Motherhood is exhausting, even on a normal day. That’s not a complaint, it’s a documented fact.*
Consider, God immerses The New Mom into the beauty and wonder of Motherhood by giving her a most fragile and fragrant bundle of wonderfulness who, as it turns out, must eat directly from the body of The New Mom every 3-ish hours, around the clock, or the bundle will die.
The wonderful bundle grows, and (hopefully) sleeps through the night, eventually. You’d think a Tired Mom would catch a break by now. But, as all Experienced Moms know, the ‘round-the-clock schedule never truly ends. The beauty and wonder of Motherhood is interlaced with diapers and discipline and driving and dating. (And it sometimes feels like it progresses through those stages as rapidly as you read that sentence).
For some, the Magic of Motherhood is also eclipsed by developmental delays or illness or behavioral issues or relationship struggles or death.
I know Tired Moms with special needs children, in-home nursing care and hospital equipment in their family room.
I know Tired Moms in the throes of baby/toddlerhood (My sister told me yesterday that her sweet boy woke up at 2:30 am. For the day. She was tired.)
I know Tired Moms in the throes of tween-hood/teen-hood, with kids who are making some stupid-bad life-altering decisions. (Just last night, I received a desperate late-night call from a friend telling me her teen ran away and to please let her know if he happens to show up at my house.)
I know Tired Moms holding down the fort alone because a husband is traveling for work. (I call them Super Heroes)
I know Tired Moms holding down the fort alone because the husband is gone for good. (I call them Super FREAKING Heroes)
I have one Dear Tired Mom Friend who is doing everything in her power to keep life normal for her precious little ones while her husband daily slips further and further away because of a rapidly progressing terminal illness. It’s a nightmare.
You probably know some Tired Moms, too.
Maybe YOU are that Tired Mom.
After two of the most exhausting years of parenting I’ve encountered thus far, I can safely say, we’re all getting better. This is partly because the situations are truly improving. And also partly because God is good at reshaping our brokenness into beauty and our weakness into strength. With a combination of confidence and reservation, I tell you, I’m seeing a light at the end of a very, long, dark and scary Mom Tunnel. **
It’s nearly impossible for me to write from the Tunnel.
I can’t see very well when I’m blinded by darkness, broken and hurting and struggling. The best blog post I can manage will say something like, “Ouch. This is hard.”
I do much better after I’ve groped my way back to a place of Clarity and Light. Then, after I’ve stood up, brushed off the dust and allowed my eyes time to adjust to the sunlight again, I can see more clearly, look back over the long path I just groped, and offer you, perhaps, a small bit of wisdom.
I hope this is that for you: a small bit of wisdom, borne from the Tired Mom Tunnel.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a long list of to-dos (we’re a bit too Tired for that, are we not?) I’m sure there are many things that would have encouraged me or would encourage you that are not in this post. But when I look back over the last two years—the last year, in particular—when I honestly did not know if I or my family would be okay, there are two things people did for me that stand out.
If you want to be a Life-Giver to a Tired Mom, simply do this:
Love Her Children
One day last summer, I walked into a hair appointment for one of my kids. It had been an incredibly difficult couple of months, funneled into one of the worst days of my life. After a series of sleepless nights, my head was throbbing, my nerves were on the outside of my skin, and my stomach hurt. I wasn’t doing well.
I’ve had the same hairdresser for years. She knows me. She knows my kids. She knows a little about what we were dealing with. But never had I appeared in her doorway in such a vulnerable, exhausted state.
I walked in, looked her square in the eye, and managed a feeble, “I’ve got nothing today.”
Without saying a word, she looked at me, looked at my child—blinked a couple times—and then jumped into action. She gently led my daughter by the hand to wash, foil and trim her hair. For two hours, she talked to Rebekah about school and friendship and beauty. She made her laugh. She soaked her in attention and affirmation…in LOVE.
Watching someone take over for me at a time I truly had nothing to offer—it refreshed me and fueled me to continue on the long, weary battle. It revived me.
Tired Moms are tired because their relentless love for their children spurs them on to push far beyond their limitations, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. We’re reluctant to hand over the reins, even for a minute, because no one loves our children the way we love our children. Yet, here I sit, with tears in my eyes, remembering all the times in the last year I watched my dearest friends bombard my kids with hugs and texts and notes and encouragement.
It is overwhelming, really.
If you know a Mom who is reaching the end of her rope, try coming alongside her, jumping in and lifting some of the burden off her shoulders. Maybe she has a little one you can chase around the yard for a few hours so she can take a break. Or maybe she has a tween who would enjoy an ice cream cone and some help with math (Actually, the Mom may also enjoy the ice cream). Or perhaps she has a teen who would appreciate a little note on a scrap piece of paper saying, “You are stronger than you think you are.”***
Tell Her She’s Doing a Great Job
If a Tired Mom just confided in you the depth of her confusion, pain and exhaustion, most likely she is not asking you to fix it. Trust me, unless she specifically asked you to help her fix it, any response from you that begins with the words, “You should…!” or “Why don’t you….?” Or “Have you tried…?” is not what she’s looking for. In fact, that will probably suck the life right out of her.
By unloading on you, what she’s actually saying is, “I feel like I’m failing here. I need someone to tell me my family is going to be okay. I simply need someone to tell me that I’m doing a good job and that I don’t completely suck as a mom.”
So tell her that.
“You are doing such a good job. You are such an amazing Mother, and I’m so proud of you and the way you’re handling this. And also, you don’t suck.”
It’s not complicated, really. To be Life-Giving to a Tired Mom love her kids and tell her she doesn’t suck. You will breathe life into her weary soul so she can carry on with the hard work of Motherhood.
Oh, and if you can manage to take her on a weekend beach getaway, that works, too. As does most forms of chocolate.
*I have no actual documentation to support this, except for my own years of personal “field research.”
**Mom Bloggers will tell you, the older your children get, the harder it is to share details of your children’s struggle. That is why we so often resort to sharing recipes or complaining about the laundry.
***Actual note given to my daughter at the most perfect time that made me bawl like a baby.