This post was written by a contributor who wishes to remain anonymous and has been published under this profile to share a unique perspective.
I love my kids. Don't get me wrong, the tiny versions of myself that I created are easily my favorite humans on the planet (except for maybe the barista at Starbucks at 6:00 AM on a Monday). But, I LOVE going to the gyno, the dentist, the DMV, and virtually every other place for an appointment that my younger self would have considered a torture chamber, just to get away from my minis.
From the car ride to the appointment to the time spent in the waiting room, to the actual inspection that takes place in the stirrups, going to the gyno is like a day spent at the spa because it means that my partner has the kids, and I get a much-needed break. Ever since my kids were born, my partner and I stopped getting each other "real" (like jewelry, clothing, kitchen gadgets, socks, you get the drift...) gifts for holidays and birthdays, and instead made coupons for days off of parenting and bought gift certificates for the movies or spa treatments. While we wouldn't trade being parents for anything in the world, and we love spending time with the family that we've built, our sanity demands breaks.
The worst part of my husband getting up with the kids is trying to decide if I should join him, or escape out the window & start a new life.— Lauren Mullen (@DraggingFeeties) March 2, 2017
Previously, the exhaustion that faced parents was just considered "normal". It was part of the parenting package and it was something that we just had to deal with because we chose to have kids on top of everything else that we had to do in life. Now, however, it's being classified as "parental burnout" and it can be detrimental to marriages, parent-child relationships, and life outside of the home. When someone burns out at work, while it's a difficult condition and time to navigate, solutions are readily available: quit your job, take a leave of absence, seek therapy. When a parent burns out, there are few options. You can't just quit being a parent. You can't expect your children to fend for themselves while you take a "leave of absence". Isabelle Roskam, a professor at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, states that parents who burnout may seek solutions such as suicide or familial abandonment to save their own sanity. She shares, "...burnout primarily happens to people who become overinvested in their role as parents: They want to be Super Dads or Super Moms, parents who try to be perfect". Real solutions focus on prioritizing your needs, as a parent, remembering that caring for your child is not your only identity, and seeking professional help to figure out ways to find balance and relaxation.
For me, combatting burnout means being grateful for each opportunity that I have to be alone and get in touch with myself. It means cherishing the moments that I have with my children, but recognizing when I need a break. It means recognizing that my partner, family members, and friends may also be feeling that way that I do, and offering them opportunities to be alone -- guilt-free -- whenever I can.
Those looking for ways to combat parental burnout can consult this helpful guide from Sue Volkman, who is a Triple P certified parent coach at The Parenting Network. The Parenting Network's support line can be reached at (414) 671-0566, and the Family Support Project of The Women’s Center can be reached 24/7 at (888) 542-3828.