parent opinion

"It feels like I’ve doubled my workload." We need to talk about pandemic parenting fatigue.

With only a couple of weeks to go until our kids can return to school and we can partially emerge from lockdown, I want to feel excited, but I can’t. I’m too tired.

This feeling of general lethargy, particularly related to parenting, seems to be the dominant emotion for many other women and friends I spoke to, which makes sense after the last 18 months we’ve all had. 

I’ve named it 'pandemic parenting fatigue' because, yes, we are mostly functioning on a surface level, but much like the trending term 'languishing', many parents are stuck in a mental health rut.

We are not all depressed, but we are also far from flourishing. Our parenting 'mojo' has disappeared, and we are left irritable with the kids, anxious and fatigued.

Watch: Mamamia parents share when they felt like a terrible mother. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

I told my husband this week that while I love our boys deeply, I just want to curl up in a corner with a book. Or sit at my desk and work. I realised as the words left my mouth that it sounded bad. 

I know I shouldn’t complain. I am lucky to have a good job, healthy kids, and money to buy books. 

I live in a decent sized house with an office I can work from. I have been in lockdown a lot less than my friends in Victoria. Many people have it much worse than I do. 

And yet the layers of fatigue after months of anxiety, uncertainty and inactivity have built up. Making me want to cast-off my duties as a mum and bury my head in someone else’s story.

I have been frequently short with the boys, yelling too loudly and too often, and I am not the mum I want to be.

My boys are beautiful, kind and clever, but after months of being at home in the pressure cooker of pandemic life, their behaviour is either worse than it was, or I am noticing it more because I’m fatigued.

Listen: Twins Clare and Jessie Stephens discuss sibling rivalry on this episode of This Glorious Mess: Big Kids. Post continues below.


There’s the constant breaking up of their sibling fights, the need to make and fetch snacks and put the dishwasher on four times a day, because we are all together at home all the time. 

It’s hardly devastating and yet - the lethargy combined with the pandemic backdrop grips tight. Thankfully, I know I am not alone in feeling this sense of fatigue. 

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For mum-of-two, Tash*, she is doing her best to hold it together in front of her family while working, homeschooling, and caring for her sick partner.

"The emotional strain just continues to get heavier and heavier, but no one is coming to help. 

"We all just have to individually find the strength and carry on. The pandemic has robbed me of humour as a coping mechanism."

Mum Anna* said life with three kids at home is definitely contributing to her feelings of pandemic parenting fatigue.

"Pre-lockdown I coped with near full-time parenting by getting out and about, taking the kids to different places, and seeing different people. They were stimulated, I was a little stimulated, and we got away from my lovely, but messy house and the never ending housework.

"In lockdown, we’re all under-stimulated and although there’s plenty to do at home, it’s not the way we choose to do things. 

"Initially, it wasn’t too bad, but now we’re very over it. The good thing is the end in sight."

Mum of one Hayley* misses the activities she used to do with her little one in her old life.

"I am lucky that I have been able to go to work, but I have found my days off have lost their sparkle. I am trying to find a million activities to occupy my little person and we very much miss things like swimming lessons and music classes. There’s only so much at home crafting I can take!"

On top of the lack of choice of activities and options to exit the house, parents have had to deal with the anxiety that comes with parenting kids through a pandemic and their fluctuating emotions. 

As Mum of three Vicki* explains, "I’m sick of having to risk-assess everything we do, then watch others not give a sh*t about the rules. It breaks my heart seeing how small their world have gotten. [The kids] are exhausted mentally from minor social interactions."

Mostly, Vicki confesses that she just wants to have time to herself or time away from her family.

"I’d like to be alone in my house. I'd like to stop being the social director, but I also want to throw away their devices. The moment we walk through the door, they ask if they can watch YouTube.

"I’m so sick of having to drag them out of the house, and I argue with little versions of myself about how they will actually enjoy it once we get there. They either do, or it totally disintegrates into a screaming, crying, fighting mess.

"I despise home learning. And I’m so bored when I have to spend the days at home with the kids without a job where I can work from home and escape some of the constant cries of, 'Mum, mum, mum.'"

After many months of holding it together on the surface, some mums are finding it is the littlest things that tip them over the edge.

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"I completely lost my sh*t at the playground today because all my mum friends brought small compartmentalised trays of vegetables and fruit and all I had in my bag was a jar of peanut butter, half a packet of biscuits, and some crackers," mum of two Kerry* said. 

"These are awesome women and not judgey, thank God, as I completely broke down.

"I think I’ve held it together pretty well through lockdown but this home straight is hard and also the knowledge that even when things are open, normal is a long way away.

"It wasn’t just the snacks - it was everything from the last six months. Snacks just tipped me over the edge and I felt like a total failure."

After months of managing the work and kids 'juggle', single mum Tara* has worked out a few ways to deal with her parenting pandemic fatigue.

"It feels like I’ve doubled my workload and I’m not getting paid for it. I am essentially a servant to my two kids just to keep them happy. Them screaming in the background during a work call has become 'the norm'. 

"I’ve got a lolly jar I open if I need to make an important call now. I have found that a huge walk in the morning helps start the day and we are actually going to bed earlier now too because I’ve learnt to tire us all out through the day. New tactics that I will probably keep doing after lockdown."

For me - I’ll keep on, keeping on in the hope my parenting mojo soon returns and until it does, I’ll occasionally take some time to combat my pandemic parenting fatigue - by hiding in the corner with a good book. 

Are you suffering from pandemic parenting fatigue? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

*While these women are known to Mamamia, we have changed their names for privacy reasons.

Feature Image: Getty.

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