Dear Dr. Dara,
I feel guilt and shame to write this to you. I am a tired mom and feeling burnt out as a parent. I feel like a bad mom! This pandemic was supposed to be a short-term thing. It was not supposed to monopolize the summer. I held on tight and strong keeping myself and my family together. I did everything I was supposed to do as a mom, but here we are months later, with no COVID end in sight and now preparing for virtual schooling and for me to continue to work from home (for however long I can manage or even keep my job)! I have nothing left. My tank is EMPTY.
Please shed some light on how to navigate through this without me totally losing it or worse emotionally damaging my children or myself:(
Burnt out momma
Dear Burnt out momma,
I personally can totally understand and relate to what you are describing. I feel like every parent can relate. We are all fighting so hard to maintain some capacity of sanity, balance, and norm (whatever normal is anyway!). If anyone says they are not experiencing some kind of pandemic parental tire, they are lying!
The typical mental exhaustion of parenting is like no other. Add on a pandemic and it is like running an Ultra Marathon (100 miles) without any training with a blindfold on in the dessert while wearing stilettos! It figuratively and literally is consuming! The mental foundation of exhaustion is the anguish caused by the way our mind’s read old stories and ideas of how we think we should parent. I have to keep going, I have to do everything for my children, parenting is a selfless act, I can never do enough, I have to sacrifice, I have to do more, or It is not enough. We have been taught skewed, jaded messages that self-care is selfish, and our kids should always come first. Society and culture has beautified our necessity to diminish our needs and sacrifice ourselves for others, glamorizing being a martyr. The mental exhaustion parents feel from this pandemic is like being tired X 1000! It leaves us sleepless, with headaches, stomach problems, increased blood pressure, fatigue, chest pain, loss of interest in things we enjoy, GAF (grouchy as F***), run down with physical illness, disconnected relationships (who can think of their partners or anyone else for that matter), lack of sex drive (or none!!), and not to mention, frustration, and anger. Some of us even experiencing severe anxiety, depression, and/or thoughts of suicide. Many are wondering how much they can continue to be pushed or how much more they can take. Maybe not thinking about dying, but wondering if there is strength or hope to keep going.
Pandemic mental exhaustion as a parent leaves us out of balance physically and emotionally not taking care of ourselves and with poor self-care (not eating or eating too much, forget prioritizing exercise, and rest habits (what are they?)). Poor physical and emotional balance leads to poor parenting making choices out of desperation and fear. Dah, a parent is more inclined to make poor parental decisions when they are dissatisfied with how they look or feel and are flat out miserable. Mental exhaustion leaves parents making poor relational choices and relational discordances, a.k.a. picking friends and associating with people as exhausted and miserable as they are and/or battling with their spouse. As we know water seeks its own level! Let’s not also forget to mention MOMZILLA that makes a mom or DADZILLA, a dad feel like they have an alternative personality that takes on a whole other identity as a parent. Zilla leaves you feeling like you are having a complete out of body experience feeling with NO CONTROL!
News flash: Mental exhaustion does not discriminate and does not happen to a parent whether they are a good or bad parent. Exhaustion does not care if you live in poverty and broke or if you have a ton of $$$$. Mental exhaustion lures on everyone leaving them with terminal enoughitits (the inflamed idea of thinking you are not enough)!
And let’s face it, The last thing superparents do is tell anyone they are burnt out! They act like they have their shit together and when you ask how they are, they say “fine” and “they are not stressed”. Exhausted parents take on superhuman amounts of responsibility. They dig deeper and keep on pushing because they refuse to be seen as vulnerable or weak.
Feeling burnt out sucks. Don't be disillusioned that you will wake up and the exhaustion will magically disappear or be gone tomorrow anymore than COVID will be instantly cured. Exhaustion also does not care how old your kids are! Parenting does not get easier based on age, it is just different. I hear things like, little kids- little problems, big kids- big problems. I suppose, but either way IT IS EXHAUSTING!
You, the parent being ok and doing that self-care thing is important because parents are the nucleus of their world. We are the sun that fuels all the planets. Everything revolves around us. We model to our off-spring earthlings how to be! You can only give to others what you have, just saying! When your love cup is full and you are fulfilled physically, emotionally, and spiritually then you can give. Empty love cup = dry, empty giving. Hellllloooo, put your oxygen mask on first. Dah, have you not listened to the flight attendant? If ya don’t, do you want your kids to grow up thinking their needs are not important? Momma bear and poppa rested is important in the survival in the hierarchy of the animal kingdom!
Let’s be realistic, this pandemic thing is the reality of our life. Let’s be cautiously optimistic, but plan it out like it is hanging out for a while.
On days you feel like you can’t do parenting so good...on mornings you snooze an extra few minutes and don’t exercise…on nights when you sneak in a little extra work even though you swear you will stop or stay up too late watching Netflix, to the moments you want to quit, to the people in your life that feel like they suck the last remaining morsels of energy out of you….
You’re not alone.
On the really rough days where it feels like there is nothing more to give and no way to show up, let’s remember:
1. How far we’ve come ( give yourself some damn credit and have P.P. Parties= Permission to Play)
2. Whatever feels icky is just gunk or information stuck in our brain, it is not who we are (you are not a bad parent or an evil one!)
3. The past is the past (that is why it is called the past)
4. Connect with friends and family you like, not the ones that make you feel judged or stressed!
5. There is no pandemic parenting playbook (not yet anyway!!). You are doing the best you can. If you are reading this or are even wondering if you are exhausted, you are a good parent!! You are one of those parents way ahead of the others because you have an interest in not being exhausted and being the best parent you can be.
6. Take several bathroom breaks- ALONE!! Mommies and Daddies need time outs too!
7. There is no shame in giving your kids extra tv or technology time so you can keep your shiFt together. Movies are great for naps!
8. Your kids will survive you yelling or getting upset. You survived your parents!
9. Stop being so serious and organized and have fun with your kids no matter what age they are. Parent-kid playdates! Seriously, put it on the calendar if you have to.
10. Last but not least, this too shall pass. We got this!
Your no bull-shiFt, COVID SURVIVOR, advice giving, Covid-19 Chronicle RANTING, expert Momzilla, Psychologist and wife, Dr. Dara