Personal Time VS. Parenting Time


Ah yes, the sweet image of blissful parenthood that accompanies the pre-parent and pregnancy days. I clearly remember picturing myself indulging in 24/7 snuggles with my adoring newborn who never made a peep. Of course, because I loved my child so much, I had absolutely no desire to take a break or be apart from my little blessing. Not now, not ever!


Flash-forward a few years and yes, I absolutely love cuddles from my kids. But the reality is, I need a break sometimes.

I became a mom at the age of 20. I gave birth to my daughter during finals week of my junior year of college. She was extremely colicky. She breastfed exclusively and wanted nothing to do with anyone other than me. With that said, she was attached to me constantly at all times (even during classes!), except for when I was at work. I considered work to be my “me time”, and it was the only time I was ever alone.

In the moment, I thought that I was thriving, and I guess I was, in some sense. I was hitting my goals, and I graduated with my degree while managing to do school work, work part-time, and be a full-time mom. I was hitting my goals.

Looking back, however, I was struggling. I was burning out FAST. I truly don’t think I would have lasted another month delicately balancing all that was on my plate. 

Now that several years have gone by, my daughter is a little older, I’ve experienced birth and postpartum again, I wish I could go back in time and comfort the young mom who thought she had to do it all. 

I would explain to her what burnout is and how to prevent it, and I would express to her the importance of choosing to make personal time a priority over parenting time, at least once in a while.

Since I can’t go back in time, I want to share those things with you today.

What is burnout?

The term “burnout” is a metaphor used to explain the feeling of when a person “burns” through all of their mental and emotional capacity by doing one task or series of tasks repetitively.

In parenthood, burnout is extremely common. I think I can speak for most, if not all, parents when I say that we know what it feels like. 

Being a parent is a 24/7 job with no breaks (hello random 2 AM wake-up calls!?), and that makes it challenging to catch a break, especially by chance. 

What causes burnout?

A study called Parental Burnout Around the Globe (2021, March), studied over 17,000 parents across 42 countries with the intent of associating high levels of stress with parental burnout. It concluded that individualism played a larger role than any other factor or economic inequality that had been studied thus far.

Individualism is the practice of being self-reliant and not depending on anyone else. 

In most cultures across the world, there is a parenting mentality that is described in this phrase: “It takes a village”. This means that when it comes to raising a child, parents rely on immediate and extended family, as well as friends and neighbors to assist in the raising of a child. 

In western society, individualism is commonly practiced in child-rearing. This means that parents tend to take on all of the stresses of parenting on their own, without reaching outside of themselves for help. This increases stress and burnout. 

Ultimately, western societies demonstrate higher than average signs of burnout due to increased stress levels related to parenting, likely as a result of the individualism mentality.

What are some ways to prevent burnout? 

Burnout is not a one-and-done kind of thing. To avoid it, a person needs to consistently put in the effort to take care of themselves. 

The reality is that avoiding burnout is going to take a little bit of self-care. As parents, it can be hard to practice self-care because of an instinctual desire to give our children all that we have. As the common saying goes, “you cannot pour from an empty cup”.

Here is a list of some things that you can do to prevent/ minimalize burnout:

Practice Self-Care

Self-care is a very popular, even over-used, term that simply means to nurture yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically to promote optimal overall health and well-being. 

Effective self-care is unique for each person. Different companies and people will try to tell you what does and does not qualify for self-care, but at the end of the day, self-care is about doing what you can to feel good. 

Self-care can include any of the following:

  • Relaxing. Whether you are taking 1 minute to yourself behind a closed door or venturing out to a day spa for the weekend, relaxation is the time to separate your mind from the stresses of life and to focus on the things that bring you peace.
  • Engage in hobbies. A common struggle in parenthood is the feeling of “losing yourself”. By engaging in hobbies and continuing to spend time on things that you find interesting, it will give you the chance to remember who you are.
  • Incorporate simple pleasure into your day-to-day life. Self-care promoters love to discredit the power of simple pleasures, but as a busy parent, sometimes it comes down to a little bit of self-care or nothing at all. Some things to try could be:
    • Practicing a morning routine
    • Eating nourishing foods
    • Exercising regularly
    • Taking a break from social media/ unfollowing accounts that are not uplifting
    • Indulging in a sweet treat
    • Connecting with a friend
  • Therapy. This is a big one. While it is not accessible for everyone, it can make a huge difference not only in parenting but in every aspect of your life. There are two main types of therapy:
    • Individual therapy
      • One-on-one meeting with a therapist or counselor is beneficial because all of the time is devoted to you and the things that you want to talk about.
    • Group therapy
      • Group therapy is beneficial in and of itself, for one reason: it demonstrates to all participants the message that “you are not alone”.
  • Connecting with friends. There is something special about having an intellectual conversation with an adult after days/weeks straight of debating with your 3-year-old. If you are looking for new ways to make friends, consider joining social media forums, reconnecting with old friends (whether or not they have kids), and attending events in your community.
  • Ask for help. Just because individualism is praised in western society does not mean it has to be the way of life for you. Granted, I realize that not everyone has a “village” to reach out to when times are tough. If you do, however, don’t feel guilt or shame over taking the backseat every once in a while.

Parenting Time VS. Personal Time

As much as we want to separate the two time allotments and ensure there are clear distinctions between them, there is a reality that needs to be addressed: you are living ONE life! That means that your personal time and parenting time ARE going to overlap- naturally!

Here are some things you can do to take care of yourself WHILE parenting your little ones:

  • Be patient with yourself.
  • Take the pressure off of yourself and put accountability back on your children.

This does NOT apply in all parenting situations, but there are some scenarios where this can work effectively and safely. One example of this is with food. Instead of serving your child a meal and feeling stressed about whether or not they will eat it, try serving the meal and leaving the rest of the accountability with your child. 

  • Cut yourself some slack.

Set realistic goals for each day. While it’s wonderful to dream big, overestimating your capacity repeatedly can result in feelings of defeat and failure.

  • Invite others to help you.

Just like we discussed earlier, utilizing available help is not easy, but it is a great way to reduce stress and lessen your chance of feeling burned out.

At the end of the day, finding a balance between parenting and personal time is an ever-evolving journey. It may take some practice to get the hang of it, but it will be worth it, for the sake of your mental, emotional, and physical health. 


By Julianna


Roskam, I., Aguiar, J., Akgun, E. et al. Parental Burnout Around the Globe: a 42-Country Study. Affec Sci 2, 58–79 (2021).


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