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Parents often feel lonely and burnt out from parenting demands

Are you a parent who sometimes feels lonely, isolated, and burned out? You’re not the only one. A new survey from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center reveals an epidemic of parental loneliness.

Parents might miss the “small talk” and casual conversations that validate their parenting experiences. Fortunately, there are ways to combat the loneliness and connect with similar people.

Lonely parents epidemic

According to the research, 66% of parents feel that parenthood can be isolating and lonely. This means that more than half of all parents experience times when they feel cut off from others and lacking in social connection. This feeling can be incredibly difficult, especially while navigating the demands of raising children.

Moreover, 62% of parents experience burnout. Over half of parents experience extreme exhaustion – physically, mentally, and emotionally – stemming from their parenting responsibilities. It’s a sign that parents are being stretched too thin.

Both physical and mental health is impacted

38% of parents feel unsupported in their parenting role. More than a third of parents feel they don’t have a strong network of people to turn to for help, advice, or simply a listening ear. That lack of support adds another layer of stress to parenthood.

79% of parents want to connect with others outside of work and home. The overwhelming majority of parents are actively seeking ways to build bonds with other adults – to find community, share experiences, and feel less alone in their parenting journey.

“Loneliness has been shown to affect both your physical and mental health. So anything from cardiovascular disease to depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, even your immune system can be affected when you’re lonely, said Kate Gawlik, a researcher on parental burnout and mother of four.

“In fact, one study showed if you are in social isolation for a prolonged amount of time, it’s equivalent to smoking about 15 cigarettes a day,” she continued.

Clearly, prioritizing connection in parenthood has a huge payoff for our well-being!

Community for lonely parents

One of the most effective ways to combat parental loneliness is by finding community – a place where parents can connect with others who truly understand their experiences.

Kate Gawlik’s six-week parenting program is a great example of this type of community. Within these groups, parents are encouraged to open up about their challenges, their frustrations, and even their failures. This shared vulnerability creates a safe space where parents can feel seen, heard, and supported.

“I think the biggest thing is she validated that if you’re working and you have children and you’re a conscientious parent, it would be wild if you weren’t burned out. So I felt very validated when she said, “It’s okay that you’re here,” expressed Anne Helms, a mother of two young children in Columbus, Ohio.

How does community building help lonely parents?

The research highlights a crucial aspect of fighting loneliness: finding people who understand what you’re going through. Here’s why it’s so important:

Relatability helps

Loneliness often comes with a deep sense of being misunderstood – the feeling that your struggles are unique and invisible to others. It’s like you’re shouting into the void, and no one hears you.

But when you connect with someone facing similar challenges, a remarkable shift occurs. Suddenly, your experiences are reflected back at you. Your worries, frustrations, and even your moments of doubt are echoed in another person’s words.

This creates a profound feeling of recognition. You’re no longer alone in your struggles; there’s someone else standing right beside you on the same difficult path.

This mirroring of experiences chips away at that invisible wall of isolation. It replaces the feeling of being profoundly different with the comforting knowledge that even in our unique circumstances, the core of human experience is shared.

Lonely parents need validation

Loneliness often makes us question our own emotions. We might feel ashamed of our struggles, worry they’re a sign of weakness, or believe that we’re the only ones experiencing such difficulties.

When someone says, “I get it, I’ve felt that too,” it’s incredibly powerful. It’s as if an invisible weight is lifted. Suddenly, those emotions you’ve been carrying alone don’t seem as strange or overwhelming. They shift from a sign of being “abnormal” to a normal and shared part of the human experience.

This validation is essential because it fights the core of loneliness – the sense of being disconnected and different. When someone accepts your experiences without judgment, they create a space where you can feel seen and understood. This acceptance helps alleviate the isolating belief that no one else could possibly understand what you’re going through.

Helping lonely parents feel empowered

One of the most empowering aspects of overcoming parental loneliness is the realization that you’re not alone. Sharing experiences with others facing similar struggles creates a sense of collective strength, where parents can draw on each other’s resilience and find support.

This sharing of experiences also leads to practical solutions. Parents can learn new coping mechanisms, discover helpful resources, and gain fresh perspectives on common challenges.

Ultimately, it breaks the cycle of doubt that loneliness often fuels. By hearing others overcome similar difficulties, parents see firsthand that challenges are a normal part of the journey. This fosters a sense of “we can do this” – a belief in their ability to face obstacles and emerge stronger.

In essence, overcoming parental loneliness isn’t just about feeling better; it’s about feeling empowered. It’s about building a supportive network that acknowledges the challenges of parenthood and equips parents with the tools and confidence to thrive.

“I think it equips us to create better futures for our children; I think it makes us healthier. I think that the ripple effect from connecting with other parents and getting support when you need it is immeasurable. It makes you a better employee. It makes you a better spouse, parent, friend. I think that it just enriches our lives … just like parenting does, but it just makes you level up.” said Anne Helms.

Action steps for parents: How to break the loneliness cycle

If you’re feeling the weight of parental isolation, taking action can make a huge difference. Here’s how to break the cycle and start connecting:

Think outside the box

“Parenting groups” might be the first thing that comes to mind, but don’t limit yourself!

Consider your interests and look for communities around those. Do you enjoy reading? Join a book club. Interested in fitness? Check out parent-and-child exercise classes. Love a particular sport?

Seek out recreational leagues where parents can connect on the sidelines. The key is finding places with built-in opportunities for interaction.

Be brave, take the initiative

It might feel intimidating to reach out to new people, but remember that other parents might be feeling just as lonely. Schedule a playdate with that mom from daycare you haven’t gotten to know yet.

Strike up a conversation with another parent at the park. These small steps matter and your vulnerability can encourage others to connect as well.

Don’t forget about yourself

Self-care isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a necessity. Even 10 minutes of quiet time, a relaxing bath, or a walk in nature can make a huge difference in how you cope with stress. When you feel less overwhelmed, you have more energy to invest in building connections with others.

“Parenting can feel very lonely at times, but it will be easier if you have people around who can support you. It can be hard to start seeking out connections because, to some degree, you will have to be vulnerable and, sometimes, it will take time and effort. But just take the first step,” explained Gawlik.


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