What are some signs of parent burnout

Burnout: Parents on the verge of a nervous breakdown

As soon as Judith (37) came home from work, she put Theo (6) in the bathtub and started cooking - her mother is our guest today and will have dinner with them. Fifteen minutes later, she asked her son to come out of the bathroom and put on pajamas. But he refuses. She gives him another five minutes, but even then he doesn't want to. Judith tries to convince him. She understands that he wants to continue bathing, but it's getting late, the meal is almost ready, and if he stays up late, he'll be tired the next morning. It's no use. On the contrary, Theo is now angry too: "You never give me time to play in the bathroom!" Judith is annoyed, her voice grows louder. Finally she pulls him out of the water "by force". Theo starts crying. She is not feeling well. And her mother comments: “In my time, such behavior would have been unthinkable. Theo would have simply obeyed! "

Judith feels she has failed. She will sleep poorly, torment herself with self-doubt and feelings of guilt. Why was it not able to prevail? Why do the children make it so difficult for her? Her teenage daughter always does what she wants anyway, and since her husband has been traveling abroad for work, the little one has been insisting on his head too. In everyday life, she often doesn't know what to do or what to do. She feels exhausted and empty. More and more often she wishes to be somewhere else, to leave everything behind. She no longer enjoys taking care of her children. Judith suffers from burnout.

This article is contained in Spectrum Compact, Stress and Resilience - How We Meet Daily Pressure

Psychologists first used the term burnout in the late 1960s to describe the consequences of chronic stress at work. Research showed that it mainly affected people who looked after others professionally, for example caring for the elderly and the sick. Typical characteristics were exhaustion, indifference, poor performance and a decline in identification with work. Most of the time it hit those who had been most committed beforehand.

The likelihood of suffering burnout as a mother or father does not depend on the age of the children or the parents, or on their income. Patchwork parents do not suffer more or less from it either.

In the 1980s, some scientists first considered that parents could also suffer from burnout. However, they initially only examined parents of chronically ill children and largely ignored the general population.

We wanted to close this gap. We have therefore been accompanying 3,000 parents since 2011 and have since discovered that the characteristic symptoms of burnout can occur in all types of families. Not only a child's illness is a risk factor, but also a lack of skills in dealing with stress, the separation from the partner and the lack of friends to whom one can confide.

In France, our most recent surveys show that five percent of mothers or fathers suffer from parental burnout and another eight percent are at increased risk of developing it in the following year. That means: 13 percent suffer from being a parent. This has nothing to do with the so-called baby blues: It is based on hormonal fluctuations in the first few days after the birth. Parental burnout syndrome can occur in children of any age, including teenagers and even if the child is already 30 years old, as our survey showed. It differs from depression in that listlessness only affects family life and the upbringing of children.