Working mothers, fathers and other caregivers are having a really hard time during the Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, it appears that those who work from home are burning the candle at both ends. They are trying to entertain their children, prepare exciting meals and get ready for back to school where some are dreading the idea of again taking on the ‘substitute teacher’ role at home. They are making these plans while at the same time trying to be fresh, on point, level headed and focused for video conference calls and strategy meetings and sitting down to actually do the work for which they were hired – all this in the same physical space and time with their buzzing children. It’s a lot. And it’s taking a toll on many.
Jennifer, who works from home, recently had to visit the doctor to get a checkup because she wasn’t feeling herself. After her doctor’s visit, she had to be placed on blood pressure medication and a stern instruction to make time for rest. Jennifer explains that balancing everything with home and work has been very difficult. She has an overactive toddler with no space at home for play in her small town house with limited green spaces so she has to entertain him by herself while doing an already high stress job.
Walric, a typically jovial risk analyst who always has a joke ready for office banter, now seems to go to the office only to escape from the stress of trying to balance home life and work. With a fuzzy beard and tired eyes, he explains that his three children are consistently hungry and bored, and now after weeks of life during Covid, he is oftentimes at a loss. He laments that the family’s grocery bill has gone up significantly, not only because the children are eating more at home but also because food prices seem to have gone up in recent weeks. He confesses that he feels bad when he says to his 5 year old, “are you really hungry again?” Recently he took his kids to the country for a weekend where they went to the beach and did a number of fun activities. “At home they are hungry 24/7 but while we were out there swimming and frolicking, they weren’t really hungry until after midday and they only had cereal for breakfast,” Walric marvels.
Keisha, a single parent, shares much of Walric and Jennifer’s experiences but adds that one of the issues that makes her feel even more stressed and helpless is when her 9 year old asks, “mommy, I don’t want to die from corona,” every time she overhears the news or a conversation among adults. Keisha’s other children also always need time to vent about various issues and developments since they no longer have daily relaxed in person access to their friends. It’s a lot.
There is no doubt about it – working parents have been having a hard time balancing everything during the pandemic. They may in fact be suffering from something known as parental burnout. Research, published on the Clinical Psychological Science website, notes that “parenting can be difficult, and when difficulties are experienced as being chronic or overwhelming, parental burnout may occur.” Jennifer, Walric and Keisha can certainly attest to feeling parental burnout. But what can they do?
- The experts recommend that people take regular breaks when facing traditional burnout. Maybe a 2-hour drive out for a fruit smoothie, green juice or ice cream for mommy or daddy only could help.
- Wellness blogger, Jeanette Burnette, who herself has battled burnout, insightfully recommended (in her recent Brunch-ish online conversation) establishing a rhythm of replenishing which involves solitude, reflection and observing ‘pockets of Sabbath’. Parents need this advice more than ever. In two parent households, mothers and fathers can alternate to afford each other these pockets. Single parent households will need to rope in the extended family where it is safe to do so in these Covid times.
- Exercise is known to reduce stress levels and improve wellbeing – don’t neglect to maintain a quick, structured routine in your schedule.
- Meditation and prayer are good for engendering peace, positivity and hopefulness. Parents could opt to carve out 30 minutes before kids wake in the morning or after they go to bed. Alternatively they could use their 2 hour drive out to also pray and meditate. They can use the popular Scripture in Philippians 4:8 as a frame for how to guide their thoughts during this time. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned[e] and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” They can also use music to help put their minds in a good place.
- Go outside on the verandah (if you have one) or out in your yard and have a regular phone call with a friend or relative.
- See a medical doctor to rule out clinical depression or other medical issue that could be causing you to feel excessively drained or hopeless. Or get help from counselor or a pastor to improve mental health. Clinical psychologist Robyn Koslowitz notes that, “it’s imperative that primary
care physicians and therapists learn about parental burnout, so they can educate their patients, be aware that these symptoms are distinct from clinical depression, and encourage their patients to access appropriate help.”
- And take a look at your nutrition habits and vitamin intake and make improvements as best as possible.
What else can parents do to overcome burnout?
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