Battling Parental Burnout with Shelley Kemmerer
In today’s episode of the Gentle Parenting Show, Kim talks with Shelley Kemmerer, PA-C, MCHS. Shelley is the founder of Run Tell Mom which offers parental wellbeing resources that are tailored for your unique household. They provide resources to improve sleep, prevent burnout, connections to parent support groups, locate family activities and local essential services, household & family planning, and return-to-work planning to name a few. Together, Kim and Shelley talk about what burnout actually means, how to communicate with your partner to ease stress and how important sleep is to overall well-being.
Why Run Tell Mom?
When Shelley was going to PA school she was pregnant. Through her pregnancy, labor, and postpartum experiences, she realized something was missing in her overall care. She felt like her whole life changed when she had a child, but that she couldn’t really ask her provider questions if they weren’t medical. She found that a lot of new families have these lifestyle questions as well, and don’t know who to ask.
At Run Tell Mom, they examine the modifiable and nonmodifiable elements of becoming parents. Then, they create practical packages for parents to use. These packages include resources to get help for their specific issues. Run Tell Mom does not replace medical care but rather works in companion with the care guidelines given by medical practitioners.
Parental Burnout – What Does it Mean?
Shelley shares that people come to Run Tell Mom when they are feeling burnt out. Burnout is a very “hot” topic right now on social media, but Shelley shares 3 hallmark points that show actual parental burnout:
- An overwhelming and significant feeling of exhaustion due to parenting.
- Emotional distancing from your child(ren) and family.
- A lack of joy and ineffectiveness in the parenting role.
So, how do you overcome these 3 hallmarks? Shelley suggests looking at the modifiable and nonmodifiable parts of your life. Which things are affecting your stress level? Shelley suggests to “triage your home. This means categorizing things into urgent and non-urgent. Is a dirty sink urgent? Truthfully, no!”
By triaging your home into urgent and non-urgent issues, you open up more room for self-care practices and lighten your stress load.
At the time of this episode, October 2021, a lot of parents are still facing the effects of a global pandemic. During the height of the pandemic, burnout was even more abundant. Parents had their kids home 24/7 on top of trying to work from home, homeschool, and maintain relationships from a distance.
There have been some really big issues that have plagued parents the past year a half. At Run Tell Mom, they have resources to help families with these issues. Something that Shelley shares in this episode is the “211” resource. In most states, if you dial 211 on your phone you’ll be connected with help for food, bills, and mental wellbeing. Check to see if this is available in your state.
When Burnout Gets Bad
Kim asks Shelley how parents can tell if it’s burnout or just overwhelm. Shelley advises that the most important thing you can do is to make sure you have a solid medical team in place. If you have a solid team in place, they will be able to help you differentiate between overwhelm and burnout. You may be stressed over a long period of time and don’t know what to do. First, go ask your doctor what to do. Then, turn to resources like Run Tell Mom for more help.
One of the most important remedies to burnout is having solid communication. Shelley advises that you ask yourself who your first line of help is. If you’re in a partnership or marriage, it may be your spouse or partner. If you’re a single parent, maybe it’s a friend or family member. Utilize this helpline. Communicate clearly what you need! Here are some areas where Shelley advises having strong communication:
- Mental Health
Shelley shares some examples of the conversations to have with each category. For example, with sleep, the common advice of “sleep when the baby sleeps” isn’t always productive. For parents, there’s always something to be done, and sleeping when the baby sleeps can sometimes induce guilt. In this situation, rely on your first resource and communicate about this. Who sleeps when? Get on a schedule.
Cultivating a Healthy Eco-System
Cultivating a healthy ecosystem is vital at home and individually. Individually, your health system is made up of partner support, your career, nutrition, and sleep. To remain healthy, you need to ask for help and communicate.
Shelley introduced listeners to a paradigm of “maternal gatekeeping”. This is when as moms, we feel that we should everything. We should know exactly what our children need. We shouldn’t have to ask for help for something we were meant to do. But all of this leads to burnout! We have to be able to let go and let our partners or helplines do something for us.
Another piece of advice for having a healthy ecosystem is to always be having a conversation. Expectations, needs, and wants are constantly changing, so we always need to be communicating what we need. Discussion helps avoid burnout.
Burnout and Sleep
As a sleep expert, Kim was curious about the ties between sleep and burnout. Of course, we all need sleep. Even children! Sleep makes us happier, impacts our immune system, blood pressure, and everything.
The early months can be so hard. Unpredictable sleep schedule can lead to exhaustion, and burnout for parents. But, when your child is on a more predictable sleep schedule, you’re life gets much simpler as a parent. If you need help getting on a schedule, The Sleep Lady can help.
The Run Tell Mom Process
Shelley takes some time to explain the Run Tell Mom Process. Anyone can request help from Run Tell Mom, partners, grandparents, anyone. The professionals at Run Tell Mom then take a deep look into your household and your needs and provide the best resources. The most important part of the Run Tell Mom process is to put systems in place so you don’t burn out again.