Parental burnout

Busyness & Parental Burnout

November 25, 2022

This week I’m reflecting on busyness and its relationship with parental burnout. Or any other kind of burnout for that matter. 

If you prefer to listen, I talk about this on the podcast this week. 

Just like how we say “good” or “busy” when people ask as how we are, we know these aren’t emotions. They are fillers for when we are avoiding emotions or just trying to maintain the status quo.

As a Psychologist every single week someone will ask or comment that I “must be busy”.

They tend to look at me funny when I reply “no”. 

I know that most psychologists and counsellors are flat out. Sometimes I’ve felt that I ‘should’ be too, but I’ve been there and done that.

Being busy is no longer a tool I use to feel safe.

Let me explain.

Beyond the usual patriarchal undertones of why women feel the need to be busy and productive it goes deeper for some of us:

Being busy studying was an adaptive response I developed early. It kept me safe by:

Keeping me out of the firing range when our household was filled with chaos or stress

Giving me a new identity and a purpose to keep going to school when I was experiencing bullying

Being busy was a way for me to avoid the social overwhelm of drinking culture and parties at uni

Being busy kept me in ‘Good Girl’ mode which I used to feel I needed to activate to protect me from getting fired 

Being busy was a strategy to keep my anxiety in check as a new mum (it also kept me awake)

I had trauma from the birth I was desperately trying to move on from quickly. I didn’t know what to do with a baby who wouldn’t sleep so I literally kept myself in motion so as to not accidentally fall asleep while I was caring for her. 

My body has shown me that I’m no longer built for being busy.

I’ve learned to tolerate stillness and embrace it because that’s where the growth happens. Without stillness I couldn’t have recognised any of the patterns I’ve described to you just now. 

This week I ask you to reflect – where are you avoiding stillness?

Where has being busy kept you safe?

Is it time to kneel down and acknowledge the adaptive inner child who developed this coping mechanism? Is it time to say “you can give that box to me now” and let adult you step in and realise you can create your own safety without being busy? That there is in fact, safety in stillness?

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