Mom Confession: I’m Running On Empty

My husband Dan and I are slowly inching toward the end of a really busy season – he’s a public school teacher who’s in the final homestretch before summer, and I can’t seem to get my head above the ocean that is my never-ending list of deadlines and deliverables. All while trying to properly raise two small children (one of whom just acquired an interesting and unnerving medical diagnosis) into at least semi-decent human beings.

All that to say, I’m tired. Exhausted. Running on empty. Most days, all I can do is keep myself and everyone in my house fed and clothed. And as for the chores? Forget it. Not happening. Good luck, kids, your clean clothes are in a pile on the floor in the corner of my bedroom and if your hide-and-seek skills are any indicator, you’ll be just fine unearthing your own outfits each day.

I’ve been running at this pace for a few months now, but it wasn’t until last week that I finally verbally acknowledged to my husband what he (and probably everyone around me) has known for quite some time –I’m maxed out. I need a break.

Now, I know that motherhood in general is tiring. But this is different. This is bigger than the day-to-day exhaustion that comes with the parenthood package. And here’s how I was able to tell that I am desperately in need of some rehabilitation:

  1. I’ve been unable to find joy in literally anything my children do. This one is hard to admit, because even on my most fried days, I can usually glean a smile from looking at my toddler’s squishy cheeks, or the way the sunlight glints off of his blonde curls, or how my preschooler can effortlessly phonetically spell words on his drawing board. But none of those things has been able to bring me so much as a fleeting grin. They fall on me like raindrops on concrete.
  2. Eating is hard. Not because I feel physically nauseous or anything, but because my appetite is basically nonexistent and, also, I can hardly be bothered to muster up the effort to make myself something. I can only feed the kids before all of my energy is vanquished. I’ll pick at their inevitable leftovers, and then dump all the dishes in the sink (to be ignored, of course).
  3. I’m avoiding play dates. I’m an extravert, so this is extremely concerning. Under normal circumstances I’d be filling up my calendar with play dates out the wazoo, but right now, the mere thought of being halfway authentic with my parent-friends right now seems draining and impossible.

Does any of this resonate with you? Maybe it doesn’t (looking at you, introverted parents) but if anything I’ve said is something you can relate to on even the slightest level, it might be time to consider whether you’re running on empty. If you think you are:

  1. Talk about it. Don’t be like me and avoid bringing it up for months. The second you start to feel overwhelmed, like getting out of bed in the morning to greet your shrieking children is unbearable, talk to someone you trust. Talk to your partner, your spouse, your best friend, your mom, your dad, your pastor… doesn’t matter. Talk to someone. At the very least you’re likely to get some solidarity, but you might also get some helpful ideas from a different perspective.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I can’t tell you how many text messages that I have sent out this week that begin with, “HAIL MARY, I need some help. Are you available?” It definitely can be terrifying to be so vulnerable, but the worst that can happen is that everyone says no, and you’re in the same spot you were. The best that can happen is a friend comes over to watch your kids for an hour while you nap or take a bath. Maybe someone swings by in the evening and folds the freaking laundry with you so it doesn’t take you a thousand years (and you get to enjoy the company of a kind friend at the same time).
  3. Figure out how you get energy and GO FOR IT FULL STOP. What is it that lights up your soul? Is it getting coffee with friends first thing in the morning before work? Is it reading your favorite book for the eightieth time (Harry Potter, for me)? Is it going out for drinks after work? Is it listening to or playing music? Whatever it is, that’s your top priority right now (only below making sure everyone in your house has their basic needs – food, water, shelter, sleep – met). Each day you should be trying to fill your bucket; don’t listen to one WHAM! album and walk away. Commit to caring for yourself daily.
  4. Remind yourself that nothing is forever and this too shall pass. Of course these seasons in life totally suck. But that’s just what they are – seasons. No season lasts forever. You will come out of this at some point; the baby will start sleeping longer stretches; the toddler will soon learn how to use the bathroom by himself; the preschooler will figure out how to follow LEGO sets directions alone. It will get easier, and you’ll catch your breath at some point. I promise.
  5. Give yourself grace – you’re not alone. I haven’t talked to every single parent on this planet, but I have talked to a lot of parents in my city, and each one of them has felt this way before. Take comfort in that.

I’ll end with this: know that you’re NOT the worst parent for being burnt out. You’re just a normal parent who is clearly doing a great job raising your kids, because if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be so bloody tired, now would you?

So, high five. Be proud of yourself. Care for yourself, but be proud, too. You’re awesome.