Avoiding Toddler-Care Burnout

How do I avoid toddler-care burnout? I'm a young stay-at-home mom with two children under the age of five. I love my kids, and I've willingly given up a career and other pursuits to devote myself to them full-time. Still, I have to admit that the stress, the strain, and the tedium all wear on me and get me down sometimes. What can I do to preserve my emotional equilibrium and prevent an all-out breakdown?

There’s 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, 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 in _______, 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. 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.”

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 you feel that you’re just marking time, becoming demented, or just enduring life in a state of semi-slave labor, try fighting back with the following anti-burnout strategies:

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: early bedtime for small chspiritual ildren is not only good for them but necessary for you.

Some of this quiet time should be designated for reflection, reading, praying and journaling.

A daily devotional will provide not only refreshment but perspective on how your parenting tasks fit into the big picture of who God is and what He’s doing in your life and in the world.

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 needs of the up-and-coming generation.

Try to remember that this particular period of your child’s life is not only extremely important but, in fact, highly interesting.

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.

Take time for yourself.

Since you’re a full-time parent at home, you need regular time-outs – not merely for errands but for 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 offspring while you do this, but it’s worth the trouble and expense.

Don’t become starved for adult communication.

When you reunite with your mate 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 husband should also maintain a regular date night – once a week if possible.

Build relationships with other parents who have young (or even older) children.

Many parents meet regularly in small groups, whether assembled spontaneously or organized by their church. In addition, hundreds of local groups affiliated with Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) meet on a regular basis across the United States (and in a number of other countries as well), offering support, conversation, and pleasant activities for mothers and their small children. For the location of a MOPS group in or near your community, call 1-800-691-8061.

If you need more advice, call our Counseling department for a free consultation. They’ll be glad to help in any way they can.


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