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Does being a parent make you feel lonely and burned out? A new survey says you’re not alone.

Being a parent, especially one with a baby or young child, can be isolating. From making sure bills are paid, kids are fed and the house is clean to navigating nap times, illnesses, jam-packed extracurricular schedules and homework, parenthood can leave moms and dads — 66% of them, to be precise — feeling burned out and isolated, according to a new national survey conducted by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Conducted between April 5 and 7, the survey of 1,005 people found that two-thirds of respondents “felt the demands of parenthood sometimes or frequently feel isolating and lonely,” and about 62% reported feeling “burned out by their responsibilities as a parent.” Nearly 2 in 5 (38%) of respondents said they don’t have anyone to support them in their parenting role, and 79% expressed an interest in connecting with other parents outside of work and home.

The survey was led by Kate Gawlik, an associate clinical professor at The Ohio State University College of Nursing and mom of four who was eager to learn more about the relationship between loneliness and burnout, which she defines as “the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion.”

“In this specific role of being a parent, it’s that ability to never really feel like you’re above water,” she tells Yahoo Life. “And then that causes other things to start happening … [like] feeling more detached from your children and less like you’re a good parent.” She refers to this relationship as a vicious cycle. “Loneliness can really exacerbate a lot of those feelings.”

Parents with babies or young kids who are surrounded by their children constantly tend to feel more isolated and find that it is harder to form relationships outside the house, Gawlik notes. She adds that American parents in particular are susceptible to feeling maxed out and alone. “Other countries have a [multi-generational] village model, and in the U.S. we don’t have that model as strongly embedded into our culture and our society. … That contributes to burnout,” she says.

The pandemic has also played a role. “COVID took so many parents who were working [in] the office and put them in the home, and then it was like we never left, [which] absolutely exacerbated our loneliness,” Gawlik adds.

Keneisha Sinclair-McBride, a clinical psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts, agrees, pointing out that many adults also lost their personal social connections during the pandemic and haven’t rebuilt them.

“One of the things we know is an antidote to loneliness is connection to other people,” Gawlik says.

Both Gawlik and Sinclair-McBride acknowledge that, for parents who are already exhausted, it can feel overwhelming to add “make new friends” to their never-ending to-do lists. “That seems like another task that nobody has time for, but it can make a lot of things feel easier,” Sinclair-McBride tells Yahoo Life.

Sinclair-McBride encourages parents who feel lonely to try to connect with other adults using one of these strategies:

According to Sinclair-McBride, it’s worth trying to renew friendships with people you may have fallen out of touch with or taking up old hobbies that could create a pathway to meeting new people with similar interests. “What are things that you like as an individual, as a parent, that can help you build that community?” she says. “Going into the mommy-and-me workout class … [or talking] to another dad at the playground — they can make the difference.”

Sinclair-McBride also wants parents to search for connections within their existing communities, including their kids’ child care provider or school and their local neighborhood.

If adults are struggling to make connections in person, Sinclair-McBride encourages them to try online forums or groups. “We’re always thinking about the influencer culture and the negative effects [of social media], and those are huge, but the [potential] for people who feel like they can’t find community is important,” she says. “Sometimes using the internet for good is a really good thing here.”

It may not seem like it when you’re stuck at home with a sick child or going through the newborn period, but it won’t always be this way. Parents should know that it is easier to make friends at different phases of parenting. “This is a moment in time. There will be other moments when it’s easier to make parent friends. You never know, your kid may join a dance class that is [full of parents who are] your people. Be open to new opportunities as your child grows that may bring you more opportunities for community.”

Additionally, Sinclair-McBride wants to remind people that while survey data like this can help parents to feel seen, there’s also a risk that seeing such high numbers can create stress and make caregivers or people thinking about having kids feel as if becoming lonely is inevitable. She hopes parents remember to take all survey results with a grain of salt and remember the idiosyncratic elements of their family and home life that can either decrease or increase their feelings of loneliness.

For example, Sinclair-McBride’s oldest child attends a school with a vibrant parent community, and she also has a very active and engaged extended family. These connections and support make Sinclair-McBride feel lucky during this phase of her parenting journey, and she hopes parents realize that the feelings of being burned out and lonely ebb and flow in different stages of parenting and within always-changing circumstances. Parents, she adds, can always empower themselves to make choices that open themselves up to community.


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