Working parents reporting high burnout during pandemic

Health

An exhausted mid adult woman rubs her head indicating a bad headache. Her husband is in the background caring for their daughter.

(NewsNation) — The coronavirus pandemic has made parenting more challenging for some Americans — across the nation, parents are feeling overwhelmed as they juggle their home life and work life, and they’re burned out.

Many believe the level of burnout has become so high for parents that it should be considered a public health issue. But there are things parents can do to help better balance their lives.

A parent’s work is never done, or so it seems — often wearing multiple titles, including caregiver, cook, teacher and nurturer.

The hours are long, and the breaks are few, and when you factor in the pandemic, the job becomes even more challenging.

“If you’re parenting, I call it parenting in the pandemic of your parents; like you have earned your cape,” said Dr. Melissa Smith, a wife, and mother of two children, 10 and 14 years old.

Since the pandemic started, Smith’s children have been homeschooled; her husband is an educator.

She’s also a business owner, working in a health care system experiencing high turnover. So, she’s understaffed at work and sometimes overwhelmed at home.

“I’m constantly refeeding my mind and my spirit, the positivity so that I can carry through day to day if that makes sense,” Smith explained.

A new report from Ohio State University shows a high level of “parental burnout” among parents during the pandemic.

Parenting is “just this overwhelming sense of having to be on 24/7 in so many different roles and just having to be invested in those roles so intensely,” said Kate Gawlik, associate professor of clinical nursing at The Ohio State University College of Nursing and co-author of the report.

The university conducted a national survey between January and April of 2021 involving nearly 1,300 parents. Sixty-six percent of parents reported experiencing burnout, with mothers feeling it the most. In addition, it’s more common for women with more than two children to experience burnout.

Unfortunately, burnout can lead to anxiety, depression and alcoholism.

The report also found parents with children who have ADHD or anxiety suffer from burnout.

“The one thing I say to myself when I’m having a really bad day, I always say to myself, give yourself grace,” Smith said.

The Ohio State report also offers advice for coping, advising parents to take breaks throughout the day, look away, learn how to say “no,” meditate, and ask for help when they need it.

No one can negatively judge a parent who’s doing their absolute best.

“Find what makes you happy and what allows you to have that outlet, and I’m just a big advocate of talking to someone, whoever it may be, like a support system where you can share how you feel,” Smith said.

If you or someone you know is feeling anxiety, health officials suggest reaching out to a licensed or certified therapist to improve your mental health. Maintaining good mental health is essential because when you feel better, your children will as well.

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