66 Percent of Working Parents Are Burned Out, Here Are 5 Ways to Reset

As a researcher and working mom of four, Kate Gawlik has developed the first-ever Working Parent Burnout Scale to help caregivers recognize burnout signs and get the help they need.
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Assistant Editor
June 23, 2022
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As an Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing at Ohio State University, a writer, researcher and mom of four children under 10 years old, Kate Gawlik understands what it means to be a burned-out parent. What she didn’t understand was why there was no way to measure burnout. There are clinically proven scales to measure pain, depression and anxiety, but nothing to quantify that oh-so-familiar tired and overwhelmed feeling.

Alongside Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, the dean of the College of Nursing at Ohio State, Gawlik created the first-ever valid and reliable Working Parent Burnout Scale. Using this new method, the two surveyed over 1,000 working parents with children under 18. The results showed that a staggering 66 percent of parents met the criteria for burnout.

The study also found that women are more likely than men to experience burnout, with 68 percent reporting burnout versus 42 percent of males. There was also a strong correlation between parents who had a child with ADHD or anxiety reporting burnout (77 and 73 percent, respectively).

The toll of burnout doesn’t just affect parents, though. Of parents who reported severe levels of burnout, researchers found there was a dramatic increase in the likelihood that those parents may insult, criticize, scream and spank their children.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, though. Recognizing and intervening for parental burnout have been shown to improve both parent and child outcomes. In the report, you can find the Working Parent Burnout Scale to determine your own level of burnout. Parents can rank how often they experience things like “I find joy in parenting my children” or “I get/feel easily irritated with my children.” Based on your level of burnout, Gawlik and Melnyk provide tips and resources for help.

“We want parents to understand they’re not alone in their struggles. Recognizing when you need help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and we hope that our report and the suggestions we include will be a step in that direction,” Gawlik told WebMD.

Gawlik’s Top Five Tips for Beating Burnout:

  1. Take good self-care (it is not selfish!): Even a five- to ten-minute recovery break a couple of times a day to enhance your well-being or engage in something that brings you joy does wonders. Drink a warm beverage slowly, do a five-minute meditation, dance to your favorite music or walking up and down the stairs.
  2. Be kind to yourself: Don’t set expectations too high. Don’t overcommit or feel guilty for saying “no” to something. Forgive yourself; everyone has strengths and opportunities for improvement.
  3. Talk to someone you trust about how you feel: Stay connected to family and friends.
  4. Build your mental resiliency and coping skills: This can include practicing mindfulness, developing cognitive-behavioral skills, practicing gratitude and self-affirmations and deep abdominal breathing.
  5. Ask for help: If your level of burnout, anxiety or depressive symptoms interfere with your ability to function or concentrate, talk to your primary care provider or seek mental health help. It is a strength to recognize when we need help, not a weakness.

The next time you feel overwhelmed or like you are failing at parenting, consider these 20 Positive Parenting Affirmations to Boost Your Mental Health.

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