### Coping with Parenting Burnout After Three Decades: Nurturing a 10-Year-Old Amidst Exhaustion

Q: How can I rekindle my enthusiasm for parenting as my children approach adulthood? Despite my deep love for my kids and the efforts I’ve made to prioritize them in my life and career, I recently found myself feeling disengaged. After 31 years of parenting with eight more to go, I catch myself daydreaming about escaping to an island with turtles. However, I recognize that this mindset isn’t fair to my youngest, who is 10 years old. Can you offer me some perspective?

A: It’s commendable that you’ve reached out, as many parents encounter moments of burnout that necessitate reflection. The reference to “eight left to go” likely pertains to your 10-year-old reaching 18 and embarking on their own journey. Let’s explore this further.

Parenting fatigue is a common phenomenon, especially when juggling full-time work alongside childcare responsibilities. The relentless stress often leaves us feeling drained, yet we may overlook the toll it takes on us, assuming our exhaustion is abnormal. Our societal structures, from childcare to healthcare systems, frequently lack adequate support for parents, particularly those from non-White backgrounds. Similar to a fish unaware of being in water, we may fail to realize how societal norms contribute to parental exhaustion.

The reasons behind structuring your life around your children extend beyond love. They could stem from past experiences, unmet needs, or societal pressures. It’s essential to acknowledge that prioritizing your children for an extended period can lead to neglecting your own well-being. While each family differs, instilling responsibility and fostering age-appropriate independence in children cultivates resilience. Children benefit from understanding that everyone’s needs hold significance, teaching them valuable life lessons. Jessica Lahey’s book, “The Gift of Failure,” delves deeper into this concept.

Now, as you contemplate escaping to an island with turtles, it’s crucial to decipher what this desire signifies for you. Seeking clarity, possibly with the guidance of a therapist or supportive resources, can illuminate underlying needs for solitude, self-care, or reconnecting with nature. Understanding your personal requirements is vital to genuine self-care, transcending temporary solutions. Seeking professional assistance during such pivotal moments is not uncommon; it signifies a proactive approach to navigating life’s transitions.

While addressing your own needs, it’s imperative to revitalize your bond with your 10-year-old. Scheduling dedicated quality time with your child, treating it as a priority, can foster connection and joy. Engaging in shared activities like weekend getaways, creative projects, or cultural outings can strengthen your relationship. Remember, genuine happiness is infectious, and witnessing your joy can profoundly impact your child.

Incorporating your daughter’s input in activity planning fosters collaboration and excitement. The process itself can be enjoyable, enhancing the overall experience. By acknowledging and addressing your evolving needs, you pave the way for renewed energy and engagement in parenting. Stay curious, seek support, and embark on this journey of rediscovery. Best of luck.

Meghan Leahy hosts a live chat every other Wednesday at 11 a.m. Submit a question to her next live chat here.