7 tips for how to recover from toddler stage burnoutWritten by Carol Cuppy
What's inside this article
Madison sank to the cold linoleum floor. She closed her eyes and pressed her back against the closed bathroom door. Her husband was watching the kids, who were both under the age of five, which meant she had exactly five minutes to herself before one of them started banging on the bathroom door, hollering, “Mama!” Caring for two toddlers day in and day out left her wondering how to recover from the parental burnout that the toddler stage brought.
Madison was a stay-at-home mom who had given up a career in biochemistry and other hobbies to devote herself to her kids full time. She loved her kids with all her heart but had to admit that the stress, strain, and tedium wore on her and got her down sometimes. This moment on the bathroom floor was one of them. As she picked at a fraying string on the bathmat, she wondered what she could do to preserve herself and prevent an all-out breakdown. Madison needed some ways to avoid the parental burnout that she was constantly staring in the face. She wondered how to recover from the burnout that was already gnawing at her core.
Parental burnout during the toddler stage
There is no getting around it, bringing up a toddler requires a seemingly limitless supply of time and energy. If you have other children at home, the demands on your attention may seem even more overwhelming. Simply maintaining some semblance of order can be a daunting task, and worrying about such niceties as a child’s language development may sound like a fantasy if you feel immersed in total chaos.
There may be other pressures during the toddler stage, too. Since you’ve elected to stay at home, you may sometimes have the sense that your brain is rapidly turning to mush and that the stimulating worlds of education and career are passing you by. There may be days when you say to yourself, “I’ve got a degree, I was making real progress in my field, and now all I’m doing is changing diapers and listening to childish babble.”
Under such circumstances, it’s easy to get discouraged and feel parental burnout. You might even become overwhelmed by feelings of regret. That’s when it’s time to stand up and reaffirm the choice you’ve made. That’s when you need to remind yourself that the task you’ve taken on is vitally important and deeply significant. After all, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Take heart! If you’re asking yourself how to recover from burnout, there are steps you can take.
How to recover from burnout
Because so much is going on in your toddler’s life, he needs meaningful attention and input from the most important people in his life. If he doesn’t get it, he’s missing out on the most crucial aspect of human experience. If he does, there’s no telling how your influence may enable him to change his world for the better someday. So if feel that you’re struggling to just survive, try fighting back with the seven following anti-burnout strategies:
1. Find quiet time
When looking at how to recover from burnout, there should be some time during your day when things become quiet. You cannot collect your thoughts or anything else if kids are up until all hours of the night. The conclusion is obvious: setting boundaries and an early bedtime for small children is not only good for them but also necessary for you.
2. Spend time with God
Some of this quiet time should be designated for spiritual reflection, reading, praying and journaling. A daily devotional will provide not only refreshment but some perspective on how your parenting tasks fit into the big picture of who God is and what he’s doing in your life and the world.
3. Lose the guilt
Don’t feel as if you are wasting your time and education by focusing your primary attention on your children. Believe it or not, the world isn’t passing you by. There will be plenty of time to make your mark later on. This doesn’t mean that you have to put your brain in neutral, of course, or that all outside activities must come to a screeching halt. It’s simply to acknowledge that there are seasons in life and that this is the season for concentrating on the up-and-coming generation’s needs.
4. Become a student of your child
Try to remember that this particular period of your child’s life is not only critical for development but, in fact, fascinating. Remember, there are lots of people out there who are earning advanced degrees in education and childhood development simply so that they can understand what is unfolding in front of you every single day. In a very real sense, you have an opportunity to become a student of the human condition right in your own living room. You can be an observer as well as a caregiver. You may even want to consider doing some additional reading about this phase of your child’s life to supplement all the hands-on experience you’re getting.
5. Take time for yourself
Since you’re a full-time parent at home, you need regular time-outs – not merely for errands but personal refreshment. These might include exercise workouts, walking in the park, strolling through the mall or meeting a friend for lunch. Yes, you will need someone to watch your kids while you do this, but it’s worth the trouble and expense.
6. Keep up the conversation
Don’t become starved for adult communication. When you reunite with your spouse at the end of the workday, the first order of business should be some unhurried and attentive conversation between the two of you. Your child(ren) should see you do this and should be informed (as often as necessary) that this is “your time” together and “their time” will arrive shortly. Not only will this help maintain your marriage, but children who see their parents regularly connecting and showing affection will feel much more secure about the stability of their world. You and your spouse should also maintain a regular date night – once a week if possible.
7. Build relationships
Build relationships with other parents who have children in the toddler stage (or even older) children. Many parents meet regularly in small groups, whether assembled spontaneously or organized by their church.
If you are struggling with toddler stage burnout, we encourage you to reach out for help. Our team of registered counsellors offers a free one-time phone consultation and can also refer you to a trusted counsellor in your area. Call us at 1.800.661.9800 Mondays to Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., or visit FocusOnTheFamily.ca/Counselling to learn more.
© 2021 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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