Connecting with Other Parents May Ease Parental Loneliness for Many

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Many parents experience high levels of isolation, loneliness, and burnout, feeling like there is no one to talk to about their struggles in their daily lives.

Connecting with Other Parents May Ease Parental Loneliness for Many

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A new national survey found many parents experience isolation, loneliness, and burnout due to the pressures of parenthood.1

The survey, conducted by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, ultimately found roughly two-thirds of respondents reported the demands of parenthood sometimes or often felt isolating and lonely. Furthermore, 62% felt burned out by parental responsibilities.

In total, 2 in 5 parents (38%) reported feeling like they receive a lack of support regarding these exhausting demands. About 4 in 5 (79%) respondents said they would like to connect with other parents outside of work and home.

“I work from home full-time, and I actually have a job where I’m on camera a lot, and I’m Zoom calling people very often,” said Anne Helms, a mother of 2 young children, in a press release. “However, you don’t get the small talk, so you don’t get the: ‘How are your children? How’s it going?’ And you don’t get a lot of genuine answers when you do ask, ‘How is it going?”

Not talking to her coworkers about her parenthood burdens leaves Helms in frequent isolation.

“There are some days where the most chit-chat or idle talk that I get is with my dog because I work alone,” she added.

Attending a virtual meeting is a stark difference from an in-person meeting, said Kate Gawlik, DNP, associate clinical professor at The Ohio State University College of Nursing, a researcher on parental burnout and a mother of four young children, in the press release. She added how, with virtual meetings, parents miss out on small interactions in the hallway, eliminating personal touch.

“Even the places that I do try and seek out other parents, it’s kind of like we’re lost in the shuffle because it’s at daycare drop-off or pick-up where everyone just has tunnel vision,” Helms said.

According to a Coram Family and Childcare poll, some parents may feel lonelier than others, such as mothers (30%) feeling more left out than fathers (16%), young parents aged 18 – 24 years (37%) feel more of a lack of companionship than parents aged 25 – 34 years (21%), and parents with lower incomes (33%) feel more isolated than parents with greater incomes (16%).2 The poll surveyed 529 UK parents aged ≥ 18 years who had children aged 0 – 5 years.

Loneliness affects both an individual’s physical and mental health.1 For instance, for physical health, loneliness can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and the immune system. Loneliness can also increase the risk of depression and anxiety.

Being in social isolation for a long time is so unhealthy for the body that it is equivalent to smoking about 15 cigarettes a day.

Since parents face isolation, loneliness, and burnout, Gawlik created a 6-week parenting program to bring parents together, helping them bond over challenges and support each other. Helms joined the program, and it made her no longer feel alone. The program allowed her to understand that it is normal to feel burned out if you are a conscientious parent.

Gawlik and Helms both believe having someone you can relate to in your life promotes a healthier lifestyle. Parents can connect with other parents by searching for groups in their community online, which can be hosted through community centers or their employers. Parents can also meet other parents at playgroups, book clubs, and recreational sports leagues or start talking to the parents about scheduling playdates with their child’s friends from daycare.

“It makes you a better spouse, parent, friend,” Helms said. “I think that it just enriches our lives… just like parenting does, but it just makes you level up.”

References

  1. Survey Finds Loneliness Epidemic Runs Deep Among Parents. The Ohio State University. https://osuwmc.multimedia-newsroom.com/index.php/2024/04/24/survey-finds-loneliness-epidemic-runs-deep-among-parents/. Accessed April 26, 2024.
  2. Loneliness Among Parents of Young Children. Coram Family and Childcare. chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://www.familyandchildcaretrust.org/sites/default/files/Resource%20Library/Loneliness%20among%20parents%20of%20young%20children_271119.pdf. Accessed April 26, 2024.


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