Do you find yourself yelling at your kids instead of calmly instructing them?
“One of the reasons they were so excited about parenthood was their idealistic expectations of what children are like. They honestly did not know that little boys and girls can be, and usually are, demanding, self-centered, sloppy, lazy, and rebellious” (118).
The fourth stage of parent burnout involves pulling away from the family and becoming unavailable to the children. This parent may hide in her room to avoid dealing with the kids. Or she may begin drinking or popping pills to dull the senses. Minor things will set the parent off so that she will react violently out of frustration. At this stage, “child abuse is only an inch away” (119). These parents are filled with guilt and self-loathing, are disappointed with their lives, and are creeping closely to “chronic disenchantment,” the fifth and final stage of parent burnout.
Chronic disenchantment “is characterized by confusion and apathy. The individual at this stage has lost all meaning and purpose in living” (119). Thoughts of suicide or running away begin and the parent is in desperate need of counseling and a change in lifestyle. Fortunately, very few parents will actually get to this phase.
I must admit that I have been in the third stage of parent burnout for awhile now although I didn’t know it until I read Dobson’s book. I thought having children would mean being smothered with love and affection, not disrespect, sassy talk, messy faces, and constant attacks on my authority. Plus, being a perfectionist hasn’t helped either. I have found that I am perpetually fatigued and stressed, frustrated and annoyed, nagging and screaming at my children, and that is not how I want to remember my parenting years.
So what’s a Mama to do?
If you too find yourself in any one of these five stages of parent burnout, here are some suggestions for leading a more balanced life:
(1) Reevaluate your parenting goals and expectations. Are they realistic? If not, consider how can you modify them so that they are.
For example, I never imagined how difficult it would be for babies to learn how to sleep. I always thought that they knew how to fall asleep on their own without my help and so a big source of my frustration as a new mom was learning how to teach my child how to fall asleep and stay that way. My husband has called me “the sleep nazi” because I have gone to ridiculous lengths to help our children sleep, rearranging our plans and avoiding activities that might mess up their naps. I have put our lives on hold at times just to ensure everyone was well-rested, and when the kids have refused to sleep, I have felt tremendous guilt. I eventually came to realize that I cannot make my children sleep no matter how dark and quiet I make their rooms. While I still try to ensure good sleep, I am making a concerted effort not to stress on something out of my control.
(2) Reevaluate your expectations of your child. I think I was a pretty compliant child; however, our two older daughters are not at all. Therefore, it’s hard for me to understand their need to assert themselves all day long. I have to remind myself that they were uniquely made, just like me, and to love them the way God created them even if it’s challenging at times.
Also, I have to remember that our girls are simply little girls, not teenagers and certainly not mature adults. When I expect more from them than they are capable of offering, then I am not only frustrated with them, but I frustrate them too. Consider what your children can do and only expect slightly more from them. Remember that they learning just like we are as parents. Reserve punishments for acts of blatant disobedience and disrespect, and patiently instruct them in those other childish accidents and mishaps.
(4) Meet your own needs first. You know how on an airplane the flight attendant tells adults that in case of an emergency to put their own masks on first and then assist the person beside them? That’s because if you don’t have sufficient oxygen yourself, then you can’t provide aid to others. Likewise, if you don’t take care of your own physical, spiritual, and emotional needs first, then you will not be in top form to attend to the needs of your children. Again, you can’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself.
When you make time each day to shower, get dressed, and make yourself feel pretty, then you’ll discover that you have a much better attitude towards your children than if you go for days without bathing and live in sweats. Trust me; I know!
That also means making time to exercise, pray, read God’s Word, talk with a friend, whatever you need to do to meet your own personal needs.
Parent burnout is real. I have experienced it. In fact, I am working very hard each day to keep it at bay. Life is never the same after having a child, but I am learning that there is a much better way to parent that doesn’t involve constant stress and frustration.
I want to enjoy the short time I have with our children, but I know now that means having realistic expectations of myself as a mother and of our children as little women in training. It also means maintaining my relationships with God, my spouse, family, and friends and making time for myself.
What about you? Have you experienced parent burnout?
I would love to hear from you. Know that I am praying for you!
Find Growing in His Glory on Facebook.
This post is linked to: