• Parental Burnout What You Need to Know + Why

    Are you feeling overwhelmed? Having a difficult time finding joy in the small stuff? Feeling like your life is like a spinning pinwheel revolving around and around without an end?

    You’re tired, need a break from life, and your family quite honestly, but there is only one of you and so many responsibilities on your plate.

    You always dreamed of being the perfect mom, parent, and partner. In your mind it looked so easy and restful, just so perfect. Today it feels like you’re drowning and you’re wondering why being a parent has been so tough for you.

    You may also be wondering if others share a similar experience that you’re feeling right now.

    YES. They do. Being a parent is hard, no matter how well equipped you are to be one. It is HARD.

    You may be experiencing parental burnout.

    It is real, it is lonely, and more common than you may think.

    New studies have found that up to 60% of parents suffer from parental burnout, so I would like to share a little bit about parental burnout because it is likely impacting you or someone you know.

    This article defines what parental burnout is, how to recognize the signs early on, and what steps you can take right now to prevent it. ​

    What is parental burnout and what are its causes?

    According to a study published by the Psychological Sciences Research Institute of the Université Catholique de Louvain,Parental Burnout is a state of exhaustion resulting from being overwhelmed by one’s parenting role for a prolonged period of time.

    Some of the primary causes of burnout include: wanting to live up to the ideal of being the perfect parent, trying to be everything for their children at all times, having difficulty delegating tasks at home, feeling shame for not living up to the standards they set for themselves, and experiencing a tremendous amount of guilt. Sound familiar?

    Burnout is…

    • A state of exhaustion: emotional and physical
    • Distancing yourself emotionally from your children
    • Feeling incompetent with your role as a parent
    • Feeling like you’re just surviving on autopilot
    • Not asking for help
    • The result of a bad day
    • A sign of weakness
    • Failing as a parent
    • A normal experience all parents should go through

    Burnout is NOT…

    • The result of a bad day
    • A sign of weakness
    • Failing as a parent
    • A normal experience all parents should go through

    Recognizing the signs

    The more able you are to recognize the signs as they come up, the more likely you will be to take action before burnout sets in. Start by taking an inventory of your body and mind. Here are the red flags and what you should be looking for:

    You’re thinking…

    • It’s your sole responsibility to provide for your child(ren)’s future.
    • You’re not a good parent unless you’re a perfect parent.
    • You’re a horrible mom, constantly overwhelmed with guilt and shame.
    • You’re feeling distant from yourself and others.
    • You’re angry, sad, scared and/or worried more often.
    • You can’t count on anyone anymore, and that no-one ever does anything right.
    • No matter how hard you try, your to-do list just keeps piling up.

    You’re feeling…

    • Tired all the time.
    • You’re eating less or more than you normally do.
    • You’re having difficulty sleeping more than one day a week.
    • You’ve been getting sick a lot more often.
    • You’re feeling distant from yourself and others.
    • Your body is tense, and you’re more irritable with your loved ones.

    What can you do right now?

    1. Validate yourself for all you’re doing well even though it’s hard to see right now. You’re kids were fed, they have clothes to wear, a bed to sleep in, and they smiled today, even if it was just for a brief moment. YOU ARE DOING GREAT. Take a moment to listen to yourself and acknowledge that you’re juggling a lot right now.
    1. Throw perfection out the window. Can you challenge yourself to work on being a good enough parent?
    • What actually NEEDS to get done? How can you alter your expectations to be more realistic? It will help you have a greater sense of accomplishment with your daily to do’s instead of constantly feeling like you have failed at something. For example, does the house need to be perfectly clean or can you leave some dishes in the sink overnight and be OK with that until the morning?
    • Make a list of your MUST do’s, not your should do’s or would like to do’s. hint: make sure there are not more than three things on your list, otherwise the likelihood of anything getting accomplished will decrease. one. step. at. a. time.
    1. Ask for help right now, or find a way to pay for it. Identify one thing you can ask for help with. This might look different depending on what your unique situation is. Does this mean signing up for a meal delivery service (there are several and have free 30 or 60 day trials), hiring someone to help with cleaning once, twice or however many times you can afford a month, or finding a gym with childcare? Start by taking one thing off your plate. Right now.
    2. Your feelings matter. How can you learn to identify and express your emotions to others and most importantly yourself instead of keeping everything inside? Focus on you and your needs at this very moment,  only you know your limits. Don’t compare yourself with others because your experience is unique to you.
    3. Try to rest when you can. Does this mean taking a quick snooze on your desk at work? Getting to bed a little bit earlier and leaving whatever you’d like to get done for tomorrow? Napping while the kids nap? Waking up early or sleeping in? Only you know what you need to be successful based on your unique experience and situation.
    • Say NO to three upcoming commitments. Yes. THREE. Right now.
    1. Incorporate creative avenues to deal with stress, and make it a part of your routine. What does this look like for you? Taking a mindful shower? Working out regularly? Developing a new morning routine? Eating a healthy meal once a day? Do something(s) that makes you feel good every day.

    Remember, burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion after a prolonged period of time, not just after having a bad week. Don’t wait until you are in complete suffering to take a break, start NOW.

    Like they say on an airplane, put your oxygen mask on before helping others around you, because if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to care (or provide) for anybody else, especially those who you love most.

    I write this article to you today as your ally, as a fellow mom who knows too well what many of the signs and symptoms of burnout are.  Burnout impacts everybody regardless of skin color, economic circumstance, level of education or gender identity. This is a worldwide problem, and the more awareness there is about this issue, the more likely we will be to support one another throughout the incredibly challenging yet rewarding journey of parenthood.

    Listen to your body and your mind, they are telling you it’s time to take a well earned break.

    Know the signs, become familiar with your red flags, and get used to being a good enough parent because there is no such thing as a perfect one. Don’t wait until you make yourself so sick that you can’t get out of bed, act now because you need you and so does your family.

    Alex Marin MSW, LCSW is a child and family therapist with over a decade of experience, a proud mom of two beautiful babies, and a real person just like you! Sign up HERE to get wellness inspiration for a happy (and healthy) mind, body, and family delivered straight to your inbox.

    1. You are the expert of you. I am here to offer support in regards to what has been helpful to others and perhaps myself, but nothing in life is a one size fits all model. If this is not going to work for you, that’s ok! Feel free to modify or try something else you think will be a better fit for you.
    2. This is a judgment free zone. If you find you are experiencing any negative self-talk or guilt, take a break and validate yourself for doing your best, because life is hard, and you are doing so much so well. The world is a lot better off because you are in it.


    Huburt, S., & Aujoulat, I. (2018). Parental Burnout: When Exhausted Mothers Open Up. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 10-21. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01021

    Le Vigouroux, S., Scola, C., Raes, M., Mikolajczak, M., & Roskam, I. (2017). The big five personality traits and parental burnout: Protective and risk factors. Personality and Individual Differences, 119, 216-219. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2017.07.023

    Roskam, I., Raes, M., & Mikolajczak, M. (2017). Exhausted Parents: Development and Preliminary Validation of the Parental Burnout Inventory. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(163). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00163