Preventing Parent Burnout: from the Parent Powerline
11/4/2019 5:00:00 AM by: Becky Cerling Powers

During my first fifteen whirlwind years of mothering, I became a burnout veteran. I burned out regularly every other year until my pastor pointed out my problem:

I was so focused on meeting everybody’s else’s needs – my kids, my traveling husband, my husband’s students, my aging in-laws, the neighbors, the other soccer moms, the people at church – that I neglected my own needs.

I was like the little kid who gets so intent on helping his friends create a highway system in the dirt for their cars, that he wets his pants.

So after fifteen years of experience in mothering, I taught myself Becky’s Potty Training Principles for the Prevention of Burnout:

Quit dancing around and go to the toilet.

That means: Learn to recognize and do something about your needs before things start getting out of control.

When my pastor told me to replenish myself by caring for my own needs, I discovered a problem. I didn’t know what my needs were. I understood the importance of exercise, rest and proper diet. But my pastor pointed out inner needs that were just as important: needs for solitude, prayer, time with friends, mental stimulation, spiritual growth and creative expression.

Sometimes we assume it isn’t spiritual to have needs. The apostle Paul was more realistic. He told Timothy he was lonely and asked him to come quickly and bring along Mark (I Tim 4:9-13). He also asked Timothy to bring his cloak and parchments. He recognized and admitted physical needs (winter was coming, so he would need his cloak to keep warm), intellectual needs (he wanted his parchments), and emotional needs (he longed for his friends).

Use the bathroom.

Junior is not allowed to use the bushes or the neighbors’ fence. Inner needs likewise must be met in ways that take other folks into consideration.

This is where many people get confused. Some trample all over other people’s welfare in the name of self-fulfillment. Others, wanting to avoid selfishness, go to the opposite extreme and ignore their inner needs altogether.

The solution is to build a bathroom in your house – that is, build a routine solution for meeting personal needs into the fabric of your week. For me, that included getting up early for some quiet time with God before the family woke, writing a journal, keeping a weekly date with my husband, and trying to get together regularly with close friends.

It’s up to you

Only Junior can tell when his body begins to signal that his bladder is filling, so Junior is the guy responsible for doing something about it. Adults, likewise, are responsible for noticing and dealing with their own personal needs.

You are responsible for yourself. However…

Ask for help when you need it

If the family is shopping when Junior needs to pee, he’s supposed to tell someone. Likewise, if Mom needs a break, she can ask somebody like Dad or a friend for help.

Sometimes people have to insist. Sometimes Junior’s parents don’t want to be inconvenienced by a trip to the bathroom on their way to the checkout counter. They say, “Can’t you wait?” when he can’t. His body is sending its signals to him, not to his parents, so he must be the one to judge when it’s time to take action.

Taking care of genuine needs cannot be postponed indefinitely. Parents potty-train children to prevent messes. They need to take burnout prevention measures for themselves for the same reason.

©Becky Cerling Powers 1990


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