A phrase I’ve said almost every day since becoming a mother. I’ve said it to my kids, my husband and myself. It’s a shock to the system, how tiring motherhood is. There is truly no way to prepare.
And I’ve sure looked the part. That stereotypical stay-at-home mom in her pajamas, shuffling her feet though the produce section of the grocery store, shushing babies, appeasing toddlers, shoulders hunched and face ashen in exhaustion, looking like she’s completely given up—I’ve been her.
“Why are you tired?” Someone might say in return.
Why? Here’s why Mommy is tired.
At 3 a.m., one of you rustles in your sleep. Pushes off a blanket. I am jerked awake immediately.
Which one of you moved? Is something wrong? The neighbor was puking the other day, I’ll recall. Is one of you going to puke? What if you all get it? What if I get it? Next weekend is the baseball tournament and the school talent show. Oh no.
No. You’re all quiet now. No puke tonight.
But now that I’m wide awake, let’s think about stuff.
Did I make flu shot appointments? The 8-year-old needs new shoes before the talent show. And the 6-year-old needs a gift for that birthday party Saturday. Can’t forget. Maybe I should get up and write that on a post-it. And might as well check on all the kids while I’m up. Oh look, this one peed the bed.
Twenty minutes later, I’m back in bed.
Close your eyes, Mommy, I say to myself. It’s 4 a.m. You can get two more hours in…But what if my six-year-old doesn’t get placed on her best friend’s softball team? She’ll be devastated. How will I break that to her…
And it’s not just insomnia that tires Mommy.
It’s the fears. Oh God, the fears. Of bullies. And guns. And predators. And childhood cancer. And Lyme Disease. And drowning. And crossing the street without looking and peanut allergies and plane crashes and….
The fears are so incredibly exhausting.
And if we get a break from the fears, next comes the pressures we put on ourselves.
Susan down the street says HER son is done with diapers. Ugh. I need to start. And the kindergartner next door knows ALL her sight words. What if my kid falls behind? And I can’t get my four-year-old to drink his milk or eat a vegetable. What his insides must look like. And the eight-year-old is playing too many video games. We need a time chart to monitor his gaming. Need to work on that. Find the time. Make it a priority. All of it. Need to do better!
But Mommy! You need to take care of you. You need to work on self-care. Then you’d be less tired.
Right. Hmmm when can I work out tomorrow? Better get up at 5 a.m. and do it or else I’ll never get it done. 5 a.m...That sounds terrible. I need to make that doctor’s appointment. I haven’t had a physical in five years. I read somewhere about hormonal issues and thyroid issues and pre-menopause and they all sounded oddly familiar...Need to make that a priority. Need to remember to call. Write it on a post-it.
I am tired of trying to fit in self-care. And tired of being tired because there’s no time for self-care.
Why else is Mommy tired?
I am tired because it’s 2:00 in the afternoon and I’ve survived on coffee and the last of my daughter’s crusty cold oatmeal so far today.
I am tired of being endlessly needed, yet invisible.
I am tired of “Where’s my uniform?” and “I need poster-board” and “I’m out of underwear” and “What’s for dinner?” and doing all the things and making it all work like a ghost that floats through the house. The laundry gets washed, folded and put away without anyone realizing it. The groceries are bought, the food is cooked, the floor is swept and the sheets are changed. The uniform is hung up, ready for the next game, the school supplies are purchased and ready for the project on Mt. Vesuvius. The bills are paid, the dry-cleaning is picked up, the garbage is put out by the curb on Tuesdays.
And it’s like no one sees any of it happen. It’s all behind the scenes.
I am the inconspicuous stage manager, putting out scenery and props, dressed in all black, while the audience watches the performance from their seats.
Dinner. I am so tired of battling over dinner. I am tired of tripping over shoes no one put away and refereeing fights over a green marble as I spend an hour in the kitchen chopping, seasoning, and sauteing food that heaven forbid has something green in it.
And hearing “Ew. Mommy, what is this?”
I’m so tired at 8 p.m. after a day of mothering and worrying and washing and wiping and fixing and managing and refereeing, but then I stay up too late, desperate for an hour or two of no one saying, “Mommy can you…” or “Mommy I need…”
I watch the clock…10 p.m., 11 p.m…
Go to bed, a voice says. But I feel so peaceful and free. Tomorrow night I’ll go to bed early. But not tonight. I need this.
I’m tired of trying to do it all, knowing I can’t do it all, but being unable to stop trying to do it all.
I’m tired of knowing I am on a never-ending quest for perfectionism and appreciation and self-worth and value. I’m tired of not knowing what I need when someone says “How can I help?”
Where do I begin?
I am tired for so many reasons.
I’m tired of doing dishes and laundry and wiping butts and never having an empty sink, the laundry done, or a house that doesn’t smell like poop.
I’m tired of knowing it will never get done. Ever. Yet I have to keep doing it. Because it’s my job.
I am tired of barking and lecturing and nagging and saying the same exact sentences 896 times a day.
I am tired of no one listening the first time. EVER.
I am tired of being angry and frustrated with my kids.
I am tired of being angry and frustrated with myself for getting angry and frustrated with my kids. Because they are just kids.
I am tired of dust bunnies and Cheez-it crumbs and little boys missing the toilet and “Oops, Mommy. I spilled my milk!”
I am tired of walking into clean, organized homes and wondering how they do it. And what is wrong with me that I can’t get it together?
I am so tired of not having it together.
I am tired of competing with the unrealistic version of who I think I should be.
I am tired of realizing at the end of the day that I was too tired to enjoy the giggles and tickles and hugs and snuggles.
But I vow to be less tired tomorrow.
Because I don’t want to look back and realize I missed it all.
I just need to go to bed early tonight.
This post first appeared on Mother.ly