How Caregiver Syndrome Affects Fathers and Mothers
“I’m a bad parent.” “I feel like I can’t pay enough attention to my kids.” “I no longer feel like dedicating myself to my son or daughter the way I used to.” “This was supposed to be the most special stage in my life and I’m not having a good time.” These are some of the ideas that are stated when it comes to parenting and that go hand in hand with caregiver syndrome.
For many years, the romantic (and unrealistic) idea of motherhood and fatherhood prevailed. However, being in charge of someone implies a great effort and confronts us with certain concessions, which are often made invisible or naturalized: “What should be”.
But this “b-side” of parenting is what can often lead to caregiver syndrome, a condition that reflects the negative consequences of parental exhaustion. Let’s take a better look at what it’s about in this article.
What is caregiver syndrome?
Caregiver syndrome encompasses the physical and psychological exhaustion suffered by the person who is dedicated to caring for others. It doesn’t occur only in those who care for sick people, but also in those who care for children, persons with a disability, or the elderly.
Those who suffer from this syndrome feel that they’re exclusively responsible for the attention of the other person and experience it with great discomfort.
Taking care of someone every day is a very demanding task, which requires a lot of commitment and dedication. However, the difficulty in carrying it out varies according to the characteristics of the person to be cared for. For example, when the child left in your care has a disorder or disability, the challenge for the caregiver is greater than that of an average child.
How caregiver syndrome is expressed
Some of the symptoms that show the physical and psychological exhaustion of caregivers are the following:
- Anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and stress.
- Fatigue and tiredness. Difficulty falling asleep.
- Isolation, loss of contact with friends.
- Sometimes, marital or relationship problems with other family members. Many times, the other children even end up assuming parental roles to try to replace the parent.
- Neglect of one’s own health.
- Difficulty relaxing, even when you have time to do so.
- Anger or mistreatment towards the person being cared for.
- Resentment and anger towards the other members of the family.
Recommendations for managing caregiver syndrome
Caregiver syndrome affects women to a greater extent, as they tend to be the people most dedicated to housework and childcare. This is true even when they maintain a formal job outside the home. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that they’re the ones who are most impacted by emotional and physical wear.
Below, we’ll share some of the recommendations to avoid reaching this condition.
Work on your own emotions
Taking care of someone produces ambivalent emotions. On the one hand, it’s gratifying to dedicate time to teaching and accompanying the growth of children. But also, it arouses insecurity, anger, or fear in difficult situations.
Also, there are times when parents, especially mothers, feel depersonalized. In general, their topics of conversation become linear and thematic (revolving around the care, health, or learning of the infant). They have little time to carry out their own activities and to share time with their friends or family, among other things.
For all this, it’s very important that caregivers can find spaces to express their feelings, without guilt and with authenticity, as it’s crucial to validate these states.
Take some time for yourself
Although parenting demands many hours, this task is just as important as taking care of one’s own physical and mental health. To achieve this, moments of rest and leisure are suggested so that you can resume contact with personal interests.
Co-parenting is a more than necessary resource to avoid overloading one of the two caregivers. Likewise, in addition to collaborating and seeking a fair distribution of tasks, it’s crucial to recognize the work that running a household and a family requires and be grateful for your partner’s contributions.
Parenting is often considered an obligation and the enormous dedication and effort that goes into it are overlooked.
Manage your expectations and demands
Much is said about the expected role of mothers and fathers, all that they “should be and do.” However, each reality is different and it’s essential to put aside the mandates and the desire to be a supermom. It’s healthier to learn to ask for help and recognize your own limits.
Take care of your own health
We must pay attention to food and rest because caring for others requires replenishing energy at the end of each day.
The first months of a baby’s life require a lot of dedication, but this situation must change little by little and give way to the progressive autonomy of the child and the responsible adult.
Generate other circles of care
To the extent possible, generate spaces for recreation and care. For example, enroll your child in a club, in preschool or daycare, or leave them with another person for a few hours. This will give you a couple of free hours to connect with your interests, your projects, or even self-care.
Learning to delegate is key because you’re not the only person who knows or understands what the child wants. Exclusively reserving that spot for yourself can be rewarding at first, but enslaving in the end.
Taking care of yourself is the key to caring
It’s true that parenting is a permanent challenge, especially in the first years of life when parents’ priorities change. However, it’s important to try to find a balance because, otherwise, boredom and frustration arise.
Also, we must know that all that discomfort that we feel is perceived by children. So we not only harm ourselves, but we also harm them.
It’s important to respect one’s own time, allow dedicated spaces for oneself, and not set more responsibilities or demands than can be met. Of course, society must also do its part and stop stereotyping ideal models of motherhood and fatherhood, as they’re very far from the reality that being a parent implies.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Seguí, J. D., Ortiz-Tallo, M., & De Diego, Y. (2008). Factores asociados al estrés del cuidador primario de niños con autismo: sobrecarga, psicopatología y estado de salud. Anales de Psicología/Annals of Psychology, 24(1), 100-105.
- Martínez Pizarro, S. (2020). Síndrome del cuidador quemado. Revista Clínica de Medicina de Familia, 13(1), 97-100.
- López Espinoza, N. A. (2018). Análisis del Síndrome del Cuidador Primario Informal en familiares cuidadores de niños, niñas y adolescentes con Parálisis Cerebral de la Fundación Centro “San Juan de Jerusalén (Bachelor’s thesis, Quito: UCE).