With families settled into the school year, one might think life would have regained some semblance of normalcy. But the pandemic continues to take its toll on parents, and after months of isolation, little additional help, and rare breaks from the pressures of childcare, many moms and dads are feeling exhausted and at their wits’ end. Working from home while managing distance learning only adds to the stress, which can sometimes rear its ugly head in the way parents react to their children. But what's the difference between a moment of frustration and a sign you need a break from motherhood?
“I would say a key marker to be able to differentiate between exhaustion and burnout is the ability to feel the full range of emotions,” Katie Schefter Sheron, an Individual and Family Therapist at Harmony Counseling in Vancouver, Washington, tells Romper. “Are you able to enjoy them? Are you able to delight in the little things? When we face burn out, we experience an absence of positive emotions, sometimes apathy, and most often anger. We have to adjust to the 2020 scale and honestly assess how we are experiencing our emotions.”
Watch out for these red flags if you suspect you might need to take a timeout from your children.
So, what can you do? “Grace upon grace upon grace,” says Sheron. “To yourself. To your kids. To your partner. This is really effing hard. Lower expectations. Normalize hard emotions. If you need to cry, please go cry; it’s a healthy way for your body to get rid of excess cortisol which we all have in abundance right now. And you know what? Crying in front of your kids won't kill them. It gives them validation of their own emotions and gives them permission to cry themselves.”
And if you need help, get some. Both Dr. Hafeez and Sheron recommend reaching out to a mental health professional for more help if you can identify any of the above in your own behaviors.
Katie Schefter Sheron, M.A., LMHC, Individual and Family Therapist, Harmony Counseling, myharmonycounseling.com
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, neuropsychologist and professor at Columbia University, comprehendthemind.com