“Why are you so tired though?” My husband asks me. Jokingly, but with a tinge of something beneath it. I work from home now. So what could I possibly have to complain about? What could I possibly need to be thinking about? What kind of work load, mental or otherwise could I be carrying…
Unfortunately, the most I can do is say, “ugh” as an explanation.
Other moms tend to get this. To be fair I’m pretty sure my husband gets it too. He’s also exhausted.
Being a mom is beautiful. It is. And I'm complaining only because I'm ALL THE WAY IN IT right now and it's hard to have perspective on how fucking beautiful it is when you're so fucking tired all the time. And it is 100% because of this mental workload.
Let’s break it down and do the thing, shall we?
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The Mental Exhaustion of Motherhood
I typically go to sleep Sunday night feeling somewhat invigorated and refreshed in a very specific I’m-gonna-own-this-week kinda way.
And then, as if on cue, Monday hits and something happens that I didn’t anticipate. Every Monday it’s something different. This Monday I was reminded by my son’s teacher about his Parent/Teacher conference on Wednesday.
Then my mind, which has been held loosely together by a couple naps (sleep when the baby sleeps) coffee, and chocolate seems to unravel…
Fucccckkkkk….This week is my husband’s birthday, and also it’s Father’s day, and also I haven’t sent my dad a card yet.
…it’s an unending stream of inner dialogue that seems to be on a continuous loop and spins me around like a crazy person making me feel like I’ve accomplished all the things when in actuality I’ve just stood at the kitchen counter alternating between coffee and wine at different times of the day.
Jack doesn’t have a single swimsuit that fits him.
They need haircuts.
Where is the missing water bottle that has my son’s name on it (literally)?
Why doesn’t he know the letter A though?
You’re pressuring him too much. French children don’t learn their letters till they’re six-years-old.
Pressuring him is okay. You’re human. And you’re worried. You’re just doing your best.
What’s for dinner tonight? What’s for Dinner Tomorrow Night?
Can I order pizza every night, though?
Sam is ready to be potty trained. But when can we even do this?
Laugh at a funny gif a mom friend sends me via text.
Feel guilty AF as I eat all of the leftover chicken nuggets that I’m supposed to be “cleaning up” that are also not on my latest “diet.”
Will This Mental Feedback Loop Ever End?
Because I love being in control way too much (or at least believing that I'm in some control). If I'm lucky, I'll remember to write some of it down so that I manage to tackle it.
But more often, I end up showing up late to birthday parties because I ran out of time to run to the store to get a present. Or forgot that we had a birthday party to go to at all.
And, ya’ll. I haven’t even touched on the family drama. And the friend drama. And the political drama that keeps me up at night. And the random, “There was an incident” drama as reported to me by the boy’s school that I end up carrying around wondering about/obsessing over.
And I think, YES, yes, I will handle all of these things this weekend.
I need to get my work done and focus on that, and then this weekend I will handle my shit because I can handle anything because I AM A goddess bitch.
And then the weekend comes, and I end up taking a nap instead of dealing with my expanding to-do list half because of exhaustion and half because of an allergy to handling my mom goddess bitch business.
I know I can’t be alone.
How to Be Less Overwhelmed Though
I feel like I won't get to feel less tired again in a real way until MAYBE my children go to college but then I'll only have new worries about what sort of mayhem they're getting into and their future career goals and our health at that time and all the rest until forever amen.
Let me say one real quick thing about mental health.
Please don’t fuck around with your thoughts and feelings. If you’re exhaustion is inhibiting your ability to function normally, or if you’re just not feeling “right” it’s important that you check in with a qualified medical health professional.
The symptoms of Post Partum Depression and/or anxiety can come on all at once, or linger and suddenly appear after years of having children. And it can look very different in different moms.
Check out this quiz to reference possible symptoms and how to find a qualified professional to help you through it.
If you’re dealing with the regular run-of-the-mill exhaustion then here’s some ways to help you survive:
1 - Meditate
Get thee to a quiet place!
It can be your bathroom (why is that the first place I suggest? Ugh). It can be your car parked in the beautiful silence of the garage or on the street. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you find a way to carve out 5, 10, 15 minutes where you can purposefully quiet your mind.
According to this article in Psychology Today, meditation is kind of the best thing ever for every thing because it physically changes your brain.
Meditation can reduce your risk of cancer! As well as reduce your risk of heart disease, improve your sleep, cognition, and even your memory! It’s the miracle drug that doesn’t require you to swallow (oh, heyyyy!)
Also it’s free.
Also you don’t have to be a meditation whiz or sit in a cross legged yoga position or light incense like many images or books would have you believe.
You can do it anywhere.
And if you believe you’re one of those people who just can’t sit still for that long…sorry, momma. You probably need this more than you realize.
Headspace is a great app that offers guided meditations that are anywhere from one minute to 30 minutes and provide encouragement and education about the meditation process.
Here’s Andy guiding the entire Jimmy Kimmel audience through a quick meditation. Andy is the creator and CEO (and the soothing voice) of Headspace. He knows what he’s talking about:
2 - Create an Organization System That Works For You
Multitasking isn’t actually as awesome as we think it is and we’re pretty terrible at it.
Even though we may feel like we’re accomplishing an awful lot, the truth is we’re basically spinning in circles. Studies show that we can’t actually do two things at once and when we try to we end up delaying the completion of BOTH tasks, rather than moving forward on one.
This is why I use Trello for everything.
Not familiar with Trello? No biggie. It's super user friendly app for your phone and desktop interface that allows you to look at a “bulletin board” style list of items. Trello seriously helps me stay focused and on task in nearly every corner of my life.
I have boards for my blog, for my freelance clients and assignments, for my social marketing, and even for my daily, weekly and monthly “to do” lists, as well as yearly goals. We even plan meals and grocery shopping, as well as birthday parties a’la Trello.
3 - Use a Pomodoro Timer
The Pomodoro technique was invented in the 1990’s by Francisco Cirillo and named for the tomato-shaped timer Cirillo used to track his work.
Simply, the Pomodoro technique encourages you to break up a larger task (or several small tasks) into 25 minute chunks of time, with a five minute break in between “work sessions.” This allows your brain to focus more clearly for the short periods, and as a result, you actually end up accomplishing way more than if you had sat down for hours and tried to bang it all out.
Your app store has LOADS of Pomodoro timers. There’s one that “plants trees” to keep you focused on your work (and not responding to text messages or Facebook DM’s).
You can even use your microwave timer, or an old baking timer. Try it out. It seriously works (and hey, it’s how I was able to finish writing this blog post yay!)
4 - Find Your Mom Village
You need a team of trustworthy, loving, supportive mom friends now more than ever.
This can look like a number of things. A super supportive Facebook Group might be enough for you. For me, I need core people I can depend on both for stupid middle of the night texting as I feed the baby, and for emergency pick-ups-from-daycare. As well as to commiserate with during those life milestone events that only other moms seem to be able to understand. And also for the gifs.
It’s also helpful to find people who help you to feel less alone.
Jack from the ABC show “Lost” famously said on the first episode when they crash landed on the island: “Live together, die alone.” This is the mom village credo. No we don’t physically live together, but we lean on each other during parenting ups and downs and turn to each other for survival in a very specific way.
You may think I’m being dramatic…but there is an isolation that occurs when you feel like you have no one to talk to about your struggles in parenthood (and I’ve also experienced that).
When you have a village that you can text or call or email or drop in on unannounced (Yes. I could totally do this with some of my closest mom friends), then you feel bolstered to survive motherhood.
The Peanut account on Instagram is a fantastic way to connect with other moms.
You can also search for local Facebook groups in your city.
Or, if you can stand it, strike up a random conversation at the park.
It may take a hot minute to find the “right” mom village for you. I’ve been through several iterations and loved and lost several mom friends for one reason or another.
I imagine that will continue as my kids get older and social circles expand and contract. But I hope to keep my core people my core people.
One more super personal note on this: As I went through the waves of grief that came after my dad passed away this past summer, I leaned on my mom crew a lot more than I thought I might have. And they let me, which was essential.
5 - Have A Team of Professionals That You Trust to Help You Navigate #Momlife
I was 30 weeks pregnant with Jack when I switched doctors because when I told him that I wanted to have an un-medicated delivery my doctor at the time said, “Why on earth would you want to do that?”
I didn’t trust that he would honor my preference.
Jack was a year and a half old when we switched pediatricians because we spent two hours in an overpacked waiting room, another 45 minutes waiting in a room, and spent a whole of seven minutes with the doctor who couldn’t be bothered to be asked any follow up questions or even look me in the eye.
You must be an advocate for your health and for your children’s health. I realize that sometimes health insurance plans restrict your ability to have a choice in the matter.
But when you can, make it. If you have a team of doctors where one is rumored to be fantastic do whatever you can to be on that doctor’s roster.
It’s also important that you trust your mom gut with this one. If it feels off, it probably is. Fight for your right to access quality doctors and health care. Please speak up and out if you are not getting it.
Currently we are with a pediatrician service that responds to phone calls within ten minutes even in the middle of the night. We do pay an extra fee for this. But having the peace of mind to have my questions answered right away, and that I don’t have to take my kid to the emergency room in the middle of the night (and rack up even more bills) and instead, can wait until their office opens in the morning is worth every penny to me.
6 - Practice Self-Care
Self-care does not necessarily mean going to get your nails done (although to some it can be!). Self-care does not mean a day at a spa (although that is one way to practice it!). Self-care isn’t a reward for exercising, or finishing six weeks of dieting.
Self-care means dedicating time to and for yourself that helps you navigate your days and makes you feel human again. For some in the early days this can mean taking a long hot shower or bath. For others it may mean an hour of therapy with a qualified professional each week.
A good way to test out if you’ve just practiced self care is to take a deep breath and do a body scan. Do you feel lighter? Do you feel more relaxed? Do you feel energized and excited to move forward? Even if it’s just to tackle that pile of dishes or laundry basket? If yes, then you’re probably on the right track.
If you can’t tell, you might need an alternative method of self-care that can push you to self-regulate in a more productive way.
As the wife of a mental health professional, and having experienced the life transformative process of therapy, I believe that moms in particular need way more talk therapy then I think we realize.
We put it off because of the expense or the perception that we don’t have “time.” Your mental health is essential to everything else. Ask for referrals and try to meet with at least three qualified professionals before deciding on a mental health professional that works for you.
7 - Unplug If You Can
Speaking of self-care, unplugging for a certain amount of time a day can be a very specific act of self-care. For many we are extremely wrapped up in what’s happening on Insta, Facebook, Twitter, or even in the group text!
If you can set specific times when you check your phone and otherwise leave it alone, you may find yourself feeling a bit lighter and even energized.
The latest update to iPhones allow you to track your screen time. If you have this function, test it out for a few weeks and see how much time you actually spend on social media. If you can decrease the time by 20 minutes, you may see a difference in your overall exhaustion and general mood.
For some, unplugging can be really challenging. Ultimately, you need to find what works for you. But at the bare minimum, try to turn off electronics during family meals or specific family activities. This will help you be present and connect more with your adorable fam bam (and really the reason why we’re all in this mess to begin with #amiright?)
A DGAF Mental Mother Load Gut Check
Let’s take this whole thing back a hot sec though.
My identity as a blogger is built on not giving fucks about certain things and choosing the fucks I want to give so that I can live a happier life.
Embracing this idea helps me to stay grounded in all the things. And knowing that I’m going to write about most of the shit going on in my life at some point, helps me prioritize other fucks in a particular way.
So thank you, dear readers, for hanging out with me in this beautiful chaos.
In the meantime, my to-do list is legit unmanageably manageable thanks to some of the systems I’ve put in place like those above.
What’s your mental burden, momma? Share this post on Facebook or Pinterest if it’s giving you the feels. Here’s a handy pin to help you out:
Thank you for joining me in the burden-hood of parent-hood.