Ask any mom on any given day how she’s doing and chances are, you’ll get a bright smile and a cheery, “I’m fine!” Catch her in a moment of honesty, and she’ll likely reply, “I’m tired.” But, “I’m tired” sounds so negative. These are the words of someone who has given up or is wishing for something else, right? Naturally, we all know that’s not the case. I mean, deep down, we know that we’re ALL tired…and yet, we still struggle to admit it, to ourselves or the world. This is why, as moms, we often bypass our moments of honesty and give the canned responses that belie our internal struggles. But what would change if we stopped to think about what moms really mean when they say, “I’m tired”?
Parenting is hard. It’s a full-time job that is relentless in its call for presence, vigilance, attention, and structure. It requires an almost superhuman amount of patience, organization, and moral fortitude. And more than anything, it’s exhausting – both mentally and physically.
As moms, we are all living different versions of the same reality, regardless of our circumstances. We all know this in our rational mind, and yet…we still shy away from admitting the realities on a daily basis. “I’m fine” seems to roll off the tongue more quickly than the truth, which as previously stated is, “I’m tired.”
In thinking about my own experiences, and the many reasons I don’t speak my parenting truth on a regular basis, I realized that a lot of my hesitation comes from a fear of being misjudged. When we say things like “I’m tired,” we fear a certain perception of our ability as a parent. We worry that if we admit to not being able to handle all that the daily struggle entails, then perhaps we’re failing somehow. Hence, we charge into the outside world, frantically screaming the battlecry of “III’MMM FIIINNNEEE!”
So let’s take a moment and talk about what moms really mean when they say, “I’m tired.”
- We really mean that we stayed up until 2am making a costume for the school play, because a) we forgot about it until that last minute, because we were too busy trying to remember things like afterschool schedules, dinner, and bills; and b) who knew that flamingos were an important part of American history, anyway?
- We really mean that we got up this morning, ready to face the day with renewed energy, only to have the dog throw up in the hallway, our husband announce that he would be out of town for work all next week, and a Wrestlemania exhibition put on in the kitchen because, according to one child, the other child “took too many Cheerios.” And it all happened before our second cup of coffee.
- We really mean that we had three client meetings, one call from the school that a child was throwing up, four texts from our best friend whose call we had already missed yesterday, and a school volunteer meeting that started at the same time as soccer practice ended. This was also that week that our husband was out of town.
- We really mean that we were silly enough to think we could get up before everyone else and go to the gym, but as a result one kid missed the bus and the other left his lunch sitting on the kitchen counter. Our endorphins have just plummeted.
- We really mean that we have a newborn who won’t sleep through the night.
- We really mean that we have a toddler who thinks she’s the boss of her.
- We really mean that we have a ten-year old on two travel sports teams.
- We really mean that we have a tween who just announced they wanted Snapchat.
- We really mean that we have a teenager who is experiencing all of the emotions. ALL of them.
- We really mean that we haven’t slept properly in more than a decade.
- We really mean that we constantly worry that our kids are ok and wonder if we’re doing it all right…or all wrong…or even remotely passable in any way.
- We really mean that we are a mom – and it’s hard.
This is the reality of parenting, y’all.
It’s crazy and topsy-turvy and nine days out of 10, it’s mind-numbingly exhausting. But the only way to truly embrace it, and more importantly, to understand that being tired is NOT the same as failing, is to, perhaps, look at what “I’m tired” doesn’t mean.
- It doesn’t mean you are ready to quit.
- It doesn’t mean you would trade your crazy life for any other.
- It doesn’t mean you won’t get up and keep going the next day.
- It doesn’t mean you don’t love your family with a fierceness that defies description.
- It doesn’t mean you don’t care about your friends even when you can’t reply to a text or call.
- It doesn’t mean you can’t handle anything the day throws at you.
- And it DOES NOT mean that you are failing.
As we celebrate Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week this week (April 29 – May 3), it’s more important than ever that we moms give ourselves a break.
We have got to stop setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves –and in doing so, we will automatically stop setting unrealistic expectations for others.
The fact is that we all have days when we ugly cry before 10am, when we put the kids in front of the TV so we can have 23-27 minutes of peace, and when we stay up way too late looking at travel sites or Pinterest boards, longing for something more. And we all have times when we DO feel like giving up. We question our fitness for this journey and wonder if we are not doing more harm than good. These are hard, often dark, moments. But they are the common threads that bind us as mother, sisters, daughters, and friends. They are the moments when we must remember that we ARE NOT ALONE.
So to all you moms out there who are tired, go ahead and speak your truth. Don’t be afraid to admit your humanity to the world. You might just find that your honesty gives another mother permission to breathe a sigh of relief and carry on knowing that she has a mother warrior just like you standing by her side, encouraging her to the finish line.
For this is the truth – it is not our weakness that defeats us, but our self-doubt, second-guessing, and self-incrimination. Let it go, girl. You may be tired, but you are still mighty. Own your reality, and trust me, that is the truth that the world will see.
For more articles, essays, and reflections on the joys, struggles, and often hilarious mishaps that come with parenting, be sure to visit our entire Parent Life series!