Parenting truly is a full-time job.
With no paid vacation time, no tangible benefits and no chance to clock out at the end of the day, it’s no wonder even the most dedicated parents face burnout.
Neil Brown, a licensed clinical social worker and author of “Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle: Resolve the Power Struggle and Build Trust, Responsibility, and Respect,” urges parents to ask for help before they reach the end of their rope.
“We all go into parenting with the best of intentions,” Brown said. “Very often we will, as parents, find ourselves in a state of burnout. We all know at some point we’ll need a break or a date night or a weekend away. But sometimes there’s a confluence of negative factors that come up that can impact parenting so profoundly that it ends up with the burnout at a level you can call clinical. You can’t see the forest for the trees and there’s no end in sight.”
Brown said several factors can lead to parental burnout. First, a lack of emotional support can strain even the most valiant efforts. Whether that support comes from a partner or spouse, friends or community, all parents need it.
“The work we do, we need support and recognition,” Brown said. “We need fresh ideas.”
Parents also experience burnout from a lack of personal time.
“We’ve got to have some ‘me’ time,” Brown said. “We have to be something other than a parent. Some parents don’t have that built into the system.”
Finding that personal time can be a challenge, but it is a necessity. Brown said it can be as simple as taking a walk or having a cup of tea with a friend. Scheduling a date night or taking in a yoga class can be a lifeline for a parent on the edge. If time and finances conspire to eliminate opportunities for self-care, it may be time to trade with a friend or simply reach out for help.
Brown said the parent-child (or parent-teen) control battle is a recipe for burnout.
“When parents put energy into trying to get kids to do or not do and kids keep resisting – the more parents put in, the more kids resist,” he said. “It’s like running your car at 6,000 RPMs in neutral.”
In that case, Brown said doing nothing means nothing changes, but doing something can engender resistance. Getting help is critical to halting burnout, and that will benefit both parent and child.
“If the problem is a lack of ‘me’ time, you need to put ‘me’ time in place,” Brown said. “The thing that makes it hard is if they don’t have a lot of resources or if they don’t ask for help.”
Admitting the need for help doesn’t mean a parent is a failure. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Asking for help takes courage.
“We all need help,” Brown said. “We actually enjoy helping other people. Don’t be afraid to ask. You need the help and people want to help. It takes a village.”
For more about Brown’s book, visit http://neildbrown.com.