Most mums (81%) have experienced burnout, according to a new survey.
The Peanut app and Tommee Tippee asked 2,000 mothers in the UK about some of the biggest challenges they face, and identified parenting guilt, loss of identity and finding time for themselves as the top three.
Issues that cropped up included struggling to find time for themselves, the cost of raising children, balancing work and home life, and feeling overwhelmed by all the information out there on how to be a good parent.
So it’s really no wonder many mothers are feeling frayed and burnt out.
One of the parents involved in the study, Peggy, said: “It’s hard finding time for myself and not letting my identity be swallowed by just being a mother. I find I burn out quickly and experience periods of depression if I don’t have a good balance.”
Parental burnout is defined as a prolonged response to chronic and overwhelming parental stress.
Financial insecurity, lack of support and social isolation have all been found to be risk factors for it. Single parents, parents of SEND children, and immigrant parents are also more at risk because of the extra pressures they face.
What are the signs to look out for?
We all know burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion – often caused by our jobs.
Some common signs, according to Mental Health UK, include feeling constantly tired, helpless/trapped and detached, as well as having a negative outlook, experiencing self-doubt, procrastinating a lot and feeling overwhelmed.
Dr Emma Svanberg, author of Parenting For Humans, previously told HuffPost UK there are overlaps between burnout and parental burnout as they share that same sense of overwhelm and exhaustion.
But there are also some more specific signs of parental burnout to watch out for, such as:
- Exhaustion in your parental role. “It’s that kind of tiredness where it doesn’t really matter how much you sleep, you still wake up in the morning feeling really bone-tired,” says Dr Svanberg.
- Noticing your parenting has changed and is different to how you would normally parent.
- Feeling fed up with your parental role. “You feel that you’re not very good at your ‘job’ – so you feel like you’re not being the parent that you want to be anymore,” adds the psychologist.
- Emotional distancing from your children. You might emotionally withdraw from your kids because you can’t physically withdraw from them.
How to tackle burnout
If you feel like you might be burnt out, Dr Svanberg shared some tips for helping yourself:
- Seek support from friends, family members and neighbours to “bring in a village”.
- Prioritise deep rest – this might look like a hot bath with the lights off, lying in a dark room, or going for a nice massage if that’s something you can afford. It might also look like turning off your phone, reducing your caffeine intake and making sure you’re eating well.
- Lighten your load – if you’ve got a to-do list as long as your arm, it’s time to offload jobs onto your partner or children and only prioritise jobs that are essential.
- Reset the nervous system. According to Healthline, breathing exercises, weighted blankets, hot baths, warm hugs, eating healthy fats (think avocado and nuts), lifting weights and taking a break (when possible) can all help with this.
- If it’s affecting day-to-day life, reach out to your GP, midwife or health visitor about how you’re feeling.
- If you can afford to pay privately for therapy, that can also help.