Parental Burnout Is Real, But We Shouldn’t Call It “Burnout”

The phrase “parental burnout” was one of the buzzwords that dominated the headlines throughout the pandemic.

There was widespread exasperation and exhaustion among parents. Every mom will tell you-we were starving before Covid came knocking.

Diana, a mother of three from Texas, said, “I’ve always felt a level of parental burnout, both pre and post-pandemic. How can a mother who is needed 24/7 not feel this at some point?”

However, the pandemic gave others a glimpse of how challenging raising tiny humans can be, from work colleagues on Zoom to secondary caregivers.

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Reena B. Patel, parenting expert and educational psychologist said, “Parental burnout happens when parenting stressors outweigh the pleasures or rewards of raising your child.”

A handy quiz from the New York Times helped determine how much parental burnout you are experiencing right now, and apparently, I have a mild case.

If Burnout Exists, Why Aren’t We Addressing It More?

Parental burnout highlights the individual’s responsibility for symptoms like stress and lack of sleep. As if calendar reminders or going to bed an hour earlier would magically solve this.

Anna, a mother of three, said, “I feel like if I had more time, money, and patience, then this wouldn’t all be so hard. I can’t get up any earlier!”

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It’s not about failure. What makes us feel this way? Burnout is a systemic failure with a dose of societal pressure. It’s been a constant cycle of burnout for parents.

We need help. It’s the difference between rhetoric and action here; discussing parental burnout isn’t the same as devising solutions. To fix this, we must reexamine the systems that got us here.

Change is needed on a governmental, workplace, and societal level. To prevent burnout, we need to recognize that parents need tools rather than chalking them up to fail.

It starts with policy and infrastructure, but I also believe words matter. You might say, “I’ve been let down by the system,” instead of “I’m burned out. America’s shitty parenting policies burn us all.”