66% of working parents suffer from burnout—here's how to manage that 'spillover,' says Stanford sociologist
For busy working parents, it's next to impossible to avoid bringing the stresses of work home at the end of the day.
In fact, it's such a common phenomenon that there's a technical term for it: "Work-family spillover." And learning how to manage it is crucial, because it helps keep you from passing your own anxiety onto your children, says Dr. Marianne Cooper, a Stanford University sociologist who researches gender and the future of work.
"That's a daily battle that every working parent experiences," Cooper tells CNBC Make It.
Roughly 66% of working parents in the U.S. suffer from parental burnout, according to a 2022 Ohio State University study, and stress that carries over between home and work is a major contributor. Workers who feel burned out are more likely to be distracted and apathetic during the workday, causing poorer performance and even a recent increase in resignations.
"That spills over into you being less patient with your kids at home, or being really tired," Cooper says.
Consider this scenario: A big work project hits a snag, and the frustration eventually causes you to overreact when your child hasn't cleaned up their toys after you asked them to do so.
It's a common and natural reaction "because we're human beings and these two parts of our lives aren't separate and distinct. There's this dynamic movement back and forth," Cooper says, adding that family issues can leave you distracted at work, too.
Either way, the stress and anxiety behind work-family spillover can negatively affect both your career and your family. Children who suffer from excess stress and anxiety can become more easily discouraged and may struggle at school and in social situations, child psychologist Irina Gorelik told CNBC Make It last year.
Losing your temper with your kids from time to time isn't the end of the world. But when you do let stress get the better of you, you need to apologize to your kids for losing your cool and overreacting, Cooper says: Owning up to your own mistakes can help them by taking off the pressure to be flawless.
"If you are setting a perfect standard, that also is not great for the child, because no one's perfect," she adds. "If you see yourself more as human, and not striving to be this perfect parent that never has any lapses, that will be more sustainable over the long run."
Setting clear boundaries between work and family life can help reduce your stress, so put down your work phone for a few hours every night. You can also build some "me time" into your daily schedule to make space for moments that aren't consumed by your job or family, Stanford Medicine Children's Health recommends.
More broadly, you can also reduce anxiety at work by trying stress-relieving breathing exercises and motivational mantras, or even just taking a 10-minute walk outside, research suggests.
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