Do you ever look at other parents and wonder if they feel it too? Exhausted. Frazzled. Just trying to stay one step ahead of everything. How do other parents keep this up? How do they stay such highly motivated, perky-all-the-time parents?
Maybe, they don’t. In the past few years, there’s been some significant research into the subject of Parental Burnout. We’re familiar with burnout associated with our job and workplace, but researchers are now studying the ways we can experience burnout at home as well.
Occupational and parental burnout are two separate things, but the line between work and home has blurred in recent years. A 2021 survey conducted by Ohio State University and reported by the New York Times earlier this year, found 66% of working parents met the criteria for what could be described non-clinically as parental burnout. These parents reported feeling like they were bad parents because they were physically and mentally exhausted.
Sure, parenting is a 24/7/365 thing, and you’re all in.
What we need to hear, loudly and clearly, is that being an exhausted parent isn’t proof that we’re good parents either. We live in a culture that normalizes and even glorifies being over-scheduled, over-committed, and super-busy as status symbols. When we’re exhausted and unmotivated on our homefront, it might be a signal to stop, examine what’s motivating us in the first place, and make any necessary adjustments.
What is motivating us as parents? Are we trying to keep pace with society’s speed, or is it being the parent that our children need? Put another way, when your child is grown and looks back on their upbringing, what do you want them to remember?
Here are are six ways to examine and ignite your parental motivation:
1. Acknowledge how you’re feeling now, and why.
The researchers who developed the Parental Burnout Assessment are quick to remind readers that it’s possible to be both a good parent and find parenting exhausting. Translation: Parenting is hard and exhausting. You’re not a bad parent because you’re worn down and struggling to stay motivated. Let yourself feel what you’re feeling, but let go of that guilt.
2. The best thing you can give your child is the best version of yourself.
It’s become a parenting cliche, but the analogy is simply too good to pass up. Remember the wise words of every flight attendant before every flight: If there is an emergency, you put your oxygen mask on first, then your child’s.
You can’t give your child anything you don’t have. Stability. Security. Self-worth. Same goes for your time, energy, attention, and even your struggle toward a balanced lifestyle. It’s essential to understand that taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. It actually positions you to be a better parent.
3. Just because you can squeeze in one more thing, it doesn’t mean you have to.
Give yourself permission to say “No” to good opportunities and even to good people, so you can say “Yes” to what you believe are the best things for you and your child. It’s not just about finding minutes; it’s about moments.
4. Remember your why.
What are your core parenting values? Does your day to day reflect those values? Let principles guide your parenting, not a push for productivity. Sticking to your principles will produce what you’re looking for, but busyness and the tyranny of the urgent can compromise your principles.
There will be times when you are tired. You may feel like nothing is going the way you planned or thought it would. In those moments, let your principles be your pilot.
5. Live in gratitude.
Being a parent is one of the greatest privileges and gifts. An attitude of gratitude demonstrates that we understand how fortunate we are to have this specific moment to parent our children. (Being mindful of just five things you are grateful for each day and finding little ways to express thankfulness is good for you in so many ways.)
6. You don’t have to know it all or be able to do it all.
One way to stay motivated is by finding a few choice people who you know will encourage you and speak wisdom into your life. These are people with whom it’s safe to blow off some steam, bounce ideas off, and share parenting challenges with. Try to enjoy and extend the benefits of parenting in community with others. We’re all trying to figure this parenting thing out. We’re in this together.
Parenting isn’t easy. It’s one of the hardest, best things you will ever do. There will be times when you feel like you have nothing more to give. Those are the times you need to give yourself a break. You are exactly what your child needs.