Does the role of parenting induce feelings of isolation and exhaustion? Insights from a recent study suggest you’re in good company.

Raising children, particularly infants or toddlers, can often feel quite solitary. Whether it’s managing finances, ensuring children are nourished and a home is maintained or coping with sleep schedules, sickness, intense activity calendars and schoolwork, the duties of child-rearing can lead 66% of caregivers — that’s the precise figure — to experience feelings of fatigue and seclusion, as per a fresh nationwide study by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Conducted from April 5 through 7, the poll of 1,005 individuals revealed that two-thirds of those surveyed “regularly or occasionally find the responsibilities of being a parent to be lonely and isolating,” and roughly 62% admitted to “feeling overwhelmed by their parenting duties.” Approximately 38% disclosed that they lack any form of support in their parenting, while a significant 79% showed interest in forming connections with fellow parents outside of their professional and domestic circles.

The research was spearheaded by Kate Gawlik, an associate clinical professor at The Ohio State University College of Nursing and a mother to four, who wanted a deeper understanding of how solitude and exhaustion are interlinked. Describing it as “the intense sensation of tiredness,” she relayed her thoughts to Yahoo Life. “As a parent, it’s feeling as though you’re constantly struggling to stay afloat,” she explains. “This, in turn, triggers more issues… [like] becoming increasingly detached from your children and doubting your parenting abilities.” She describes this dynamic as a harmful spiral where “loneliness can amplify many of those negative feelings.”

Gawlik points out that parents of young children who spend nearly all their time with their offspring often face greater feelings of isolation and difficulty in making external connections. She also mentions that American parents, in particular, are prone to these sentiments of depletion and solitude. “We don’t possess the same communal, intergenerational support that’s deeply integrated in the fabric of other societies. … This undoubtedly contributes to the sense of parental exhaustion,” she observes.

The pandemic has also been an exacerbating factor. “COVID shifted many parents from the office environment to their homes, and it’s as if we never departed, which definitely intensified our feelings of loneliness,” Gawlik remarks.

Keneisha Sinclair-McBride, a practitioner of clinical psychology at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts, concurs, emphasizing that several adults lost touch with their own social circles during the pandemic and are yet to re-establish them.

“We recognize that a remedy for loneliness is forging connections with others,” Gawlik suggests.

Gawlik and Sinclair-McBride recognize that for wearied parents, the thought of adding “forge new friendships” to an already overflowing list of tasks might seem daunting. “It appears to be an additional chore that no one has the bandwidth for, yet it can greatly alleviate other burdens,” Sinclair-McBride communicates to Yahoo Life.

Sinclair-McBride urges lonely parents to reach out to adults by leveraging these approaches:

Rekindling dormant relationships or resuming past hobbies that might open doors to new associations is a worthwhile effort, according to Sinclair-McBride. “Which activities are enjoyable to you personally, as a caregiver, that may assist you in forging your circle?” she inquires. “Attending a mom-and-baby exercise class… [or conversing] with another father on the playground — these interactions can make a noteworthy impact.”

She also encourages caregivers to find connections within established settings, like their child’s schooling environment or the immediate community.

For those finding face-to-face connections challenging, Sinclair-McBride suggests exploring virtual communities. “We often focus on the influencer culture and its detrimental impacts [of social media], and they are significant, but the potential for those facing difficulties finding their niche is valuable,” she states. “There are times when leveraging the online world for positive outcomes is quite beneficial.”

It’s hard to imagine when you’re stuck indoors with an ailing youngster or are wading through infancy but remember this will not remain the case indefinitely. Parents should be aware that the ease of setting up friendships can vary with the different phases of child-rearing. “This is merely a period in time. Future moments may come along where it’s simpler to connect with fellow parents. You may find your child enrolls in an activity that is teeming with like-minded adults. Always be receptive to fresh possibilities as your child matures, which may offer you more opportunities to build a sense of community,” she advises.

Further, Sinclair-McBride advises individuals that while reports like these can provide validation for parental experiences, becoming overwhelmed due to statistical figures or fearing inevitable loneliness when envisioning future family plans should be approached with caution. She advocates for caregivers to maintain awareness of the unique aspects of their familial and living situations that can mitigate or heighten feelings of isolation.

For instance, Sinclair-McBride references her eldest’s school, which boasts a strong parent network, coupled with an emotionally invested extended family. These factors render her fortunate in this segment of her parenting expedition, and she wishes for parents to realize that the periods of feeling drained and alone come and go, varying with each stage of parenting and the evolving circumstances. Caregivers, she notes, retain the ability to make conscious decisions that welcome communal interactions.

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