I like to think I’m a good mom. In fact, I like to think I’m a great mom. What I really want, though, is to be a super mom. But lately, it’s been hard to be anything but a tired mom. By the time I end most days, I am so wiped out that it’s all I can do to actually put on pajamas before I fall into bed.
More than once, I’ve woken up on the couch in the middle of the night only to realize that my kids left me and put themselves to bed after I fell asleep during a “family” movie. I should also point out that they’re also thoughtful enough to leave all the lights on and the dirty dishes in the sink. I am guessing it’s because they don’t want me to wake up in the dark looking for chores to do. But I digress. The point is: I’m too tired to be a super mom.
Part of the problem is simply the stage of life in which I find myself. I thought having little kids was exhausting, but I forgot some of the perks like naptime and early bedtimes. (I have selectively forgotten all of the negatives.) Now that my kids are older, and I lack the negotiating skills to convince a 12-year old that 7:30 is a perfectly reasonable bedtime, we naturally have later bedtimes. Not to mention the fact that after-school activities don’t end until 6 or 6:30 most days, which means later dinners and a later start on homework.
Despite the occasions where I do, in fact, fall asleep on the couch and they leave me to my graceful slumber (sounds better than “fully clothed, drooling on a couch pillow”), I don’t get to go to bed until they go to bed. There are flash cards to go over. Crises to solve. Last minute requests for the morning and so on. Around here, nights can get very late, very quickly.
Then, of course, there’s just the normal day-to-day routine. Work, bills, doctor appointments, play dates, school events, grocery shopping, dinner, housekeeping…and well, you know the drill. All of this leaves me with very little gas in the tank.
I know there are countless parents out there who know exactly what I am talking about – whether you have toddlers or teens. And this should make me feel reassured; like I’m not alone and it’s ok to feel the way I do. But I don’t feel that way. I actually feel ridiculously guilty and am constantly wondering what is wrong with me.
It only recently that dawned on me. It’s Wonder Woman’s fault.
Growing up, she was my hero. I had the Underoos (please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers these), I had the sleeping bag, and I had the gold bracelets that made me invincible against my evil older brother’s villainous schemes. She could do anything. And so naturally, when it came to being a mom, one just had to assume that she was the super mom of all super moms.
But think about, we never saw Wonder Woman come home after a long day of saving the world, throw her cape on the coat rack, toss her tiara on the kitchen counter, and trade in her knee-high boots and bustier for a pair of slippers and sweats. We certainly never saw Wonder Woman trying to make dinner while arguing with Mr. Woman about whose turn it was to give the kids a bath. And we most definitely never saw Wonder Woman pour a glass of wine at 10:30pm only to fall asleep on the couch before she had a chance to enjoy it.
I had no idea that a day of saving the world, which is what I feel like I do most days, didn’t just naturally lead to another energetic day of kicking butt and taking names, all the while never smudging my perfect red lipstick. You know…super mom.
And that’s the thing. I think I’m supposed to be Wonder Woman, but at best, I’m Michael Keaton’s version of Mr. Mom. I’m tired, stressed, overwhelmed, and usually a little out of my element.
I’m embarrassed to admit that it actually took me awhile to figure out that I needed to stop waiting for life to give me a break. It’s up to me to give myself a break. Well, not a “break” exactly, but at least ways to fight the exhaustion. Because even though I like to say things like, “Hahaha…no worries! I’ll sleep when I’m dead!!” I am tired of being tired. I’m tired of not having the energy to deal with stuff that needs dealing with. And I’m very, very tired of being too exhausted to enjoy the stuff that matters – which all too often means my family.
With this in mind, I have established a few things that help battle the overwhelming exhaustion that many parents inevitably face when they are trying to do it all. Nothing will keep the tired from creeping in completely, of course. And we’ll probably never truly achieve super mom status…at least not like Wonder Woman. That’s just the nature of being a parent and not being a superhero by birth.
But in the meantime, the least we can do is try.
Cut back on the coffee (or your whatever your caffeine vice of choice might be).
I know this sounds insanely counter-intuitive because if I’m being honest, coffee is the only reason I get out of bed some mornings. If I did not smell coffee perking as soon as my eyes opened (thank goodness for pre-set timers on coffee makers), I could easily justify the kids getting themselves out the door and to the bus stop without any need for my involvement.
But caffeine is a tricky monster. While it gives us a rush of energy, it drops us just as quickly. There was a time where I countered that drop with more coffee, but it’s a vicious cycle. I’ve found that by limiting my coffee in the morning to just a cup or two, I actually feel better, think more clearly, and have more energy later in the day when I need it.
Drink more water.
According to the experts at WebMd (and countless other sources), dehydration is a major cause of fatigue. Our bodies need to be well-watered to stay in top form. And if you’ve ever gone head-to-head with a cranky four-year-old, then you know that “top form” is the only acceptable form of parenting. Sure, you’ll make more trips to the restroom until you get used to it, but at least you’ll have the energy to get there. And chances are, you’ll have at least one kid that needs to go, especially if you are in public. So, basically, two birds. One stone. You’re welcome.
Get some exercise.
My first response to this: I’M TOO TIRED TO MOVE MUCH LESS EXERCISE. And also, who has time for that nonsense. But it’s a fact: exercise increases endorphins, pumps up the adrenaline, and awakens your whole body (and mind) in the process. Now, I’m not talking about going out to train for a marathon every day, but even a 10-minute walk around the block when you feel your eyelids getting heavy right at the time you need to be the most focused can do wonders. For that matter, just about anything can be turned into exercise. Mop the floors like you’ve been threatening to do for the last three weeks. Vacuum the stairs. Play tag with the kids. Walk a few flights of stairs at work. Whatever it is, just do it. It will beat falling asleep in the car pick-up line. I speak from experience.
Take a time-out, i.e., quiet time for yourself.
“Hahahaha…YEAH RIGHT,” you say. I know I know, I know. Who has time for that? But honestly, it helps. And it doesn’t matter when. Whether you work away from home all day and you know you need a break before tackling dinner or homework, or you just need a break after a challenging “I’m not going to eat lunch” battle, setting the timer on your phone for 20 minutes and sitting, napping, or doing whatever it is that makes you feel calm can make the difference between getting through the day…or not.
I am one of those people who can do a 20-minute cat nap and be ready to rock n’ roll after. Others don’t know what to do with themselves in a quiet space. So if you just need to find a happy place, download a good meditation app like Headspace and take yourself to another world for just a few minutes at least. You’ll find that resting your brain is sometimes the best answer to your exhaustion.
I am the world’s biggest hypocrite because I sleep five hours a night at best. I admit it openly. But I also know that the best way to cure exhaustion is to, quite simply, sleep more. Of course, that’s the problem, isn’t it? So many things can lead to inadequate sleep. Stress and anxiety can leave you exhausted all day; but wide awake with spinning thoughts the moment your head hits the pillow. An unanswered to-do list can leave you staying up way too late because you’re trying to catch up once the kids have finally gone to bed. Inconsistent schedules can throw you off. Sick kids can lead to sleepless nights for everyone. And the list goes on.
But doing our best to commit to at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night will make all of the other things better. Proper sleep gives us more clarity to handle our stress, more energy to get things done, better headspace to handle crazy schedules, and maybe, just maybe, a little extra fuel in the tank to handle those inevitable and unavoidable sleepless nights due to things out of our control.
Here a few things to help establish a better sleep routine:
- Limit screen time. Don’t take your phone to bed and if you have a TV in your room, try not to fall asleep to it. If you watch a show, end it, then settle yourself in for sleep.
- Don’t do caffeine or lots of sugar late in the afternoon or evening. Think of it this way: would you give your toddler a piece of chocolate cake and a cup of coffee at 7pm? Right. So you maybe you should avoid it, too.
- If you have trouble calming your thoughts, try the same meditation techniques we mentioned above. Find a good app for guided meditation or play soothing music.
- Keep a good book by your bed and read a few pages every night to transition from the chaos of the day to a calmer state.
These tips may not get you back to super mom status, but they’ll at least get you on your way.
Please read all of the things I’ve just suggested above. Do they look familiar? Here’s a hint: remember how hard you worked to get your kids on a good sleep schedule? Remember the routines and the do’s and don’ts?
Well, guess what? All the same things apply to adults.
Take care of yourself as well as you would your kids and chances are, you’ll be on a proper schedule much faster than they were.
There are countless other things I could suggest. Take more time for yourself, even if it’s 30 minutes alone at the park with a good book. Spend more time with friends, because sometimes socialization is an energy source. Eat healthy, protein-filled snacks. You get the gist. And you can, no doubt, suggest a million more ideas.
But the main point is that you need to own your exhaustion. I definitely don’t have it all figured out yet, and I am way too quick to blame my kids, my life, and everything and everyone but myself. But the truth is, there are some things I can control.
And even though my gold bracelets and tiara feel a little rusty some days, with a good night’s sleep? I’m pretty sure I might just save the world yet.