What better day to write about “mommy fatigue” than this one? Last night, as I tiptoed in to check on my peacefully sleeping girls, I watched my eldest break into a coughing fit, resulting in her throwing up on the 15 stuffed animals she insists on sleeping with every night. After an impressive tag team clean-up, my husband and I got her back to bed, only to be awakened at 3:00 am, with her announcing that she had lost her first tooth and proudly presenting it to me. She returned at 6:00 am with a headlamp on, frantically searching our bedroom for said tooth. Sound familiar? Who knew motherhood would be such an adventure?
Being a mother, and having provided parent coaching to many others, I am acutely aware of the “mommy fatigue” phenomena. To be “mom” often means you are the center of your child’s universe, the first to be called upon for assistance with shoes, breakfast, or sibling conflict. It is an amazing, rewarding experience full of snuggles, kisses, and smiles. It can also mean you are constantly dead tired and have a never-ending To DO List running through your head, including “sign up for soccer”, “hand in field trip permission form,” and “buy more cheese sticks.” It’s not always glamorous. Apparently 70 percent of American moms say mothering is “incredibly stressful,” so know you are not alone.
This brings us to what can be done to be more present in the moment and less exhausted and irritable:
- Maintain your friendships. Girlfriends can help you problem -solve and commiserate when needed. Getting out for adult time means you maintain your personal identity and can converse about topics outside of your daily life.
- Prepare in advance for “high stress times. If mornings are always frantic, make lunches and lay out clothes the night before. If bedtimes consistently run late, start them 15 minutes earlier, if possible, so you can take the time to settle your children in a relaxed manner rather than at a point of exhaustion.
- Ask for help. Remember that you can’t do it all—and shouldn’t. Partners or grandparents can help. Be specific in your requests for help. Sometimes, others don’t know how to be helpful without clear instructions. Remember also that as children grow older, they are more capable. It is good for them to take on new responsibilities, such as brushing their own teeth or packing their own school snacks. While that may seem like more work in the short term, it will benefit everyone in the long run.
- Model time-outs for your family. Recognize when you are irritable and short-tempered and tell your child you’re “grumpy” and need to take a break. Step away, take deep breaths, and return when you feel calmer.
- Get outside. Life maintenance chores can easily take over, but getting outside (alone or with your children) can be a great mood shifter. While walking with your toddler may not serve as great exercise, it can offer you the opportunity to slow down and really take in the natural beauty of your surroundings.
- Have a date night and discuss things besides your immediate family needs. If a sitter is not in the budget, take turns providing childcare with a family friend who could also use a night out
- Turn off the television and read a book that inspires you and reminds you of your other interests.
Most importantly, as you’ve probably heard from many well-meaning strangers in the grocery store, “Enjoy them while they’re young … they’ll be grown up before you know it.”
Be on the lookout for Marin Parents Place’s new workshop, “Mommy Fatigue,” this February.