Parental Burnout: Mental Wellbeing of Parents at Work
Work-life balance, once a buzzword, is evolving into work-life integration, with companies offering more flexible schedules, remote working opportunities, and dedicated parental support programs. While there’s still a long way to go, these changing attitudes mark a promising start towards a more empathetic and supportive environment for working parents.
Understanding Parental Burnout
Parenting, although incredibly rewarding, can be an overwhelming journey. Parental burnout refers to a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion experienced by parents, stemming from prolonged stress and feelings of being overwhelmed by their parental responsibilities. When parents also juggle demands in their professional lives, this burnout intensifies. Research shows that parental burnout is an issue worldwide, with its highest rates rising to 8% of parents.
A World Health Organization (WHO) study highlighted that parental burnout is not simply the result of too much parenting but rather a consequence of unmet needs and constant stress. The blurred boundaries between work and family life and the continuous need to meet high standards in both areas contribute significantly to this issue.
The Repercussions of Parental Burnout
Parental burnout doesn’t just affect the parents themselves; it impacts the entire family. Exhausted and emotionally drained parents may struggle to provide the necessary emotional support and engagement that their children require. Additionally, burnout can strain the relationship between partners, leading to conflicts and misunderstandings.
The feeling of being torn between professional obligations and family responsibilities can also lead to reduced concentration and effectiveness on the job. This pressure often results in a vicious cycle, with parental burnout affecting work performance, often leading to more stress and overwhelm.
Signs of Parental Burnout
Parental burnout affects everyone differently. Some people have physical symptoms, whilst others have emotional symptoms – both may also impact you.
If you’re concerned you may be burnout, here are some signs to look out for:
- Exhaustion and feeling drained all of the time
- Loss of motivation
- Detachment from children
- Feeling helpless or in self-doubt
- Loss of parenting efficacy
- Neglecting personal needs
- Increased reliance on coping mechanisms
- ‘Mum Rage’ – linked with parental burnout and lack of self-care or support
Supporting the Mental Health of Working Parents
Recognising working parents’ challenges and addressing parental burnout is crucial for the wellbeing of individuals, families, and organisations. Justine Maguire from Onebright says, ‘ Employers have a ‘duty of care’ under UK law to protect employees’ health, safety, and welfare. It is important to recognise the parental demands of employees, and evidence suggests that organisational parental support and family-friendly working practices can facilitate better coping and subsequent work outcomes.
Here are some strategies to support the mental health of parents in the workforce:
- Flexible Work Arrangements: Employers can promote a healthy work-life balance by offering flexible work arrangements such as remote work options, flexible hours, and compressed workweeks. Flexibility allows parents to manage their professional and familial responsibilities better.
- Promotion of Self-Care: Encouraging parents to prioritise self-care is essential. This includes promoting activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as hobbies, exercise, and spending quality time with their partner and children.
- Open Communication: Creating a work environment where parents feel comfortable discussing their challenges can lead to better understanding and support. Managers can play a pivotal role by showing empathy and offering solutions tailored to individual needs.
- Training for Managers: Mental health training for managers to recognise signs of parental burnout and effectively support their team members can make a substantial difference. Managers who understand parents’ challenges can implement strategies to reduce stressors and create a more supportive work atmosphere.
- Encouraging a culture of reducing stigma: Parents who may be struggling with the stressors or managing both child care, home management and work
Onebright for parental mental health support
The convergence of parental responsibilities and work pressures can lead to burnout, affecting both parents’ and their families’ mental health and well-being. It’s imperative to recognise the significance of this issue and take proactive steps to address it. By recognising the signs of parental burnout through mental health training and supporting the parents who lead, teach, and run our businesses, we can collectively create an environment where working parents thrive, finding harmony between their roles at home and in the workforce.