Parental burnout is real. How raising children has led to fatigue among millennial fathers

Becoming a father is among one the most rewarding experiences in a man’s life. Parenting is accompanied by numerous responsibilities, and sometimes issues. While the feeling of fatherhood and its little joys are countless, the challenges of parenting can leave many men exhausted.

When it comes to parental burnout, mothers (and their fatigue and postpartum depression) have been talked about at length. However, men too, experience the stress considering the demanding nature of raising a child.

And the pandemic has not made it easy for many fathers trying to strike a balance between their professional commitments and parental responsibilities, consequently resulting in anxiety and stress. Psychologists, hence, feel that parental burnout has now moved beyond the constraints of gender.

Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, says that one needs to understand that burnout can happen to either of the parents irrespective of gender. “Gender here doesn’t have a context because a parent has multiple roles to play with multiple responsibilities. And, the pressure of making sure that both home, as well as work fronts, are well aligned. Economics, finances, job, house and children have their own needs and need attention. All of this can put a lot of pressure, especially during early parenthood,” says Parikh.

The stress stems from the fact that today’s families are smaller with limited support systems. And, in the early parenting days, parents go through a transition as it’s a new role and responsibility. In an effort to adapt to the new lifestyle with limited support, they tend to take on a lot of pressure leading to eventual burnout. This, according to psychologists, is affecting fathers in equal measure. Many fathers have been experiencing chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.

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The Imbalance At Home

“With mothers focussing on raising the child, the responsibility of fathers is doubled with additional expectations of turning into the source of constant support. We have to admit that fathers are stressed and they require a support system. A recent study on millennial fathers revealed a 70% increase in the number of stay-at-home dads as compared to 1989. Now, their key role doesn’t restrict to just financially supporting the family, rather they play an active role in being a father and equally contribute towards raising a child,” shared Dr Parul Gairola, Assistant Professor, Clinical Psychology, at Santosh Deemed To Be University.

Fathers have a strong influence on the development and mental health of a child. Various research attests to the fact that warm and friendly father-child relationships have a huge impact on the child’s well-being as well as mental and physical health. All this makes it more important to address parental stress among fathers.

“The stress of running a show with both parents working is very difficult. Thankfully both my parents were at home and were able to make our lives simpler. Although things were not easy, prioritizing helped me manage things better. Besides, I feel fathers are mostly excluded and are rarely acknowledged,” shared Abhinav Srivastava, Lead Business Analyst, Societe General Global Solution Center.

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Pandemic Woes

The pandemic has added to the stress of many fathers across the world. Especially with the shift in work patterns leading to an imbalance in personal time, many fathers have asserted that the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have aggravated parental burnout.

“The pandemic has been a particularly stressful time. I work in the IT sector and the job entails numerous back-to-back meetings, tight deadlines, and endless Zoom calls. I have twin boys aged 2, and with the office resume for my wife it became extremely difficult working from home and managing the boys. Fatherhood stress is real, and these issues need to be addressed by organizations and support systems,” says Rajdeep Panchal, an IT professional.

Dr Parikh states that the best way to deal with parenting stress is to accept that one is the facilitator of growth. According to Parikh, fathers need to take care of their diets, and relationships with spouses, children and other family members. They need to ensure that they dedicate time to themselves to strike a balance in life.

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