Being a new parent is a joy, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. You can be both thrilled at bringing a new life into the world and overwhelmed at the same time.
Many new parents suffer from feelings of physical and emotional exhaustion, distress, and even emotional detachment in the first year. So if this is something you are experiencing, you are not alone, and it’s okay.
These feelings are what’s known as parental burnout, which is a real condition that affects millions of parents all over the world. So, let’s dive deeper to understand a bit more about this condition, how to tell if you have it, and ways you can overcome it.
Burnout is a syndrome categorized by emotional exhaustion, which can lead to various health issues, such as fatigue, insomnia, vulnerability to illness, high blood pressure, and even depression. Some people who experience burnout may even develop unhealthy habits to help them cope, such as substance abuse.
And while general burnout is something that is primarily associated with a person’s work-life balance, meaning they are being overworked and don’t have enough time for themselves, it can also be associated with other things, like being a parent.
Parental burnout can affect parents with children of any age, but it especially occurs in new parents. And after conducting studies, many psychologists found that there are four primary dimensions of parental burnout:
According to one researcher, in particular, Isabella Roksam, Ph.D., the component that is consistent among all parents who report burnout is that “burnout is the result of too much stress and the absence of resources to cope with it.”
So, how can you tell if you are experiencing new mom burnoutor burnout as a new parent in general?
Parental burnout doesn’t just happen overnight. It is gradual and can develop over time. The first stage is typically associated with feelings of overwhelming exhaustion, both physical and emotional. Next, parents tend to start distancing themselves from their children to preserve energy. And the third phase is when parents may begin to notice a loss of fulfillment in their role as a parent.
These are, of course, just generalized phases of parental burnout. Everyone can experience burnout differently. Overall, some of the common symptoms of parental burnout include the following:
If you suspect you are experiencing parental burnout, one of the best things you can do is seek professional help before it gets worse. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, and going to therapy can significantly improve your situation and how you are feeling. Many therapists are specifically trained to help parents deal with exactly what you’re going through. So don’t hesitate to reach out if you need the extra help and support that a medical professional can give.
Beyond therapy, there are things you can do on your own to prevent, manage, and overcome your burnout as a new parent.
To start, it can be helpful if you can make a post-pregnancy plan so you are better prepared for potential burnout. This can include creating a routine to help you keep yourself, and your new baby cared for — i.e., when to eat, when to sleep, when to get tasks done, etc. It should also include scheduling time for yourself, which might require reaching out for help from friends, family, or a babysitter.
When it comes to being a new parent, the more outside support you can get, the better. Remember, as mentioned above, one of the primary causes of parental burnout is not having the resources to cope. A new parent group can help you keep your sanity and provide you with access to the resources you need.
You can simply talk out your frustrations, hear from other parents like yourself, offer each other tips, lean on each other for support, and get helpful advice from an expert, as these groups are often led by therapists, psychologists, or other professionals.
Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your new baby. Many parents feel that the baby must always come first, but if you don’t take care of yourself as well, then you won’t be able to fully show up as a parent for your child.
So try to fit in time for self-care whenever you can. This can include giving yourself permission to just relax and read or watch TV. Going for a walk or taking a yoga class. Getting a massage or facial. Or grabbing coffee or a bite to eat with friends.
Staying connected with your friends is especially important and is a form of self-care. Your friends are like your tribe; they can help you relax, feel more like yourself, and offer you support.
This one might seem odd, but many new parents develop burnout not just from the stress of caring for a new baby but also from financial stress.
For example, you might not be working while taking care of your newborn, or you might only be working part-time, which can mean you aren’t making as much money as you need to be making. So budgeting for better financial stability can help.
This can include making a budget for irregular paychecks, looking into something temporary as a source of income while you are at home with the baby, or simply being more financially responsible with your spending.
Hopefully, these tips can help you as you learn to navigate life as a new parent. And remember, if you can’t do it on your own, don’t be scared to ask for help. Support and resources are essential for new parents. It’s also important to change your mindset by reminding yourself that you don’t have to be perfect and that it’s okay if you mess up. You are not a bad parent for experiencing burnout, and you can overcome it like so many other parents have.