Stopping parental burnout
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
When my son was 3 years old, he loved to hear stories I made up. His favorites were about a mouse, a bird, or a boy. He would ask for a story while we were driving in the car, and the characters in our stories often took on adventures closely related to experiences during our days or coming events in our family life.
Having a job outside the home, I have to try hard to be fully present with my child when I get home from work. While I'm tempted to fling myself onto the couch and read the mail, I work at giving my son my full attention and listening to him tell about his day. But during his third year, I knew too well the feeling of being overwhelmed and exhausted.
My work was demanding more of me, including many long hours and increased focus, as well as travel throughout the country and overseas. In order to maintain perspective on my family duties and find the rhythm of work and family life, I persevered to find moments to pray quietly for myself and my family.
I turned my attention to God in the early hours of the morning, asking, "Father, how do I know you will guide me through all I have to do today?" Often, the answer came in the form of a passage from II Corinthians: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (II Cor. 4:7-9).
Although I sometimes was perplexed about how everything that needed my attention would get taken care of, I trusted during many weeks that although I didn't have all the answers, I didn't have to be in despair. This helped me let go of the feeling of wanting to control the schedule and outcome of every day and helped foster an outlook of receptivity to how God would unfold each moment.
Now my work is organized out of a home office, but even with fewer outward demands, I find I have to practice the same discipline: to let God shape and strengthen my days instead of wanting to be the one who's in charge.
One particular day, I had picked my son up after work, and he asked me for a story. While I wanted to be inspired, strong, and full of life, I felt drained. But I usually cherished these times to share, and I wanted to let him know it.
I tiredly told him a mouse story. He then asked for a story about a bird. I managed this one also. When he asked for a third story, I sighed and explained I was just out of ideas for stories that day. He thought for a minute and then said, "Mommy, if you just ask God, He'll give you some ideas for a story."
I couldn't argue with this, and his simple trust in God's power to provide us with whatever we need lifted me out of fatigue and burnout. I was able not only to tell him another story, but the overwhelmed, tired feeling left, and I found that the reserves I thought were emptied had somehow become filled.
This was the start to finding greater peace and balance in my parenting. I began to discover the truth of this passage by Mary Baker Eddy: "The highest and sweetest rest, even from a human standpoint, is in holy work" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pages 519-520).
Someone said that the solution to fatigue is wholeheartedness. I found that in my parenting, as I learned to give wholeheartedly to whatever task was at hand, I often forgot about how tired I was and how much I had to do. I also found ways to enjoy what was going on, either at work or at home, and this took my mind off the burden.
Being run ragged is not a requirement of parenting. But parenting takes a sweet sense of how we are being parented - that God doesn't get burned out parenting us. We can acknowledge His parenting and live as His reflection. Human energy will run out. But divine reflection is infinite and always at hand.
We're inclined to believe that the tasks of our day come from our children's schedules, our manager, or the needs of the household, rather than from the infinite Mind. The impulse of life comes from God knowing and caring for us.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.