Caring for chronically ill kids is a lot of work on a parent. In the last week, I have been reading about motherhood burnout. But before we get too far into this discussion, know that fathers can experience the same issues; it just happens that burnout is more common for moms in the United States. I began reading about this topic after discussions with two of my favorite women who appear to the world as superwomen. Still, behind the perfect Instagrams, cultivated homes, and resumes, they are struggling, just like everyone else is.
Part of the problem is that society is still grappling with the outdated cultural idea that motherhood is an all-absorbing devotion to her children, and this should be the single source of her life’s meaning, creativity, and fulfillment. When, in fact, just like men, women are pursuing careers outside the home and have been for decades; they support their families and pursue a passion or a greater good.
More than any generation before, parents are struggling with the financial burden of childcare, along with the ever-growing lists of tasks like homework, doctor appointments, social and kids’ activities. Parents juggle all these in addition to their career demands, maintaining a healthy marriage, and their personal needs. Now add the stress of having a child with a chronic disease. When you have chronically ill kids, parents have to manage a prolonged state of long-term strain (alertness, stress, and often anxiety), which left unchecked can lead to burnout, which mothers experience as physical and psychological fatigue. Research shows that 36% of mothers with chronically ill children report burnout symptoms, compared with 20% of the mothers of healthy children. Many of you will not be surprised about these facts, and are probably living like the two women I mentioned at the beginning with Instagram feeds that hide the stress and chaos simmering just below the surface. The first step to curing your case of burnout — or even better, preventing yourself from hitting full-on burnout, to begin with — is to recognize the signs, which unfortunately are different for everyone.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you find yourself in a constant state of exhaustion?
- Are you more irritable than you want to be, or should be?
- Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed?
If you answered yes to any of these, or see any other signs that you are reaching burnout, please take the time to make some changes.
- Ask for help from other family members and friends.
- See a professional counselor.
- Set boundaries. If you love volunteering your time, pick one school or organization, and set a limit to the hours you can donate upfront. Get comfortable saying no.
- Set aside time to do something for just you, even if it’s only for ten minutes a day. Try something as simple as closing the door to your room and reading a book. Take a ten-minute walk alone.
- Stop doing everything. Other people can, and will, volunteer if you don’t (trust me, I have been there).
- Cut unrewarding activities out of your life. Are you attending a book club you don’t have the energy for? Stop going! Do you decorate your house for every season because you always have? Stop!
Burnout can effect any parent, but mothers of chronically ill children experience it on a whole other level. Do whatever you need to do in order to prevent burnout, mama, because you can’t take care of your family until you take care of yourself.
If you’d like to chat and explore helpful strategies for you and your family, reach out today!
*First published on ScaryMommy.com