I’m writing this as a mom and step-mom of three adult children ranging in age from 20-23. Some of you with young children may be saying, “Lucky girl, she gets a full night of sleep!” You are right, I do, 98% of the time. Unfortunately, I still suffer from being an exhausted mom quite often. The issues that exhaust me as a mother aren’t related to sleeping all night, eating green beans and broccoli, or getting homework done, all while trying to grow in faith, support my husband, work, keep friendships, and all the other demands of life. Now I’m exhausted by helping my kids navigate possible forever relationships, new work experiences, whether or not to buy a new vehicle, or how to stay focused on living a Godly life.
I recently asked my own mother when parenting gets easier. She laughed and said, “Never.” She is a wise woman, my mother! Most days, I manage fairly well. I’m tired, but not burned out. However, I have come to realize that being consistently tired and one step away from burned out isn’t healthy. It’s less than optimum for serving and loving my kids and husband the way I would want. And, it just plain old stinks feeling that way. Here are a few signs that I am pushing exhaustion:
My attitude stinks. It’s fairly normal as a human being to have an off day now and again. However, when I start to have consecutive off days where I’m irritated by everything and everyone, it’s a big red stoplight for me. Irritability isn’t just an attitude or a mood, it’s an indicator of misalignment in our lives.
Apathy sneaks in. Apathy is an insidious, sneaky pestilence that easily emerges when we are exhausted. When I stop caring about things I normally care about—my appearance, eating healthy, spending time with people I love—it’s a sure sign that apathy has set in and is trying to set up residence. Apathy may be one of the most dangerous states to be in, because we stop caring, having empathy, and desiring good for both ourselves and others.
Physical ailments emerge. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP)*. Being an HSP is truly a gift, but also difficult to manage in a world that demands constant productivity amid chaos and stimulation. One of the ramifications of exhaustion, for everyone, is physical ailments—headaches, body soreness, increased susceptibility to illness. As an HSP, you can probably double or triple that propensity and the severity and frequency.
I remember the first time I realized how many times Jesus goes away from the people and his disciples to rest, pray, and be alone. He even stopped to eat! I have to admit, it took a long time to see that part of His story and to realize that the best way to love and serve my children and spouse is to first take care of myself. Here are a few quick tips to redirect when exhausted:
Know your personal limits. God created us all with a unique set of DNA, circumstances, and experiences. As an HSP, it has been hard for me to accept that I have some limitations that others don’t because of the way I process the world. It’s not bad, just different. It also means that I have different limits than others. I respect and honor the way God created me.
Keep your priorities straight. The biggest hijacker of my energy is saying yes to things that are peripheral to my priorities. Things that aren’t necessarily bad and seem like they are helpful to others, but actually derail me from managing my top priorities well. Asking yourself, “Will saying yes to this mean saying no to basic things I need to be the mom or wife I want to be?”, will help. If the answer is yes, it will, it’s not your priority.
Remember, we are in it together. Motherhood is not accomplished alone! You are not Super Mom and neither am I. Get over yourself and ask for help. If you have young kids, ask someone to watch the kids so you can get an uninterrupted nap, if that is what you need. If your kids are older, like mine, seek guidance from older, wiser women you have been where you are.
Motherhood is one of God’s great blessings, and one of life’s greatest challenges. None of us gets throughout perfectly or without a few bumps and bruises, if we are lucky. Please share your mom exhaustion go-to’s. Let’s support each other as we mother!
Contributed by Liz Hunt
*For more information about highly sensitive people, please see Elaine Aron’s work at https://hsperson.com.