TLP 216: Avoiding Parental Burnout
Does it feel like you can’t do any further? Have you just had enough? Are you feeling like parenting is so much harder than you thought it would be? Join AMBrewster as he helps Christian parents understand the root of burnout and shares some important ways to beat parental burnout.
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“Emotions and Parenting”
“Why You Feel the Way You Feel”
“What You Need for Joy in Your Parenting”
“Teach Your Children to Be Grateful”
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At the beginning of the school year we have in-service training for the Victory staff members, and this year our school administrator presented a session called “Beating Burnout.”
I’ve taken the notes from that workshop and reworked them to deal specifically with the struggles we have in parenting.
Because, let’s be honest, there are days we simply don’t want to do it anymore, and they’re only newborns!
Seriously! The late night feedings, the constant care, and though the challenges morph as our children age, it’s very easy for the pressures to wear on us to such a point that we feel like we simply can’t do it any more.
So, how do we avoid this burnout?
Before we answer that, let me take a moment to thank Cara for being an awesome friend and supporter of TLP.
As one of our Patrons, Cara is part of the team that gets to read my book before it’s published. She’s eagerly awaiting the first chapters so she can — no doubt — return it to me covered in red ink.
Seriously, that’s not her job, but she’s volunteered to do it, and — as a Patron — reading the book before everyone else gets it is one of her perks.
Perhaps you too may consider becoming a Patron, and there is plenty of information about that awaiting you at TruthLoveParent.com.
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Okay, let’s talk about avoiding burnout.
Dan Raught, our school administrator defined burnout in this way, “Burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that occurs among individuals who do people work of some kind.”
Let’s take this apart.
First, parents are defiantly individuals who do “people work.”
Second, have you ever experienced emotional exhaustion your parenting?
Third, have you ever felt detached from the people with whom you’re working? Depersonalization refers to a time when the very personal work of molding a human being becomes more like molding dirt . . . there’s no real relationship anymore.
Fourth, have you felt like you’re just not accomplishing anything in your parenting?
If any or all of those apply to you then I think it’s safe to say you’re experiencing parental burnout.
And if, perhaps you’re still not sure, Dan offered some symptoms of burnout:
Did any of that resonate with you?
Some people refer to this as “compassion fatigue.”
Let’s be honest, I think we’ve all felt things like that at different times? Hopefully, we were able to bounce out of it. But did it last? Did we exit that stage of our parenting in a Christ-honoring way or by yanking ourselves up by our bootstraps?
Well, let’s start by acknowledging from where burnout comes.
It’s easy to blame others, but that’s simply not the case.
It’s not your babies fault you don’t want to go on any more. It’s not your teenagers fault you wish they would just run away.
Like we discussed last time, super judgey feelings like that generally grow from a lapse in our own thinking and believing.
Here are some common roots of family burnout:
Now, did you hear how many times we’ve used the word “feel”?
We’ve done a number of episodes about emotions and feelings. If you’re experiencing any extreme emotional swings, I want to kindly challenge you to listen to some of those episodes.
We talk about it in great length in episodes 32 and 33, a two part series called “Emotions and Parenting.”
But we also discuss Fearless Parenting in episode 40, and we have our Peaceful Parent series that starts in episode 69.
Then we talk about why people feel what they feel in episode 97. That’s a powerful study.
We discuss how to have joy in your parenting regardless of the circumstances in episodes 120 and 121.
And we just did a two-part episode called “Teach Your Children to Be Grateful” which is also a big part of this discussion.
Listen, it’s too stinking easy for our emotions to lie to us, and a lot of the symptoms and roots of burnout boil down to our wrong believing.
It goes right back to the concepts we learned in the Merest Christianity series. What we believe is our biggest enemy.
Anyway, Dan offered the following challenges, and I want to admonish you in the same way.
If you’re starting to feel burned out in your parenting:
1. Pay close attention to the spiritual gauges God’s placed in your life.
Your fruit: your actions, words, and emotions will evidence whether or not the roots of your life are as healthy as they should be.
You’re not going to magically turn around, if you want to genuinely attack the sinful thinking that’s leading you into burnout, you’re going to need to honestly deal with Truth of God.
2. Focus on obeying God, not on producing something in your family.
We’ve discussed this quite a bit. You can’t change your kids, but you can submit to and obey God. He has called you to speak His Truth in love; He hasn’t called you to save your kids.
If you think your parenting is supposed to result in your kids being perfect, of course you’re going to be burned out when that doesn’t happen.
3. Resist the lies of the flesh.
When you’re tempted to think that God loves you because of what you do and accomplish for Him, choose to believe the Truth that He loves for because He loves you, and and it has nothing to do with your parenting skills.
When you think that God doesn’t understand what you’re going through, choose to believe that He intimately knows all of our fleshly weaknesses, and He’s working with you on those areas.
When you’re tempted to be fatalistic and see all of this as a cosmic accident, remind yourself that God is sovereignly in control. Your family — whether biological, adopted, fostered, or step — was ordained by God before the foundation of the world for His greatest glory and your greatest good.
When you’re tempted to believe that it’s impossible to parent this child, choose to believe that God has gifted you with everything you need for life in godliness in His Word and through His Spirit.
When you’re tempted to believe that no one needs you, remind yourself that God thinks otherwise. You’re not an accident. If you are his child, you are an integral part of His body here on earth. He has a very important plan for you, but you’ll miss it if you’re focused on your pitty-party.
And stop believing the lie that self-reliance, pride, anxiety, frantic activity, and fear of man are His will for us. Your family’s spiritual success does not all depend on you.
4. Embrace the necessity for physical and spiritual rest.
Jesus called His follower to come apart and rest awhile. We even see the very real physical fatigue He experienced.
In addition, God doesn’t want us endlessly being up the Temple of God. We so often abuse it by driving ourselves harder than He requires.
In Scripture we’re frequently referred to as clay jars that are weak and broken. My mom likes to say that we’re all just a bunch of cracked pots.
Dan Raught made the observation that Satans wants us living schizophrenic lives. He wants us double-minded, unstable in all of our ways. He wants us believing we can do more than we can. He wants us to compartmentalize our lives and our families and our parenting instead of seeing them as one glorious whole.
I believe we Western Christians need to take the 4th Commandment more seriously.
Exodus 20:8-10 reads, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
Now, we don’t have time to talk about all the implication of this passage here and now, but I do think we need to understand that the First 3 Commands deal with our relationship with God, and the last 6 Commands deal with our relationship with others, but the 4th Command is an interesting bridge.
Jesus was the one who said that, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” But it was made for man to keep holy.
The idea of holy is that it’s to be set apart for a specific purpose, and I believe that as we fail to set aside time for God’s purposes in our lives we will experience burnout.
Now, we don’t have time to explore all the ins-and-outs of Sabbath rest. I actually want to take a longer time dealing with this somewhat controversial topic at a later date.
For now just know that I’m not telling you that you need to Sabbath on Saturday, I’m not a 7th Day Adventist, and I’m not suggesting we adopt the Jewish sabbatical requirements.
I merely want to acknowledge that God commands us to rest and Westerners stink at resting.
So, here are three main points for us to consider as we see rest as a necessary part of glorifying God, and — subsequently — not burning out in our parenting.
1. Every Seven days God wants you to rest.
He wants us to cease from labor and rest your bodies. But this is not to be a luxury; it’s a necessity for those who want to bring order to their private world.
Please don’t mistake what God is calling us to for leisure and entertainment. They do not bring order. They are enjoyable, but they are like what cotton candy is to the digestive system. It will perk you up but it is only momentary. Fun-filled moments, diversions, laughter, recreation are all good things and needed in our lives however they do not “restore our souls” in the ways that we desperately need.
We need to rest so that our bodies can function the way God created.
2. Every Seven days God wants you to be refreshed.
In the Creation account we read that God rested. This word means He ceased from labor and refreshed Himself. When God rested, He looked upon His work, enjoyed its completed appearance, and then reflected upon its meaning: “And God saw that it was good.”
God brought closure to His great work by reflecting upon it and seeing its purpose and significance. And Dan and I believe that we become refreshed in our parenting as we gaze upon our last 6 days of parenting and ask questions like: What does my parenting mean? For whom did I parent this week? How well did I parent? Why did parent the way I did? What results did I expect, and what did I receive?
You see, God wants us to interpret our parenting, to press meaning into it, to make sure we know to Whom it’s dedicated.
The average parent desperately needs to sense a significance, yet we rarely take time to gain it. We lose sight of what this is all about.
Parenting that goes for weeks at a time without genuine pause to inquire of its meaning and purpose may grow our reputation but will drain us of joy and vitality.
3. Every Seven Days God wants you to relate to Him.
Dan Raught made the observation that the 4th commandment prescribes for us a designated time every week when we evaluate how well we are doing on the first three commands.
Remember what those were: “You shall have no other God’s before me.” Does God have first place in every area of my life?
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth.” Am I using worship substitutes? God wants us to relate personally to Him, not find our identity in our families.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in Vain.” Have I used God’s name or reputation to establish my authority at the expense of His glory? Have I reflected poorly on my Father in any way?
We do this when we garage our kids with Bible and claim the name and authority of God when — in actuality — we’re just parenting toward our purposes.
The point is this — burnout in parenting rarely results because the job is too big. God never promised that it would be easy but He did promise that He would give us everything we need to do the job to the best of our ability to His honor and glory, and even when it doesn’t go the way we want, He promises that we can have peace and contentment and joy and gratitude.
Therefore, burnout is — more often than not — a result of our own spiritual weakness. Too often our expectations are wrong, and when we don’t achieve what we want we feel like we’re failures.
Too often our motivations are wrong, and when we realize that no one is working toward our desired ends besides us, we want to give up. And we should. We should be moving toward God’s desired ends . . . and that never leaves us alone.
Therefore, if you’re feeling overtired or like butter spread over too much bread, you need to stop and reevaluate.
You need to reject the lies your emotions are telling you. You need to embrace the promises God has made to you, but you also need to make sure you’re doing things in the right way.
Romans 8:28 only promises that all things will work together for good to those you are working toward God’s purposes. That means we need to be doing it His way.
This will include spending ample time in God’s Word and working to not only parent the right way, but also follow the rest of the plan which includes how we work and play and learn and worship and rest.
Now, before we end, let me clarify that I was not encouraging you to take a Sabbath from parenting. Yeah, that will never work. That would make you a bad parent.
But we need to Sabbath in order to be able to parent well.
Now — like I said — there is so much more that can be said about this, the point is that we need to reevaluate our parenting in light of God’s Word, rest our bodies and spirits, refresh our soul in plan and purposes of God, and relate to Him in all things.
This will give new purpose, passion, and power in our parenting.
Please share this episode and get our episode notes from TLP.
And don't miss our next episode. I probably should have done it before this episode, but I think it will be a beneficial stand-alone topic, but it will piggy-back off of this concept very well.
We’ve talked a lot about parenting terrorists, but are you sometimes tempted to be a terrorist parent? I guarantee you terrorist parents won’t just burnout; they’re going to blowup or meltdown!
So, perhaps if we see some earmarks of terrorist parenting in us, we’ll understand better why we’re burning out in our parenting.
TeamTLP and I want nothing but the strongest, Christ-honoring family you can have, and we’re dedicated to doing all we can to that end.
So, we’ll see you next time.
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