Feeling exhausted? ME TOO!
At this point of motherhood, it seems I should walk around with caution tape. That would give everyone around me a warning before they talked to or interacted with me.
Maybe I could wear a sign:
WARNING, WARNING, WARNING!!!
DO NOT GO INTO THIS CONVERSATION WITH GREAT EXPECTATIONS. In fact, DIAL THOSE EXPECTATIONS BACK TO ZERO and then I might have the opportunity to impress you, or at the very least, meet your expectations.
THE WOMAN YOU ARE ABOUT TO ENGAGE IS EXTREMELY TIRED.
She may make conversational topic leaps that make perfect sense inside her tired brain but appear nonsensical to you. She is talked out and touched out.
SHE HAS ABOUT 1.25 mL OF “EXTRA” TO GIVE OVER THE COURSE OF A WEEK (which, chances are, she’s already doled out).
APPROACH WITH GRACE AND CAUTION.“
I am extremely blessed and thankful for my family, and wouldn’t trade them for anything. I love, love, love my husband and kids. Nonetheless, speaking truthfully, I have never felt so taxed as I have this last five-year period of my life.
- there are six kids running around my house,
- all of whom I birthed,
- one of whom I birthed in this very home, ten months ago.
- We homeschool
- and have moved five times (once transatlantic) in the last five years.
You may be thinking, “Duh, Captain Obvious. Of course you’re taxed!”
I can identify with Sally Clarkson‘s description,
“I was living a life of ideals that most of my old friends didn’t believe in and few understood, so often loneliness and lack of support were my companions.”
Though I often feel alone and unsupported, I’m not really alone. I think this is a particular “flash point” for homeschooling moms, stay-home-moms, moms of little ones, and anyone who goes about life with non-stop responsibilities without the “release” valve regularly being pushed.
BEING “ALWAYS ON” AFFECTS ME IN THESE 6 WAYS
Unlike virtually every other job a person encounters in life, we moms almost never have a time when we’re “off-duty.”
Because I’m always “on,” many of these are true about me:
- I’m not acting like “myself” lately. Or, at least not the “self” I’ve always known. Even though I’m an extrovert, I *act* like an introvert at times when I’m out in public. (Not always, but often. Especially for a pretty strong extrovert like me, it surprises me how little I sometimes connect when I’m out in public.)
- I don’t feel like talking. My mom and I discovered this recently. She’s an introvert, currently on medical leave from her job. Consequently, she gets oodles of time by herself, and so she’s quite talkative right now. I, on the other hand, have a house full of people around me, virtually all the time, who talk to me all day long… and I’m acting introverted much of the time. We both get so much of what is our typical “need” met that we currently gravitate toward the opposite of our normal inclinations, in order to balance out our lives. I have had to choose to be comfortable in my own “skin,” even when it feels different than it used to, to be ME.
- It takes me a while to warm up in a crowd. Whereas I used to jump into social events ready to engage, it takes me a good 30-60 minutes after leaving our full-of-life home to mentally shift to engaging with others, and even then I often do a shoddy job of social interaction. I am growing to accept this about myself, for this season.
- My conversations are a mess. When I *do* manage to sneak in an adult conversation, I often get home and find as I reanalyze the conversation that I completely misunderstood someone’s meaning, or that the comment I made was unrelated to the topic at hand but somehow in my brain it made sense at the time. Sometimes I make jokes that don’t make any sense. I don’t want to overstate this as if I’m some mumbling idiot, but more often than I used to, I find that my mouth has fumbled through a conversation and I realize it after the fact.
- I am having to ask forgiveness from people way more often than I used to. My brain is more tired, and my body is more tired. I don’t know if it’s that I’m sinning more, or more aware of my sin… but either way, I am being regularly humbled. That stings, but I know that this too is for my good.
- I forget to do things that used to be natural to me, in relationship. For example, I forget to follow-up about something going on in a friend’s life. In fact, sometimes my plate is so full I completely forget about an event/situation in someone else’s life. (Two weeks ago, I forgot that a friend’s dad had had a stroke until after I’d spoken to her at church. *Headslap!*) Grace, grace… I need it so badly.
PREOCCUPIED, CONSTANTLY: WHEN THE MIND IS FULL
- “Have I done something to offend you?”
- My friend shook her head, and answered, “No… Why? Have I acted offended to you?”
- The woman looked down, unsure but clearly wounded, “For years I have passed you in the halls and you always have a glassy look in your eyes, looking down as you walk, like you’re deliberately avoiding looking at me. What have I done?”
My friend (a busy mom with a large family) explained,
“I’m so sorry! I can’t believe it’s gone on this long and you’ve thought I was avoiding you. When you see me running back and forth, glassy-eyed, to the nursery or to go make copies for my husband or whatever, I am mentally running through the things I have to do, the kid I need to pick up, the diaper bag I forgot in the car, the conversation I had with my preteen on the way here, the fact that I only put mascara on one eye, or whatever.
I have absolutely not one thing against you. It just makes me sad that it took this long for me to clear it up.”
HOW I HANDLE IT IN THE HERE AND NOW
Well, obviously I don’t always handle it super-well. I’m not coming to you as a soul care guru who has 100% mastered the art of social interaction whilst feeling weary and overwhelmed.
I still feel mentally preoccupied, physically touched-out, and emotionally like I have nothing much to offer, a good portion of the time.
I’m still me in my head and heart, but I’m afraid that if I was to evaluate myself objectively, watching a camera reel of my social interactions with others, I would probably see a lot of holes and weird spots, and what I see most likely wouldn’t resemble much of the woman I am in my heart and head.
Come to think of it, wrapping myself in caution tape as a visual cue to everyone I meet might not be THAT bad of an idea.
Barring that, here are 6 ways I handle being an exhausted mom:
- STAY IN SCRIPTURE. When I’m regularly in scripture, I am spiritually refueling my tank. God is faithful to teach us what we need for a given time in our lives. So even if I feel physically or emotionally depleted, when I discipline myself to read God’s Word, my spiritual tank is full and I’m better able to walk in the Spirit.
- ADJUST MY EXPECTATIONS. I need to regularly remind myself of this (temporary) new normal. Before I go to an event, particularly if it’s one I’ve been looking forward to, I have to dial back my expectations of myself. I used to be able to go to a church fellowship, for example, and successfully touch base with a lot of people, and walk away recharged. Now, I’m more likely to get one conversation in, and later realize I said or did something awkward. Or sometimes I get to the end of the event and realize I only interacted at surface level and wish I would have gone deeper. If I have lofty expectations of myself, I’ll walk away disappointed that I didn’t get to connect with people, when in reality, I probably did the best I could in the moment.
- MY HUSBAND URGES ME TO CARE FOR ME. I’m thankful that Doug encourages me to do the things that will recharge (and not deplete) me. For example, before I head out the door to enjoy time with friends, he’ll say, “Sit by someone like ______, ______, or ______ (suggesting close friends)– take advantage of this time with them. Have a good time!” I so appreciate those reminders because sometimes the mental fog really doesn’t let me “go there” until after the fact.
- OCCASIONALLY, I REMIND OTHERS ABOUT THIS MOM-EXHAUSTION-REALITY. I have been known to say things like, “I’m sorry, but I’m not very good for having a real conversation while my kids are running around on Sunday morning. You’re welcome to come by and chat during their naptime from 2-4 sometime this week.” Or if I feel eyes on me as I’m glazing over, walking to the nursery, I’ll meet their gaze and say, “Oh! I’m in my own little world. Sorry about that! How are you?”
- ASK FOR TIME WHEN I NEED IT. Sally Clarkson has said, “Be assertive and tell your husband your needs. He is there to do life with you.” YES!!! I’m thankful for a husband who tries to care for me. Still, he’s not a mind-reader. We both have to work extra for me to get some time “off,” but it’s worth it, so we’re learning to plan for it.
- USE RECHARGE OPPORTUNITIES WISELY. When Doug makes a point to give me some time to myself, or when the opportunity comes to get together with friends, I try to be extremely selective about what I “spend” myself on. I have less “extra” to spend than I used to have, so I have to be much more thoughtful about where it will go. Lord willing, the day will come when the kids will be out of the house and I’ll have more than ample opportunity for regular times “out and about” with friends. But right now, when I have a few free hours, I need to only do those things that will really recharge me, or in some way contribute to my emotional/spiritual/physical health. This requires that I carefully evaluate my choices so that I don’t expend energy in unhelpful, depleting ways.
IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE:
- Have you ever felt this way?
- How do you find ways to recharge during these busy, tired days of always-on mothering?
PLEASE share in the comments. I want to hear from you!
caution tape image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos