My name is mom. But my kids call me “mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom!”
Sounds too familiar? Yes- that just about describes the life we are dealing with in today’s world riddled with anxieties, uncertainties, and confusion. Welcome to parenting during the pandemic.
We have made our peace by drawing parallels to parenting in the 1980s vs now– what makes it look difficult now, why we, as millennial parents, are finding it harder than before. But then the pandemic took it a notch higher, and among the many industries and sectors that were worst hit financially, parenting as a fraternity was hit hard. Big time. We didn’t see it coming, we never expected the schools to shut suddenly, and the uncertainty was clearly taking a toll on parents.
With people losing their jobs, while others working overtime to retain theirs, and many managing it all at home- the hardships knew no end. But somewhere amidst all the chaos, a voice was heard. People started lending their support, by acknowledging parental burnout and how it is here to stay.
So, what is parental burnout?
Researches define parental burnout as a condition that is characterized by overwhelming exhaustion related to one’s parental role, an emotional distancing from one’s children, and a sense of parental ineffectiveness. In essence, it leads you to detach yourself from your primary responsibility that comes with its own consequences and parental guilt. How do we steer ourselves out of it? Especially during the pandemic that has changed the way the world functions?
Before we draw the line differentiating the hardships of working moms and SAHMs, let us first acknowledge and accept that neither has it easy. We do know that both sets of moms are giving it their all, coming up with backup plans in their absence, as well as bidding goodbye to their dream careers and jobs. Does it get easy at all?
Warnings Signs To Watch Out For:
In an interview to the This Morning show, UK-based psychologist Dr Punam listed the warning signs parents need to watch out for.
- Feeling exhausted all the time
- Feeling irritable at most times/Snapping at the kids
- Emotionally detaching from the kids (in severe cases)
- Not enjoying things you used to, earlier
- Feelings of inadequacy/guilt/hopelessness.
How are we as a society addressing this? How is it that day in and day out parents get up feeling "I hate this, I can't do this anymore. But I have to"? QuirkyMumma alias Arushi, a mom blogger, pens down the warning signs of parental burnout in this creative that drives home the message.
The Primal Scream:
The New York Times came up with a series, The Primal Scream, that examines the effect of the pandemic on working mothers in America. In a survey, they conducted it was observed that against 51% of fathers, 69% of moms felt they experienced adverse health effects due to worry and stress during the pandemic. And another shocking statistic revealed that-
The number of working moms who felt that their performance was being judged negatively because of their caregiving responsibilities at home, was twice as compared to that of working dads.
How is this doing justice to the mom, who is burning herself both ends to make things easy for the family?
The Way Forward- Is There One?
Dr.Nisha Vidyasagar, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, who writes on mental well-being for parents and kids on Kidsstoppress emphasizes on parents, especially, giving up on their need to be perfect all the time.
"Living in confined spaces, social isolation, uncertainty, and juggling between the many responsibilities has taken a toll on parents which should not be ignored.
To manage the emotional well-being of children as well as their stress, parents need to reach out to friends or family for support, make time for self-care, practice self-compassion by not trying to be perfect, and focus on their strengths."
As a member of this fraternity, I confess this is the sad truth. In our efforts to be the perfect version of ourselves in whatever we do, we end up giving more than we ever receive, which leaves us depleted, exhausted, and lost. We have all done that mistake- not seeking out help, lest we are branded vulnerable and needy.
Be it the breastfeeding mom, who is dying from inside, fearing societal objections, or the new mom who is leaving behind the baby to go to work, only to get eye-rolls and glances from one and all, or the stay-at-home mom who is feeling exhausted after all day's work and still feeling the need to prove herself to the society.
Here's what you can do to lessen the burden at the end of the day:
1. Seek help:
This seems like the most basic advice anyone would give you. But trust me, it helps. We are not supermoms and am sure the world doesn't give supermoms much credit too. Why not sit back, think on what can be delegated- and do that? Make a list of your priorities and find out if it is really worth your time or it is easily done when outsourced.
2. Plan ahead
Mindfulness and deep work are the buzzwords this 2021, and one tip that most leadership coaches or authors suggest is to plan ahead. Make journaling a habit– write down how you envision your day to be the previous night- this way your mind is better prepared than to tackle any last-minute changes that cause stress and anxiety.
3. Don't compare. Be Who You Are
Remember, every mom is facing her own battles. The mom who baked that perfect croissants and banana bread on Instagram aren't leading a perfect life, that should make you compare yours to hers. Ditch the social media FOMO- only follow accounts that help and inspire you, not put you down or make you feel little. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses and play by them. Remember, nobody is perfect.
4. Focus On A Happy You
Learn when to switch off. For working moms, the boundaries between work and home are often blurred with the work-from-home scenario but don't let it drag all day. Switch off after a particular time, and inform your team if the need arises. Similarly, when you are overworked with the chores at home, press a pause button to unwind. Listen to some music, do some painting, indulge into that hidden tub of icecream or even earn something new- whatever it takes to make you happy. Remember- happy moms raise happy kids.
5. Don't ignore your mental health:
Mental health continues to be a taboo in our society and more so when it comes to the mental well-being of the primary caregiver in a family. Blinded by societal constructs and complex issues, we often neglect the warning signs of burnout. If the above-listed points, don't help you and you seem to be hitting a dead-end, reach out to a professional for help. Psychologists and other experts in the field are trained to make you understand what you are going through and will lend you the much-needed helping hand. But you need to ask first.
Go ahead, and share your thoughts on this much-needed-tobe-discussed topic in the comments below or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to share this with a fellow mom, you care about.