusted to do quietly and by themselves so you can take back those moments of joyous solitude they gave you when they actually did used to nap.
Treat Me Right
Pat Benatar may have been directing this request outward, but in this case you should be directing it inward. When the breaking point that comes as a result of the stress of being a parent is clearly within sight, take a break and go treat yourself right. Doesn’t matter what, as long as it doesn’t cause lasting damage to the kids. In other words, treating yourself doesn’t include disappearing without a trace for a three day vacation in Vegas, but it does include anything from a luxuriously long bath with the door locked to splurging on a pair of ridiculously overpriced high heel shoes to allowing yourself one weekend every few months to hit the links instead of the playground.
What Would Brian Boitano Do?
If Brian Boitano experiences parent burnout, do you think he’d lace up his skates and hit the ice? Or would he head to the Alps to fight off grizzly bears. Doesn’t really matter because the point in question is what would you do if you were given free rein to indulge in a passionate hobby or even pursue the dream of becoming your own boss? A great way to reduce the potential for parent burnout is rigidly impose (within reason) a time and a place reserved for you to go after those other dreams you had before you dream of having kids pushed them to the back burner.
The dream police do exist when you are a parent. Their uniform may be a dirty diaper carrying a diaper pail or it may be a marching band uniform, but they are most definitely there to arrest you in the middle of a perpetrating the heinous crime of trying to sneak in some sleep when the kids are so otherwise preoccupied they don’t even notice you slip away. Reducing the impact of parent burnout is not about keeping the dream police locked out. After all, you are a parent and that is your number one responsibility. But try letting the kids know ahead of time that you just need to catch up on sleep. Set boundaries about what they can do while you sleep. What constitutes a true “let’s wake up mommy and daddy” moment and what it is excessive force by the dream police. You need sleep. You are entitled to it. And chances are you aren’t getting enough.
No More Mr. Nice Guy
And, hey, if it helps to put on makeup like Alice Cooper, by all means go for it. No means no. Except when you’re a parent in which no very often doesn’t really mean no and even if it does, your kids don’t really believe it. A parent’s job is to say NO a lot. So much that at some point very early on, the kids realize that most of the time it doesn’t really carry very much weight, which, of course, leads directly to burnout. Deal with burnout ahead of time by letting the kids know that when you say no because the weight of always saying yes is just getting too heavy, NO MEANS NO.
(The Original and Uncut version)