If I possessed one superpower, I would disregard flying, teleporting or telekinesis. I would simply want to stretch our 24-hour days to have more time. That was one of the most surprising transitions for me as a new parent: clocks no longer mattered because you can’t finish all the things that are on your list — and there’s even less time to unwind.
But I’m a firm believer that we were each a person before we were a parent, and maintaining some semblance of your interests is core to avoiding burnout. Remembering the activities that gave you energy before you had kids is an important first step. The harder next step is carving out time to do those activities. But I think both things are possible: making time for yourself and being a good parent.
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How can we be a light to others if we’re burned out? From one parent to another, here are my five tips* to beat off burnout before it happens:
- Be honest with yourself. Do you feel on the brink of flipping out about something tiny? Not being your best self with your kids? This is typically a good sign that you need a break. Even a short one can make a difference. Parenting can feel as if you’re on a hamster wheel. Stop running.
- Understand that self-care isn't selfish. Caring for yourself is necessary, not indulgent. Reading for 15 minutes in bed or enjoying a cup of coffee you didn’t have to re-warm 9 times can be self-care. While a trip to the spa is wonderful, self-care doesn’t have to be luxurious, expensive, or time-consuming. It just has to be for you.
- Take the pressure off of social media. When you see on Instagram that another mom baked homemade cookies or DIYed all their kid’s birthday decorations, remind yourself they may enjoy baking or crafting. Or they may hate it and are just doing it for likes. In either case, don’t compare yourself.
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- Don’t commit to things you don’t care about. You have the right to say no to activities you don’t want to do, and I encourage you to try it. If you dread that party you said you’d go to, kindly bow out.
- Be honest with others. The most rewarding conversations I’ve had with friends and family are the real ones. The ones where you talk openly about your lives and are vulnerable. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to support a parent. Be that village for others and you’ll find the favor is returned.
Hats off to the moms and dads who magically make it happen every day — minus sleep and superpowers to pull it off.
*I am an amateur parent, and only marginally and intermittently qualified to offer advice.