Whether you have been a mom for six months or 60 years, we can all agree that parenthood is stressful. In 2017, an NIH study was released on the extent on "parent burnout" and the extent of “happiness” experienced by parents. See Feeling Pressure to Be a Perfect Mother Relates to Parental Burnout and Career Ambitions (nih.gov). The study found that while parenthood may benefit some outcomes such as life meaning, people with children (especially younger children) experience greater fatigue and exhaustion and show lower life satisfaction and higher depressive symptoms than people without children.
Fast-forward to 2020 when the pandemic upended daily life and caused even more parent burnout. Since the onset of the pandemic, parents remaining employed were likely working from home while juggling childcare or working at an essential job and attempting to coordinate childcare while most childcare centers and schools were closed. Parents of school-aged children were likely assisting with schoolwork or facilitating full-time education to their children through distance learning. Black parents in particular confronted, and had to explain to their children, the many instances of injustice that were broadcast each day in the media. In addition, studies showed that black families were disparately impacted by the COVID pandemic.
In July 2021, the NIH studied parent’s experiences during the pandemic across all income levels. Parenting During COVID‐19: A Study of Parents' Experiences Across Gender and Income Levels (nih.gov). The NIH found that when parents were distressed for extended periods, such as during the pandemic, that parental burnout persisted, and in fact deepened. Parental burnout is characterized by overwhelming exhaustion, loss of accomplishment in one's parenting role, and emotional distancing from one's children. This student found that:
· 69% of parents reported at least one symptom of parental burnout;
· 54% agreed that they "are so tired by their role as a parent that sleeping doesn't seem like enough,"
· 51% agreed that they are "completely run down by their role as a parent," and
· 36.5% agreed they are "looking after their children on autopilot."
At one point, with more people taking the COVID vaccines, it looked like we were turning a corner and returning to some sense of normalcy which would help to alleviate the burnout parents are experiencing. But with the onset of the Delta and Omicron variants, schools are re-thinking or delaying a return to in-person teaching as hospitalizations and infections spike upwards again.
This has all exacerbated parental stress and burnout. There are many ways to alleviate stress, and one way that is accessible to many parents is meditation. Meditation has been described as the practice of concentrated focus on a sound, object, breath, movement, or attention to increased awareness of the present moment. As reported in Psychology Today, meditation has many benefits.
“Meditating even for as little as 10 minutes increases the brain’s alpha waves (associated with relaxation) and decreases anxiety and depression. Meditation has been shown to increase focus, reduce stress, and promote calmness. It can help parents recognize and accept negative emotions – especially when it is done in combination with mindfulness practices that keep people grounded in experiencing the present.”
Check out our podcast where we talk to Aubrey Adams, Founder of the Lotus Room, about meditation. If you are an overwhelmed parent looking for some relief, Aubrey explains what meditation is, how to do it, and its many benefits. You can find Aubrey at The Lotus Room, Lotus Room Teachers - The Lotus Room Meditation.