Dear Caring Parent,

Everyday parenting can be exhausting. Or, every day, parenting can be exhausting.  

That’s what I am thinking about right now – the sneaky, everyday causes of parenting exhaustion. These aren’t real obvious because they’re so everyday we have stopped even noticing them!  We find ourselves responding to our mood with statements like, “well, of course, that’s parenting! I might complain about it, but I still love my kids, I still love being their mom/dad.” 

Since exhaustion is not good for you or your relationship with your children, I’m here to say, uh-no. You do NOT need to become exhausted because you are a parent. Qualifier, AFTER the pandemic! And after the first few months post birth.

There certainly are conditions in life that more readily lead to exhaustion (see list below). However, we don’t need to become exhausted. We need to become adept at noticing our sneaky everyday experiences that can lead to this state of tiredness-beyond-tired. We can then find ways back to our thriving self. Ideally we get adept at exhaustion prevention. For now, let’s just get better at granting that we ought not to rationalize exhaustion when it’s hitting our parenting experience.    

What are Signs of Pending Exhaustion?

Given that exhaustion can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, there can be all kinds of signs. Generally though, we start to notice ourselves more irritable with the kids or others. Perhaps we notice worrying often at night, round and round worry.  Maybe what we notice is that we’re taking two cups of coffee instead of one to get our morning burst.  Or two glasses of wine/five more inhales of weed at night. 

I say, great listening to yourself if you actually notice these everyday, normal behaviors becoming more than your normal. THAT is how you start catching your signs of pending exhaustion and can begin your refresh into energy. 

Getting your energy and enthusiasm back means recognizing that this takes a noticing yourself beyond a vague awareness drifting across your mind. It’s the kind of noticing that hears the ‘heads up’ in it. Pause and look for physical, emotional, mental or spiritual tension. How long have you been ‘holding’ that? Look for:

  1. irritability over things not typically annoying for you,
  2. a sense of plodding through ____,
  3. distractedness and what’s underlying it,
  4. the words ‘busy, busy, busy’ constantly in your head and you don’t see an end to it,
  5. not knowing what you are going to do about something, therefore spinning your wheels often with an “I don’t know” refrain, 
  6. you’ve been wondering why you are doing/involved in something for a couple months now,
  7. tight arm, leg, neck or back muscles and it’s not because you’re exercising,
  8. feeling floppy a lot

There might be a very current cause for any of these. We each get to decide if this has been lingering or seems like it will be forever. If it’s enough for you to notice, then it’s enough for you to not rationalize it as ‘just parenting’.  

Do Parents Rationalize Away Signs of Pending Exhaustion? 

There are natural experiences within everyday parenting that can be exhausting, but we don’t necessarily notice them as such. These signs can be easy to miss. Busy schedules, moods, difficult developmental phases, our child’s experience of difficulties, our negative evaluation of ourselves as parents (and our child’s commentary about this), the general bombardment of information flowing in our lives are all normal parenting, right, not signs of pending exhaustion? 

We say to ourselves and others, “it’s normal, right, to feel underappreciated, over-extended, worried, uncertain about my parenting, to be aggravated that my child who-just-can’t ___?”.  Deep breath! Yes, it is normal.

Also, AND it is a heads up. Our ‘normal’ can rapidly go beyond what’s okay for us, what is healthy, constructive, or helpful.  Instead of rationalizing it like we all tend to do  (reinforced by our peers, family, culture), notice it and take stock. If you are starting to say “I’m so tired, even my tired is tired” , stop rationalizing it. You ARE strong, yet you might also be exhausted. 

Everyday Parenting Causes of Exhaustion

Exhaustion sneaks up on us when we’re experiencing too much of our typical-but-uncomfortable.

Do you fit in with any of these everyday parenting experiences listed below? If so, listen-in to yourself and see how your experience of it is showing up in your body, mental chatter, sense of inspiration, feelings of aloneness. Start a response program! Use The L.O.V.V.E. process laid out in The Dance of Parenting if you don’t have some other avenue to get back to your more energized self. 

Are one or more of these your typical-but-uncomfortable?

  1. Conditions/situations with your child that you worry about and don’t see an end in sight.
  2. Feeling underappreciated.
  3. Experiencing being over-extended.
  4. Wondering why in the world you became a parent.
  5. Worrying or feeling guilty about your parenting.
  6. Your child has mental health diagnosis.
  7. Your child is neurodiverse.
  8. Your child has an ongoing physical or cognitive challenge.
  9. Your child is sensitive to the news or other things in the environment to a degree that it affects their functioning.
  10. A sense of little pleasure in family life.
  11. Feeling like you are always putting yourself on the back burner.
  12. Something in your life outside of parenting is wearing you down.

Don’t rationalize it away! Instead, notice it and call out the need to do something differently. This might mean getting help, taking a break, changing your attitude, or any number of results once you’ve allowed yourself to dig deeper and do some creative problem solving.  

Going Beyond Rationalization

As has been said, “what screws us up the most is our picture in our head of how it is supposed to be”. We move through parenting with preconceived ideas of what it will be like. Most of the time we have to look it in the eye for what it really is for us. We do better with our lives then because we can look at underlying causes, our responses and switch things up into something more energizing. 

I will leave you with this exercise if you are experiencing some exhaustion symptoms in your everyday parenting. Use your own words:

  • Notice where in your body you feel your symptoms or exhaustion.
  • Breathe while focusing on that area, say something that expresses your experience. “This sucks”, or “This is difficult”. 
  • Say something like  “Others get exhausted for this or different reasons.” 
  • Place your hands over your heart, breathe gently and say something soothing to yourself like “May I give myself voice”, or “May I feel accompanied”.

If you want more on mending  exhaustion, click here

Take care now, Natasha