Is Parenting Burning You Out?

Alex Leech is a parenting and neurodiversity coach for parents of teens and her aims to support parents in raising independent self-directed resilient adults. Alex is autistic and has ADHD and has two autistic children as well. She comes into this conversation with an absolute wealth of knowledge.

She has been a regulated health professional for over 23 years and through working with families. She took her knowledge and became Alex Leach and Decon Consulting.

We discussed parental burnout. Why it happens. How to recognize it and ways to deal with it.

How do best help your children?

As parents, our best intentions are always to, to help our children and serve our children, support our children.

Sometimes what happens is the more, you know, help that we get and we, we reach out, we start to lose a little bit of that power of a, a part of us being.

A major part in our, obviously the major part in our children’s success, like happiness, and that is how, it’s the parental influence, right?

We’re asking our kids that have challenges, whether you’re neurotypical or neurodivergent, we’re asking them to do all this.

You know, when you look at the mirror, I know I look in the mirror and I sometimes don’t like, what I see is that I am not always doing.

You know, following those rules yourself. Right?

That was a big turning point!

When Alex started looking at herself and taking the coach approach to parenting.

Then she realized, wow, this actually really makes a difference in the home.

When the home is calmer and there’s less friction, no matter the age of your child, our children are able to succeed outside the home.

Whether it’s school or socially and so that’s how Alex Leech came to be.

That’s how she meets her clients and they thank her for what she’s doing.

It’s, this is part of what she loves about the coaching kind of space is that we make so many awesome connections and there’s so many ways to skin a cat.

The different ways that we’re all kind of attacking the same problem.

We aren’t competing, they’re cohesive.

They’re all just kind of like dis different pieces of the puzzle.

Like it says, you take a village, we take a posse, right?

When you’re working in this realm, collaboration is a huge part of it.

If it’s she’s working with someone that she thinks could benefit from her services, I’m going to, because it really comes to the families that we’re working with.

We’re trying to serve them the best that we possibly can, and sometimes it knowing when that is up or when it’s someone else, and so that’s why it’s this village that we’re, you know, thriving in.

Parenting Burnout and How to Deal With It

Whether you’re dealing with a neurotypical child who is just presenting a lot of challenging behavior, or whether you have a neurodivergent child in your life.

All moms, dad’s, caregivers in any way, shape or form deal with this at some point in their parenting caregiving journey.

How do you define burnout and have you experienced it before?

Oh my goodness. It shows up often, right?

There’s only so much that we as parents can, can do, right?

We have things coming at us all the time.

Work and our own relationships with our own families and our parenting partners aside.

It’s a full-time job raising kids. Right?

Then you have everything else.

Burnout, is that where you’re just, you know, it’s almost like you become numb.

You know, that’s, that’s like the starting, like Alex, for her, that was the number one indicator where she was becoming just a little more withdrawn.

Alex wasn’t depressed, she wouldn’t classify as depressed or blue, but it just became sort of numb and tired and less engaged and that in itself has a lot of.

The same in a thing like, yeah, when she, and I hit kind of burnout in December-ish this last year, and the big red flag for her was that she just wasn’t feeling joy in anything.

Things that she would usually be super excited about or that she would at least be like, oh, isn’t that wonderful?

As you said, there was just numbness. Nothing was.

Bringing any kind of emotion out of her…burnout.

It’s one of those things that, as parents, we don’t classify ourselves as caregivers.

It’s one of those things that we judge ourselves for because we’re not doing what we know we can do.

It becomes this very vicious cycle and we start beating ourselves up.

When we’re always talking about, you know, you have to take good care of yourself and self care, you know, it’s not going to the spa.

A lot of it sometimes is just accepting and, and acknowledging that your exhausted.

What are the small things like, yes, we’d all love to go to a spa, but what are those small things that we can do?

Sometimes it’s just listening to a song that puts a smile on your face.

It’s, it’s a slow process.

Burnout is not something that you could just shake yourself out of. If we could, we all would.

Nobody wants to feel that way.

You need systems in place to help deal with your burnout!

For me, Allana, very time that I’ve burnt out, it’s almost always been a result of an old system no longer suiting our life.

You hear those cliches saying the one constant in life is change.

We do change and things change and it gets very, very frustrating when, especially when you know you are raising kids with complex challenges, right?

What works today doesn’t necessarily work tomorrow, and you get.

Part of burnout is that frustration, the exhaustion, this is not what we signed up for.

No parent wants to really address those things and, and that is also what leads to burnout is ignoring all those feelings, even big and small that lead up to that.

Putting systems in place and if that system isn’t working make changes.

It’s hard to crawl outta at times, right? Absolutely.

Often times when Alex dealing with clients who are burning out, it’s because a system is no longer working for them, but it’s probably still working for their child and another family member.

Then they feel guilty about having to change a system that is working for their kid, but it is either putting too much mental load or emotional labor or physical labor onto them and exceeding their own capacity and that kind of mom guilt around, I can’t do this anymore.

They feel like they have to because, or they can’t hand it off to someone else cuz it’s got to be me and that’s the thing, right?

Somehow no one intends to, but somehow there’s this little bit of a martyr complex that comes in.

“If I’m not doing it, who else is gonna do that?”

The majority of Alex’s clients have kids that are autistic, ADHD and dyslexic and other brain differences and challenges.

They don’t wanna age shame. One case in particular was a 17 year old son, they’re still reminding me every three days you have to shower and bath and do this.

The parents are so involved and rightfully so, to help their son.

But what happens when it becomes such a routine and we experience that burnout.

Then sometimes we’re also, it turns into, we go into overdrive and then we start helicoptering everything.

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What’s the worst that can happen?

If your son doesn’t have a shower every three days, what’s the worst? Yes, he might get a little smelly.

You know, but that we can deal with that another day or does it have to be you?

Let’s set a system in place again, another system that is gonna work for their son and it’s having a conversation.

It’s about communication and collaboration and you can’t shoulder it all the time.

We think that we have to be so strong qnd if we don’t do it, no one’s gonna do it or the, the family’s gonna fall apart.

Maybe sometimes it, it might a little bit shaky, but it’s, you know, is there somebody there that can help you, a parenting partner that lives in the same home, or a parenting partner, a friend, a caregiver, a sitter or extended family member.

Sometimes just saying, you need 10 minutes or even if it isn’t anybody else, just saying, kids, I need 10 minutes. Putting yourself in the timeout.

Taking a moment and your kids have started saying that to you now.

That’s self-regulation and that’s demonstrating self-regulation for modeling it for our children.

We get this, and especially Alex’s clients, they’ll get into this kind of head space where they’re like, she wants her child to self-regulate.

Alex wanted her child to self-regulate and they’re so focused on teaching their child to self-regulate that we forget that.

The way children learn best is by watching people who are more mature further down the road than them.

Do it and then they mimic it.

No matter what neurotype you have.

It’s really something that we have to take care of ourselves.

This is why, like Alex says to her clients all the time, I have a punching bag in the basement, and if I can’t deal with my kids, or I feel like I’m gonna haul off on something, I’ll be like, I need a minute.

Take a minute for yourself to take care of yourself.

It’s okay if you’re still upset for, you know, that 20 minutes that I’m in the basement kicking the shit outta my punching bag.

What that also does is it gives them that permission that when they feel like they need to hit something.

I need a minute and to go and take that for themselves. Right? Because if they don’t see the adults do it.

Often times we as adults, we’re. We’re so proficient at keeping ourselves calm, even when we’re really distressed that we, you know, we’ve built in these very small regulation tactics that to our children aren’t visible at all.

If you have children that have difficulty interpreting facial expressions and body language. They see, for example, my son, happy, sad, mad. Those are the three facial expressions.

It comes right out of the blue. He can’t see the progression of me getting irritated.

I’m actually doing him a disfavor of not showing.

When I lose it, he doesn’t know.

Then how am I gonna teach him?

I say this to my clients too, how are you gonna teach your children to show that it’s okay to get upset?

It’s okay to have those moments, but it’s what you do and how you conduct yourself in those moments that make the difference.

Those are the teachable moments.

It is so easy to, you know, do something before or after, but it’s in that moment.

You can lose your shit. You could even swear.

But in that moment right there, you can say, oh, I am so sorry, or I’m so frustrated with this situation, not at you.

If we are not showing our children that in, you know, from an early age even up toyoung adults into adults.

If we don’t show our children that we have emotion, how do we expect our children to show that emotion?

It’s the same thing like a lot of my clients, their children are very perfectionist and they have a lot of anxiety around any of that imperfection.

One of the things that we talk a lot about is. Highlighting when you mess up.

We spill milk on the counter and we just deal with it.

We take a rag and we wipe it up and it’s like it never happened.

To our children, when we don’t highlight that that happened, they don’t see it and so then when they spill the milk or when they trip over something, or when they break something.

It’s the end of the world and they live in fear because to them our model is perfection.

Alex has a client and she was talking with her about her daughter and who is 13.

Most of Alex’s clients are sort of between that age of nine, 10 to 16, 17. That’s her zone of genius right there.

The daughter is stressed and burnt out. No one’s talking.

It’s this passive aggressiveness and they’re so angry, but also tired at the same time.

When she was working with them we’re just like, what do you, you know, how does this make you feel?

They don’t even want to share.

It starts, it, it’s this, as we said before, it’s this spiral because suddenly, there’s these little microtraumas that happen within the family.

It starts to erode the family, you know, the parent-child relationship.

Then that starts eroding, not irreparable, but it starts to erode the whole family dynamic.

It’s like when that parent is burnt out or and burnt out can be an absolute withdrawal, burnt out could also be very explosive.

It’s how you are in the moment. It could be sobbing. It could be going to bed.

You get up, get the kids out the door and go back to bed.

It’s zoning out. It’s an, it’s an avoidance.

What happens is we just end up becoming numb and not feeling, and then there’s no collaboration that’s happening within the family.

This mother-daughter relationship – when she’s having, she’s having challenges with her friends and everything else. She’s withdrawn. She becomes, she goes, I don’t wanna be combative. I don’t like conflict.

We’re like, no, but now you’re not speaking up for yourself. You don’t have to come at things and hitting them hard, but if you do not let people know how you were feeling, or that they’re doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable or hurts you, you know how we behave is how we teach others to treat ourselves.

Burnout is a lack of honesty about your emotions and how you feel with yourself and with the people around you.

It’s this denial of what you’re feeling and it’s your reticence to share honestly with the people around you, how you’re feeling, and then you just become numb to that.

How can we expect our children to be honest with us, not just about their emotions, but about what’s going on in their lives if we’re not honest with them?

We’re not mind readers! We are not mind readers.

It’s when we do not share how we were are feeling and that’s the other thing too, as parents.

When we we’re not sharing what we’re feeling and we’re not talking about the heavy stuff, but just, guys, I’m having a, a tough day today, right?

Just give mom a bit of a break or give me 20 minutes. I’m having a tough time.

That is teaching our children that when they’re having a tough time, it’s okay to have a little mini time out to go collect yourself. It’s that modeling.

Then also too, it’s the whole point of we’re teaching our kids to be productive and successful adults.

Success as an happy, well adjusted and fulfilling all their capabilities and abilities to be, you know, who they are truly and who they are meant to be.

If we are not teaching our children to be authentic, how can they experience an authentic life themselves.

Even just saying, I have to vent. I don’t need anybody to fix things and that’s a big thing too, as a parent, when we see our children struggling or withdrawn.

They go through their own periods of burnout and we come in and we wanna fix. It can be so overwhelming and that creates even more attention.

What’s wrong with you?

Why aren’t you doing this?

There’s that mirror. You gotta put that mirror in front of you and you have to say, I’m just going to vent.

We would like to say it’s so easy to see, you guys are driving me nuts, but is it? You don’t have to change how you’re feeling. You just say, oh, I’m get, I’m being driven nuts by this situation.

Alex had a bad evening. Her son slammed his own fingers in our front door. She wasn’t entirely sure how, and my husband’s deployed right now. Alex was solo parenting.

Then they got stopped in the middle of the road by some random guy and he started yelling at her about my headlights and didn’t like how her headlights were aimed, which.

He would not get back in his car, so she ended up having to call the police so that he would go.

Then they get to the pool where her son was having his swim team practice, and when they pulled up and her son said I forgot my swim bag.

They had to turn around, go all the way back home, get his bag, bring it back.

By the time Alex got back to the pool, she was overwhelmed to the extreme.

She was super overwhelmed and over stimulated right now.

She had to get her son to do something that isn’t involving her because she need to calm down.

We have to remember right as parents that, and this is, this is a big one.

In the early days in searching for help and finding somebody that actually understood what I was going through was really, really difficult.

You know, like 15, 16 years later, there’s so much more conversation that’s out there, right? 

More people like yourself and myself that get it because we’ve gone through it. 

We’re not just book smart. We have the lived experience plus all the training and education, right? 

When you are a parent and you are a caregiver and you’re struggling, those are the things that you look for.

Do your due diligence but it’s hard when you’re burnt out. 


It’s one of those things that, and it’s such a cliche, but it’s a cliche cuz it’s true. 

You have to, as. The care main caregiver, or even the sec, you know, the secondary caregiver who, whomever you are, you’re burned out. 

You have to put that oxygen mask on first, and usually it is the mother or the main nurturer that burns out first because there is that.

You know, that emotional load, you know, there’s everything else going on. 

Sometimes it has absolutely nothing to do with our children or our partners. 

it’s like we have to remember that these people, you know, whether they’re little people or you know, young adults, teenagers, whomever we are interacting with in that moment, that they are not.

Ninety-nine perfect of the time purposely forgetting things, dropping things, doing things right, experiencing things on purpose to make us lose our shit. 

In that moment, and it’s hard because when you’re the one that’s burnt out, you’re like, oh, this is another thing I gotta do. 

If we can just take that moment, and this is, this is one of the main teachings is we, we take that moment, even if it’s three seconds to breathe before, and that is a difference between responding versus reacting, right?

Taking that moment, but also having that compassion, self-compassion for ourself and having empathy for that other person that we’re interacting with. 

The three and the third step is what I call, you know, blameless discernment, right? It is. It’s easy for us to judge somebody else or judge ourselves on something, right.

Nobody intentionally means to mess up, right?


Understanding that going, oh, I didn’t mean to do that. Instead of judging our child for that, or judging our partner or judging ourselves for that go, ugh, a empathy self or the other, right? 

Then using that blameless discernment of, I know this is not what you intended to do, but this now this is where we are.

How we blamed you and that in and, and when you were burn out that seems like such a big thing to do in process. 

When you start practicing it, right, you practice it in the good times, the moderate times, the not so great times. We keep practicing it, right? 

Practice makes permanent and if we, we do that, then we start neutralizing and then we stop.

Is what helps develop the little voice inside their head when they become adults. Right? 

It’s heavy shit being a parent, all those things that you’re thinking about all the time, but if we can, from this burnout, we can say, take the moment, it’s okay to vent.

Let somebody know that you’re just venting. 

If you’re not a journaler, if you’re not, just use the voice on your phone, the little voice recorder on your phone and reform a message and go, all these kids are driving me s nuts. 

Just get it out. 

Get it out your head. Get it out of your body.

You have no idea how many times I pull up and I think my neighbors think that, you know. 

The hoodlums are there because I’ve got rage against the machine blaring in the car by myself and the car is going and people think, oh, it’s probably 17. 

Then there’s this five year old mom, you know, rage and tell you feels good.

It’s all those things that we can do that helps not necessarily prevent it because it’s not something that’s gonna go away, but we can mitigate it and we can lessen it. 

Then also when we acknowledge it, We take its power away, right? 

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. 

Sometimes it’s just something like turning up the music and there’s, there’s science behind that, right?

Activates our vagal tone, it gets our nervous system engaged so that we can then calm down. 

It gives our brain one thing to focus on. 

What other strategies do you personally use to reduce your burnout?

The first one is, it’s that self empathy, right? It’s the empathy for South.

January has been a hard month for me.

A lot of things are going on and I’m very slow to start and I hear all the things in my head of all the things that I should be doing, could be doing, and I’m just like, no, because I’m actually choosing to have those thoughts.

I’m beating myself up. 

Why am I doing that?

It’s the, the awareness. 

It’s just being aware and using those negative emotions or those, negative emotions so they don’t make you feel good. 

Using those as alert systems and realizing that they’re there and acknowledging it, and if it’s something that I can do. 

What’s the worst that’s gonna happen if I don’t do this?

I like that I call that intentional catastrophizing because I, and that’s one of my main strategies too, where I go, what is the worst that could happen in this situation? 

I will flesh that out. And sometimes I’ll take it really far where I’m like, okay, yeah, if, if I let this go on long enough, you know, the house will burn down.

My children will grow up to be hoodlums like, but at least then I can then kind of. 

Figure out where along that spectrum, my line in the sand needs to be. 

Did you realize that you started?

Did you realize that you started to laugh? 

That’s the thing too. It’s like you, you, that is one of the, the techniques that you know, I teach.

What is the worst that could happen? 

Then you start to catastrophize it and you realize how silly it gets, and then you start laughing, right? 

Someone listening could be like, oh, that sounds really silly, but you practice it and you do it, and you realize that we make things so heavily weighted and monumentous.

When they’re not, and we, we are our own worst enemies at that. 

If you can just sit there and go, okay, I’m gonna go like a runaway train and just take that thought. 

See how far it goes, you only get about two or three or four points, well, maybe four or five points in there where suddenly you’re like, oh my God, the odds of that happening.

You start to laugh and that laughter right there. 

There’s a chemical reaction that helps shift that emotion, right. And puts some of it endorphin and that feeling. 

It’s a cool manifesting and I’m a self-proclaimed neuroscience geek. I studied neuroscience. I’ve been in the, you know, that industry for so long, and there’s a reason why.

It’s so important. 

When you understand that like our brains aren’t these solid pieces of tissue, right? 

They’re malleable. People hear about neuroplasticity and they’re like, what is that? And really, and I said What it is is when you understand that, yes, change is hard. Change is really hard. Nobody likes to change.

We’re creatures of habit. 
We become so comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

It becomes comfortable again and it’s just like a footpath, right? 

We have, you see this footpath, and it’s wide. It could be bumpy, but it’s going somewhere. 

The reason why it’s such a prominent foot, because we’re using that all the time, that is like the synapse of the neurons in the brain, right?

Then suddenly we’re like, well, Yeah, okay. Here’s the parking lot. 

There’s a footpath to the lake, but it’s like sort of like an L shape. 

It’s two sides of a square. I wanna go to a more direct route, but there’s no path, right? 

It’s uncomfortable, you start walking and making your new path. Yeah, you trip over some rocks, you do this.

The more that you use that, you know that path that you’re building, the more the grass gets trumpled down, the more comfortable it becomes and the more on the old path, the new the grass starts coming up, so it stops. 

It starts to regrow or lessen, right? The, the path I’m botching this example.

I get you the, the old path starts to weaken, right? It starts to weaken and grow in and the more that you’re using this new path, the more that you’re strengthening those connections, right? 

The myelin sheath gets thicker and the more it insulates and the more, the faster that that conductivity happens, right? 

And builds and it becomes quicker, and then becomes more automated. 

Then the old path starts growing over, so when, and that’s why it always takes like around six to seven weeks, right?

People are like, I wanna come and see you, and I wanna talk. 

Yes, if it’s information gathering or they’re looking, you know, to find somebody, or they’re looking to understand a, you know, a diagnosis, yes, we can do that one-on-one. But when people are working with us, It’s not like one or two answers.

Yes we can, and you can go to TikTok and you go to go all these amazing places with all these amazing people. 

Do your research first because what is being suggested? Where is that support? 

Cuz you need that practice. You need that repetitive, you need that accountability.

Become a habit. 

You need that support with, it’s a community, such as Parentability, where there’s other people talking in there to reinforce. It does take a village, it takes a community, it takes a posse, it takes a tribe. I call it a clan, my Scottish background.

We’re all there to support each other to do it and remind each other because we are human. We are perfectly imperfect. 

If we keep that in mind, we’re perfectly imperfect. We get, we empathize and you know, have self-compassion for ourselves and others. We practice and we practice it.

In the moment, but pre and post cuz that that’s a part of the neuroplasticity is you learn and you say, oh, that didn’t really work well this time it’s not gonna work the same time every time. 

It’s not like going to a McDonald’s where you get the same burger every time, the same taste every time.

People have different moods, people, you know, so sometimes we have to adapt a little bit. 

It didn’t work this time. Do you throw it out? No, it’s like, oh, I, what did I learn? 

That’s the neuroplasticity. What did I learn? 

It’s a growth mindset and when we have a gross mindset, which isn’t, yes, it’s positive, but you can have positive, uh, growth and fix at the same time.

We all do, but just being open to learning. 

We make mistakes as parents all the time. 

Some of them own them in front of your kids, some of them don’t own right, kind of make mental, not like, Ooh, yeah, I’m not gonna do that again. 

We could talk for hours and hours and hours, but it’s, burnout is a serious thing, especially when you’re raising kids with complex challenges.

Whether you’re, you know, your kids are atypical or neurodivergent, right? 

There’s challenges and no one said it was gonna be easy, yet we still became parents and we just have to be gentle with ourselves, except that we are not immortals and super beings, that we do actually have to rest and it’s sleep.

My kids are autistic and there’s a lot of sleep issues. 

I’m also menopausal, but we do the best that we can when we can with what we have. Until we know better, right?

Once we know better, then we do better and better.

It doesn’t mean a judgment, it just means an improvement.

A tweak, an enhancement. An optimization.

When you know better, you do better. ~ Maya Angelou 

I think a lot of parents do interpret it like that. Well, you know better as in something that is this like complete rewrite versus just a tweak.

It’s just a, a slight path correction.

A way that we model and teach our children to be successful, resilient kids, and it’s how we speak to them. 

Age is not a hindrance. 

An adaptation of how we’re gonna talk. 

When we have those conversations with our children, and it’s never too late to start those conversations, right?

When we have those conversations to say, what do you need? Or how can I help? 

We have had those conversations as parents or in a, a family session where we’ve come to these understandings and. We trust in ourselves enough in our parenting abilities to that we are teaching and modeling for our children the best that we can and that also give our children the opportunity to take what they are learning and make it their own cuz they’re not carbon copies.

They’re not carbon copies, so they make it on their own and it becomes collaboration. We’re not willy-nilly, right? 

We’re not saying, yes, here are the keys to the kingdom, and off you go. 

The whole, you know, with the families that I’m working with, we say, let’s take it into a collaboration.

You can still have differences of opinions, but it’s respecting the other party as well. 

Collaboration is not compromise.

Our children grow up, situations change, and so you know what worked before. 

Sometimes doesn’t always work the next time. 

It’s like organizing your kitchen cabinets or your closet, right?

You organize it, everything looks really neat and tidy, and it works in the system. 

Then life gets messy and it gets messy again, then we have to take time and reorganize again. 

The same in relationships, right?

The whole thing about family empowerment and in having that healthy family communication, it’s that.

You’re constantly going in and that’s the thing is parents, a lot of times, and this is part of the burnout too, is that we, we, we get up to a certain point and things are working and we have a chance to breathe and we just put our head downs and go, right, and life happens. 

Sometimes that’s in a span of a few months or a few years, and then suddenly what happens is shit is hitting the fan and you are so overwhelmed and exhausted and you can’t.

You find yourself in this crisis as a heavy term, but you know, a, a situation in circumstance where nobody’s happy and no one is thriving and no one is flourishing.

When you are feeling burnt out as the main care giver, it’s the last thing you wanna do. 

Those are the little things that you can do for yourself that we talked about, you know, the music and the, the things that give you that breath of fresh air and you can start coming back and, but the thing is though, the harder.

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About Allana

Hi, I’m Allana. I teach parents of toddlers and preschoolers why their children are misbehaving and what to do about it without yelling, shaming, or using time-outs. When not teaching parents about behaviour you can generally find me chasing around my two boys, reading cheesy romance novels, or hanging out with my own parents.

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