Being a mother is complex, it can be described in many ways. To me the word that best describes being the mother of a young child is intense, and this intensity can weigh on you. Since becoming a mother I am experiencing life at a much higher intensity level than before, and this wasn’t something I was prepared for. I knew that becoming a parent would be emotional, time consuming, and rewarding; but I wasn’t prepared for the all-encompassing feeling of raising a child. In many ways, I can only describe this as a constant weight on my mind and heart, a weight that I am happy to carry; but a weight that can feel heavy at times. Especially when your children are young, the responsibility and worry of keeping them safe, loved, and thriving is something you never stop feeling as a mother. I worry about my son, and if I am being the best mother I can be, every day. I beg for a break from him, and the second I am away all I can think about is him. I know I’m not the only mom feeling this weight! Everything feels like I am experiencing it at a ten because there is so much on the line when making decisions raising my son. Its these feelings, along with countless conversations with other mothers, that have lead me to believe part of being a mother is being the type of tired that sleep can’t fix. Especially when parenting young children.
Throughout any given week I encounter hundreds of mothers. Between scheduled playdates, or just chatting with the moms wherever we go, I talk to moms of all kinds; and across the bored there is one thing I hear most. That moms are tired!!! The past two years I have talked about sleep more than ever before, and yet gotten less of it than ever. Let me be clear when discussing sleep, that my toddler is a wonderful sleeper-outside of his early riser tendencies, he’s not the problem. I am, since becoming a mother I have become a terrible sleeper. Its impossible to fall asleep because I am always running through a never-ending list of things I need to do. If I am lucky enough to fall asleep I am rarely getting a deep, restful sleep. I am waking up to every noise on the monitor, making sure my son is safe and sleeping. If there ever is a night that I am in a deep, restful sleep, it will surely be the night I’m woken up abruptly by a vomiting toddler, or night terrors. It seems to just be a law of motherhood that if you are sleeping-your kid is not, and if your kid is sleeping-you are restless. The sleep troubles with young children are unpredictable-that’s just one reason moms are so tired.
But the point of writing this is to explain that the type of tired moms are experiencing can’t be fixed by a good night’s rest. The way I feel tired is beyond sleep. And honestly I know women who have grown children who are still feeling tired from the weight of motherhood-although I’m currently much more familiar with the kind of tired you feel as a mother of young children. As a mother to a toddler I am on call 24-7, no breaks, no time off. Even if my son is with a trusted caregiver or his father, if he gets sick or hurt guess who they are going to call first? Mom. If he throws up in the middle of the night, it’s my job to take care of him. If he gets sick I take him to the doctor, and get his medicine. Moms of young children live in a world where they must be prepared for anything, all the time; and are expected to handle anything that happens flawlessly. We are given little to no wiggle room from our children or society when it comes to reacting to our kid’s needs. The pressure mothers are feeling today is exhausting in so many ways. Ask any mom of a child under five if she is feeling tired and I guarantee the answer is yes; no matter the number of hours her child sleeps-or the time she spent in bed the night before. Moms are a different kind of tired that sleep doesn’t fix.
So, if you are a mother of a young child, and you are tired no matter how much you ‘sleep’-I get it! I get that you feel immense pressure to prevent anything from happening to your child when the reality is-$h!t happens. Kids fall, kids get sick, kids cry-none of these make you a bad mother, even if you get a glare from a mean old lady at the grocery store. Even outside of societies judgment of me as a mother I feel pressure. Just at home alone with my son I question every decision I’ve made; this weight we carry is internal. When-and I say when not if because things WILL happen-something goes wrong and my son gets hurt, or sick, or acts out, I blame myself and internalize it. And you bet I’ll be thinking about the things I could have done better instead of sleeping that night. This is why mothers are so tired, no matter their sleep habits. We carry a weight that is sometimes crushing. It’s always worth carrying, but that doesn’t make it any less heavy. It is possible to love being a mother but still acknowledge the weight of doing so. Being a mom isn’t easy, it’s exhausting-being honest about that doesn’t make you a bad mom. So, next time you hear a mom saying she’s tired, please refrain from offering her the latest ‘sleep trick’ you’ve gleaned of Pinterest; instead hand her a coffee and say ‘I get it, you’re killing it!’.