I am exhausted.
How many times have you said these words? How many times were you too exhausted to even utter these words?
Whether we are mentally, emotionally or physically exhausted, as mothers, we always get the short end of the straw. It does not seem to matter how much we say these words, or how horrible we look, we’re often met with harsh criticism and high expectations. Inevitably creating a cycle that we feel will never end.
As a high functioning introvert, this phrase covers all aspects of the social emotional realm for me. Each day I wake up, I’m immediately taxed with the thought that I have to leave my home to commune with the working people of the world. That one hour of a lunch break is not enough of a withdrawal period to recoup the energy lost that morning. However, I still forge ahead which creates negative energy that will take even longer to recover from later. It is all because my family needs the income to survive in today’s society. I get a bit of a relief from the pressures of the world when I finally pull into my driveway. However, moments later, and after a deep sigh escapes my lips, I am faced with the prospect to converse with others, again. Only this time, they are inside my home, and they are my family.
I have an adult daughter who talks non-stop, but the home has been quieter since she left months ago to venture out on her own. I try to remind myself that the four year old isn’t as communicative as my daughter. Until he repeats the third or fourth question that I have already answered for the millionth time; proving how truly chatty a young child can be. I try to wear him down by taking him to the park “with all the kids.” But, those kids come with parents, and that park comes with teenagers and other adults. And, they all like to talk… to random strangers.
It’s enough to make me want to hide in my little bubble and disappear for awhile. However, for my son’s social and emotional well-being, I must keep moving forward to make connections. When the connections are made, and my son has spent quality time with the other kids, I begin to hope and pray that the meltdown monster doesn’t rear its ugly head. It is a constant battle I must endure for taking my son away from the other kids; all in the name of getting sustenance for our empty tummies.
There is only one moment in the day where I can finally breathe. It is when my son has decidedly allowed slumber to take over so he can play in the dream world. By then, I am too tired to do anything for me, and I slip into another night of restless sleep.
Living here in Michigan creates an extra special challenge for introverts like me. There’s a hidden drive to “do it all” while the weather is nice. During the summer months, we are constantly on the go and absorbing those beautiful rays of sunshine while letting our little ones flit about in hopes for some semblance of down time. Deep inside, we know that when the 5 months of winter hits, we are all stuck indoors with the very ones that we have created. Not only can they find that button to annoy us, but they push it repeatedly in open defiance.
The uniqueness of the pandemic has added an extra layer of challenges to the already exhausted mother. There are decisions we are being forced to make with no real right answer. There are things being forced on our children, whether we agree to them or not. And, for the working mother, she finds herself with added anxieties and pressures from work overload or extreme overtime hours playing havoc on her relationships with her kids and partner. And let’s not forget about the mom who cannot work. Decisions the pandemic has forced upon her for the sake of her own family has given her a unique set of challenges that are just as taxing on her physical and emotional well-being as they are on the working mom.
When a momma is withdrawn, irritable, looks tired or simply states “no” or “I can’t right now”, know that she is so exhausted on another level that none of us ever imagined we would be. Show a little compassion to these mothers. They are doing the best they can in the circumstances that they are given. If you are a family member or friend, do a little extra work around the house for her or offer to spend time with her kids to give her a much needed break. If you are a partner, give her a moment to have drinks with friends, a weekend excursion, or just a few hours of alone time each week. If you are her boss or co-worker, encourage her to use her vacation time and show her that it’s okay to give herself permission to take a day off. Some solitude time is exactly what she needs to rid herself of the negativity, recoup lost energy, and help her find her pleasures in life, again.
And, Moms, hold firm to your boundaries. Recognize your needs and follow through with them. Above all else, do not allow guilt to sabotage your need for solitude. We may be riding one of the roughest waves in life right now, but it won’t last forever. Be good to yourself, find your quiet time, and recoup that energy you lost. You will come back to your family refreshed, energized, and ready to tackle any dilemma they need you to help solve for them; including those keys that are in your husband’s pocket.