Written by Lisa Truesdale. Medically reviewed by board-certified pediatrician Dr. Ryan Blackman DO, FAAP.
Parenting is wonderful, joyful, and rewarding, but let’s face it: It can also be frustrating, demanding, and stressful at times. From crying newborns to foot-stomping toddlers to surly teenagers, raising kids can surely take a toll as parents try to “be everything to everyone.”
If you’re always tired and grumpy, find yourself losing patience, or daydream about a simpler life with fewer responsibilities, you might be suffering parenting burnout. Keep reading for the signs to watch out for, as well as some solid parenting advice that might help you find the support you need.
What Are the Signs of Parenting Burnout?
You’re not imagining things: Parenting burnout is real. In fact, a recent report in Clinical Psychological Science characterized it as “an overwhelming exhaustion related to one’s parental role, an emotional distancing from one’s children, and a sense of parental ineffectiveness.”
Symptoms might also show up as physical or mental health issues such as insomnia, fatigue, high blood pressure, or intense anxiety. In severe cases, those suffering from parental burnout might even have feelings of wanting to “escape” their life.
Parenting Burnout vs. Postpartum Depression
For many new mothers and fathers, feelings of “parenting burnout” may actually be caused by postpartum depression (PPD) and – in rarer cases – postpartum psychosis. If you are experiencing overwhelming, distressing, or suicidal thoughts, please contact a trusted medical provider. The sooner your condition is diagnosed and treated, the sooner you can focus on bonding with your new baby.
Top 12 Ways to Relieve Parenting Stress
If you’re experiencing signs of mom or dad burnout, you’re definitely not alone. Try these easy strategies to help get your life back in order (and banish the guilt you might be feeling).
1. Stop Trying to Be Perfect
No one can do it all, let alone perfectly. Yes, it’s nice for the kids to have a lovingly prepared sack lunch every day or a special after-school treat waiting when they get home. They’re happy when their favorite outfit is ready to wear, as well as when you sit and watch every single minute of their soccer practice or dance class.
But sometimes you have to let the little things go. Choose your battles, as they say, and give yourself a pass on a few of the chores and responsibilities that are dragging you down.
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It’s also good to laugh at yourself and at the situation sometimes. Parenting can be frustrating, and it’s good to know that you’re not alone.
2. Ask for Help
Would an afternoon off of school pickup make all the difference? Need an hour to run some errands in peace? Reach out to other parents who might need assistance, too. Offer to exchange responsibilities to help each other. Enjoy when someone else is entertaining your kids – even if it’s only for a short time.
Board-certified pediatrician Dr. Ryan Blackman puts it best: “As parents, we can only do so much, and it’s OK to ask for help. Support in the form of a family member, friend, or babysitter should be available for those times where you just need a break or can’t be everywhere at once.”
3. Don’t Feel Guilty About “Me” Time
As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” In other words, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of others.
Scheduling “me” time is not selfish: It’s essential for combating parental burnout. Make the spa or massage appointment that you’ve been putting off. Take yourself out to lunch (to a place without a kids' menu).If you’ve only got a short amount of time – or if your only chance for “me” time is when everyone else is tucked into bed – try an indulgent bubble bath. Light some candles, pour a glass of wine or hot tea, and fill the tub with soothing warm water. A good-for-you formula like Puracy Natural Baby Bubble Bath works for all ages, including adults.
4. “We” Time Is Important, Too
Carve out some alone time for you and your partner. Set up a regular weekly or bi-weekly date night and stick to it. Focus your conversation on other topics unrelated to the kids. It will give you a chance to reconnect as partners (not parents) and will help clear your mind of kid-related stress.
Date nights (or “date afternoons”) don’t have to break the bank either: Trade babysitting with other parents who also need a break or ask a family member to watch the kids. Pack some sandwiches and head to your favorite park for a breath of fresh air.
If getting away from the house for a few hours is impossible, catch up after the kids are asleep. Turn off the TV (and other electronics) and focus on each other.
Dr. Blackman agrees, noting that, “New parents, especially, need to dedicate time to being ‘people’ not just ‘parents.’ Spending alone time with your partner is an important way to do this and adds to the family’s well-being.”
5. Watch What You Eat
When you’re running around all day, it’s easy to fall into the trap of eating processed foods (or not eating at all). That can quickly contribute to parental burnout. Make time to eat – and eat right. Reach for stress-busting foods like a bowl of oatmeal, whole-grain bread and pasta, citrus fruits, and green leafy vegetables. Consider occasional food and grocery delivery services (like Instacart, UberEats, and Daily Harvest) to help bridge this gap – all with little-to-no prep work required.
Preparing dinner each evening can add to parenting stress, and that stress is compounded when every evening is filled with activities, meetings, and homework. But studies have shown that shared family meals have numerous benefits, including promoting better eating habits and reducing stress. This is the time where everyone in the family can talk about the successes and challenges of their day.
If getting everyone together at the same time seems impossible, start small. Schedule just one night during the week when the entire family is required to sit down at the table for a shared meal. Be sure to mark it on the calendar (see tip #7).
6. Make Zzzzzzs a Priority
Remember the last time you got 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep? We all know that sleep deprivation has a major impact on our emotional and physical health. You can’t possibly be your best self – or parent – if you’re exhausted.
Make a commitment to going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. An hour beforehand, start winding down by disconnecting from all electronics. Create a soothing bedtime routine that includes reading for a bit or enjoying a cup of herbal tea.
Make sure your sleep environment is a comfortable one and try to keep your bedroom cool. A sound machine can also help drown out background noise, enabling a more restful sleep with less wake time. If nothing else works to relieve your insomnia (or fatigue), speak to your doctor.
7. Let It Go, Let It Go (the Housework, That Is)Having a clean house is great, but it’s not always a reality. Housework can feel endless, with laundry, dishes, food spills, and pet accidents – who wants to spend their free time cleaning?
Dedicate 15 to 30 minutes per day to housework. Place “catch-all” baskets in every room to help corral clutter. Get your spouse to pitch in, and the kids, too (when they’re old enough). Post a Weekly House Cleaning Checklist to remind everyone what needs to be done each day. If your budget allows, hire a professional house cleaner – even if it’s just once a month – to do the deep cleaning in bathrooms and the kitchen.
Bonus Tip: Keep Puracy Natural Stain Remover handy in your laundry room. As soon as you see a stain on carpeting or clothing, spray it and forget it until you’re ready to deal with it again. Our enzyme-based formula needs time to do its important work anyway.
8. Get Your Ducks in a Row
To avoid stress and frustration over scheduling mishaps, keep all of your family’s appointments, meetings, practices, and other commitments in one place.
Storing and sharing a family calendar in your smartphones is most effective for tech-savvy families with teenagers because schedules can change at the drop of a hat. But for other households with younger children, a large, easy-to-read visual aid is more effective.
We love using a large wall calendar with separate columns for each family member. After family dinners, review the next day’s events so they can gather everything they’ll need. This will save time (and stress) the next morning.
9. Streamline Your Chores
10. “Just Say No” to Additional Responsibilities
It’s impossible to do everything you’d like to do, so learn how to decline extras. No, you can’t join another school committee. No, you don’t have time to pick up a colleague’s birthday present. You don’t even have to give a reason or defend yourself.
Saying “no” can be extremely liberating – try it sometime!
11. Talk About Your Feelings
You aren’t the only person feeling stress and anxiety from parental burnout. Find a support system with other parent friends and coworkers. There’s no shame in considering professional help from a trained therapist or counselor who can help you deal with your feelings (and confirm that they’re perfectly normal).
12. Try “Real” Parenting Blogs and Podcasts
Her hair and clothes are perfect, her home is pristine, and her children are always helpful, polite, and well-behaved. Parenting blogs and social media posts can make the writer’s life seem perfect.
The reality is that parenting is hard. Find a blog that tells it like it is. One popular blog (Scary Mommy) even has a “Confessional” section where you can read “parenting secrets” that are funny and serious. Feel free to vent about your own parental burnout symptoms, too!
Podcasts are great for when you’re working out, on your lunch break at work, cooking dinner, or waiting in the carpool line. There’s a helpful parenting podcast out there for everyone!
We Get It – We’re Parents, Too
Puracy was started by two busy dads (with seven kids between them), so we understand firsthand that there’s not enough time in the day to get every single thing done. We’ve developed our natural cleaning products to make things easier for parents, and our Home Cleaning Box provides everything you need for safe, effective cleaning.