I recently attended a conference of Isabelle Roskam (Co-founder & Managing Director of the Training Institute for Parental Burnout, Ph. D. Professor) about the a widely spread suffering – the parental burnout.
Professional versus parental burn-out
It was an eye-opener for me as until now I was following the definition of a burnout as a state of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion linked to one’s professional life.
Today the dissemination of the parental burnout in society is still underestimated and often mixed up with a professional burnout. Parental burnout became more of a buzzword to express the feelings of parents being overwhelmed with child care and education and not having enough resources to compensate the effects of this continuous stress. But it has not yet the same attention as the professional burn-out.
Certain elements in personal traits (level of ambition and commitment, perfectionism, specific values etc.) can predesignate someone either for a parental or a professional burnout, but it depends on the very individual circumstances of a person which burnout will hit.
This means that a burnout is situational, it can be linked to work or raising children. And being burned out by the work situation, does not necessarily lead to a parental burnout as well. On the contrary, research has shown that someone being in a professional burnout can feel very well once at home and with the family and someone being in a parental burnout can feel better and energized at work.
If we look at gender statistics, today still around two thirds of the parental burnouts are diagnosed with women versus one third with men. This distribution reflects well that today 70% of the parental charge is still carried by mums next to their profession.
Signs of a parental burnout – source: www.burnoutparental.com
- The parent feels exhausted on an emotional level (feeling like you can’t cope any more), on a cognitive level (feeling unable to think properly) and/or on a physical level (tiredness).
- The parent feels unable to handle being a parent any more, is overwhelmed, and no longer derives any pleasure from parenting.
- The parent has less or even no energy left for their relationship with their children, pays less attention to what their children tell them or only half listen, stops caring as much about his/her children’s experiences and feelings, has less ability to show their children how much he/she loves them, does what needs be done – take them to school, feed them, wash them, and put them to bed –, but no more.
- The parent can’t recognise themself anymore, and is ashamed of the parent he/she has become.
Avoiding or healing a parental burn-out
In reality, very often parents don’t see the root causes of their stress and exhaustion in their parenting or they tend to deny their physical, mental and emotional suffering as they don’t want to give the image of a “bad parent”.
The first step to avoid burning out is to take first signs seriously and to acknowledge them. A coach can help here to analyse the individual situation and define actions which will help to find more balance again. However, if the symptoms are multiple and have a strong negative impact on the well-being of the parent already, it is time to reach out for medical and psychological help. There are many resources available.
Don’t wait too long!