Parenting burnout: It’s okay to need a break from your children


Technology has made raising children even more involving and difficult

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Sometime back, a younger colleague passed by my desk at work to say hello, when I noticed that she looked somewhat distressed. When I pointed this out, she told me, sheepishly, that she didn’t think she was a good mother.

Concerned, I asked her why. She explained that her three-year-old son, her only child then, was such a handful, that she often looked forward to going to work because it presented her with a much needed break, something that filled her with guilt. The past year, she confessed, she had taken three weeks’ leave, but rather than spend it all at home with her child, who was yet to go to school, she had spent some of it at a close friend’s home, because that was the only way she would get to relax before returning to work.

She would wake up early in the morning as if she was going to work, but instead of heading to the office, she would make her way to this friend’s house, who would be away at work, and spend the day there, alternating between watching TV and sleeping, and come evening, she would return home and pick up her parenting role where she had left it. It is a strategy that got her the rest she needed, but it left her so racked with guilt, she began to question whether she deserved to be a mother.

 “Am I a bad mother?” She asked with apprehension, dreading what I would say.

To answer her question, I told her that I planned my annual leave, spread throughout the year, around the school calendar to ensure that whatever number of days I took, school was in session during half of those days, so that I could have some time to myself, several hours of the day dedicated to my needs only.

With my children at school, I could sleep in and finally get to watch the television I bought, but which they hog, or read with no interruption. When I began implementing this, I told her, I suffered from guilt too, and questioned my love for my children and convinced myself that my parenting skills were wanting, but after I realised that taking ‘a break’ from parenting once in a while, even if it was for a few hours, made me a better parent – more patient, more attentive, and more enthusiastic, the guilt melted off.

 “So no, you’re not a bad mother,” I concluded, assuring her that many more women did what we both did because it was necessary, otherwise they would suffer burnout, a factor that would undermine their ability to parent.

Children are a joy, but their needs, especially when they are younger, can be consuming. Living in a society that is getting more and more secluded by the day, such that it is frowned upon to ask your neighbour or even relative to look after your children for a few hours, parenting in today’s world is much more difficult than it was in the good old days when a child belonged to the village.

Technology, (read internet) has made raising children even more involving and difficult because apart from peer pressure, parents now have to guide and guard their children from falling prey to the many pitfalls that come with the wonderful world of tech – pornography, paedophiles, stalkers, violent and graphic content – it’s a long list.

With this in mind, let no one make you feel as if you’re an inadequate parent, a bad parent, for wanting to take a deserved break from your children once in a while.

The writer is editor, Society and Magazines, Daily Nation. Email: cnjunge@