How to Cope With Parental Burnout

Parenting is demanding, 24/7 work; even when the experience is rewarding, it’s taxing. As children grow, parents often encounter situations where they must prioritise their children over themselves. Such situations often pile up and exacerbate stressors at work or in other parts of life. Over time, this can lead to physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. 


These feelings accumulate till they hit the ‘burnout’ point – where parents realise that the demands of parenting outweigh their ability to meet them. 

How parents struggling with burnout feel


Several tell-tale signs of parental burnout leave parents with physical and mental exhaustion beyond what’s healthy or typical. Noticing these changes early can help parents re-prioritise to focus on their mental wellness. Signs of parental burnout include:

  • Feeling inadequate, guilty, and/or confused 
  • Feeling anxious, depressed, and/or demotivated
  • Emotional distance and isolation from family 
  • Irritability or anger more often than usual. 
  • Physical symptoms like headaches and fatigue
The real reason for parental burnout


Parental burnout often occurs when parents are working harder than usual during periods of stress. Working harder than usual depletes mental stamina faster, which makes people feel mentally drained. 


Common factors that exacerbate parenting stress and contribute to burnout include: 


  • External stressors

    A pertinent example of external stressors was the global Covid19 lockdown. Working parents had to transform children’s schedules, make sure they paid attention to Zoom classes, care for and entertain children, and make sure the drastic change did not affect their children physically, mentally, or academically. All this while running a house, working, and making sure nobody became ill from the deadly virus outside contributed to widespread parental burnout. Even as the pandemic has waned, many parents still feel the effects of burnout lingering.

  • Multiple children

    Research states that the likelihood of parental burnout increases when there are 2-3 children to parent. Burnout risk tends to plateau when there are 4-5 children, but increases again with 6+ children.

  • Managing a mental illness, like an anxiety disorder

    Burnout is inevitable among parents who de-prioritise treatment for their mental health conditions while caring for children. Taking care of oneself allows parents to show up for their children.

  • Being a woman and a parent

    Traditional societal gender roles mean women bear the unequal burden of activities like running a house and caring for children. This hits women who work inside and/or outside the home hard.

  • Dealing with a child’s physical and/or mental illness

    For parents of children living with physical illnesses or disabilities, mental illnesses,  or children who are neurodivergent, the parenting process can be far more complex and nuanced. Parents are often learning alongside children with the help of healthcare workers, therapists, or advocates. In these situations, both the stress and the fear of ‘messing up’ can feel more intense for parents.  

How to cope with parental burnout


Burnout, regardless of whether it’s related to parenting, makes people feel lonely and inadequate – even though countless people experience the state. Reaching out for help is the first step in coping with parental burnout. The African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ holds true both for the child’s development and the parents’ mental wellness. 


Further ways of coping with parental burnout include:

  • Talking to other parents and caregivers

    All parents experience stress and fear when it comes to the parenting process. Speaking with friends and community members who have children can help parents feel stability and less isolated.

  • Talking to a professional, like a therapist or a psychiatrist

    A mental health professional can help parents with concrete frameworks on how to handle their burnout, during stressful periods. They can also help parents identify time and actions for critical self-care that can counter and ease feelings of burnout.

  • Asking family and friends for help with the parenting load

    On days when parenting feels like it’s on auto-pilot, ask grandparents, aunts and uncles, or friends to lend a hand. For example,  a grandparent can amuse a young child while the parent takes a nap, or friends can form a carpool and divide the work of picking up children from school or classes.

  • Eliminate work and activities that are not necessary

    Some parts of parenting that cause stress are often due to unnecessary social mores. Identifying 1-2 hobby classes, tuitions, sports classes, or other activities that a child can do without can help add free time for mental well-being to both parents’ and children’s schedules. And perhaps there are tasks in the house that can be made redundant with a new appliance. Identifying ways to unpack one’s schedule allows more time for self-care.

  • Exercising, meditating, and eating and sleeping well

    Healthy living is a form of self-care. The value of exercise, meditation, good food and sleep is two-fold. First, these activities allow the body to receive enough nutrition and rest to face stressors daily. And second, activities like cooking, meditation, and exercise allow alone time for parents to think, relax, and recalibrate.

  • Making time for creativity and fun

    Being a parent does not need to override the other parts of life. Parents deserve creative, fun outlets like travel, hobbies, new classes, going out on dates, socialising, and more. These activities may feel optional, but when one is burnt out, they become critical parts of recovery

Caring for yourself is caring for your children 


While taking a flight, passengers are told to place their own oxygen mask first before placing a mask for their children. This enables parents to learn how the masks work, which then allows them to place their children’s masks in a fast and secure manner. 


In the real world, mental wellness is the oxygen mask people use daily. It’s common for parents to put their child’s happiness over their own well-being – but it’s not always the right thing to do.

The more parents de-prioritise themselves, the more they risk entering a situation where they are too exhausted and numb to keep up with parenting. When parents value themselves and their children, they are more likely to strike a balance that keeps everyone healthy.

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