Five Ways to Prevent Parent Burnout

It’s challenging to make time for yourself when you have kids. We get so lost with work—and yes, that includes being a full-time mom—that by the time we get some time to ourselves, we have no energy left to do anything with it. When Jocelyn first called me, she was burnt out and felt like a terrible mother. She felt herself snapping at her children over the smallest things. After working with her for six months, she feels like a person again. “You showed me how to be the best parent I can be! I no longer yell at my kids because I am frustrated, and we are all so much happier.” Jocelyn S.

Think of it this way. When we get on an airplane, we are told that, in case of emergency, we should put our own oxygen mask on before helping our children with theirs. And the reason is simple: we have to make sure that we’re taking care of ourselves so we can be the best parent we can be. And to do that, we have to remember that we have a responsibility not only to our children, partner, and job, but also to ourselves. Here are 5 steps to start putting on your oxygen mask first.

Step 1: Write out 10 things
Write out a list of 10 things that you’d like to do for yourself. Even if some of those things sound impossible, write them down. You haven’t seen one of your closest friends for over a month? Write it down. You could really use a massage? Write that down too. You’ve been thinking about taking a pottery or creative-writing class? Yes, add it too!

Step 2: Look at your list and pick one thing that isn’t too daunting
If you start thinking of all the obstacles preventing you form doing any of the things on your list, you’re going to get overwhelmed. So just pick one and move to step 3.

Step 3: Break that one task down into smaller tasks
For example, if you want to start working out, don’t research gyms, join a gym, buy workout clothes and work out all in one week. Start off with one of these tasks over the next week.

Step 4: Use your family and friends

I know how hard it is to accept help. When I first had my son, I refused to let people help me unless I had an appointment I had to go to, but the more help I got the easier it became to ask for help, and I became a much better mother because of it.

Step 5: Two hours a week
This project is supposed to add to your well-being, not take over your life. Commit to two hours a week for yourself. Book the time in your calendar like an appointment. So if you’ve decided to start working out, don’t commit to exercising every day. Start with twice a week for even half an hour at a time and make it a habit. If you’ve decided to make more time for friends, do that once a week for two hours. It will rejuvenate you.

A happier parent = a happier child. Try it, and you’ll notice how much happier everyone is.

Natalie Shay is a Psychotherapist and Stress Management Counsellor. She works with individuals and consults with organizations with respect to topics such as stress management, burn-out prevention, work/life balance and emotional eating. She works with clients to help them overcome ineffective habits and create healthier new ones. Natalie can be reached directly at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or (416) 726-5631.

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