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Mom Exhaustion: Is this the new normal?

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I’m pretty sure I already know the answer to that question and it, unfortunately, is yes.

The exhaustion. It is slowly killing me.

I remember how I felt as a first-time mom with a newborn and wondered how I had the audacity to complain about being tired before having kids. Then I remember how I felt as I returned back to work as a first-time mom and wondered how I had the nerve to complain about being tired with a newborn when I could relax, rest, or even sleep during the day on maternity leave.

Then more recently came the sleeplessness of a newborn paired with an early rising toddler and I was catapulted into a whole new inner circle of hell. And finally, the coup de gras of all of this is a baby, a toddler and a full-time job. 

Now here’s the kicker. Here’s the thing that’s going to make you want to tell me to snap the heck out of it and take my complaining, tired a$$ elsewhere.

My baby sleeps through the night and has for some time.

Yep. I sleep on average a total of 7 hours each night, 8 hours if I’m really lucky and I’m STILL exhausted! Like painfully, can’t see straight, fall asleep standing up, shouldn’t be driving, kind of exhausted. And I don’t know why!

Okay, so I have an idea why. It could be that from the second I wake up to the second I fall asleep I am on-the-go. I am like the freaking Energizer Bunny zipping from mommy, to professional, to wife, to mommy, to professional  to wife. But instead of super cool dark sunglasses and a sweet drum I don super cool dark circles and a breast pump.

To be honest with you, I’m not handling this very well. From the outside I appear to be a rock star pulling myself together each day and thanks to make-up and a suit I look somewhat decent. But internally I am a nightmare. This deathly tired feeling is consuming my already mushy brain and I can’t shake it.

I need sleep. I need a week of sleep to catch up and truly feel rested. But alas that will never happen. I know right now there are parents in the newborn stage that are getting half the amount of sleep I do. I know there are people who suffer from insomnia that want to round-house kick me in the head for complaining. I know it is all relative.

I also know that this is what I signed up for and I need to chill out. I’m going to be tired for a while. I’ll get blips of time where I can get caught up and there are days where I’m feeling great so I need to be thankful for that. I also need to do a better job of staying positive and not crossing into the dark side. So what if I’m tired?!? I have two wonderful, healthy children, a husband who is the best partner anyone could ask for, and a job that not only pays the bills but that I happen to enjoy. So maybe I am tired all the time but the bottom line is that I can get through it and I should probably stop with all the complaining.

Thank you for listening. I feel better already. Now I’m off to sleep on the floor pump on my lunch break and just keep on keeping on!

How do you handle the exhaustion? 

Kendra is a full-time working mom to a precocious toddler and baby girl and wife to her long-time sweetheart. At “My Full-Thyme Life ( she writes about how she attempts to balance her cherished roles as wife, mom and key employee. 

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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson May 21, 2013

    I guess the obvious answers is to get some sleep. 🙂

    We had to get creative those early years with my kids when–no lie–I was getting only a few hours a night with my baby who’d wake up every 40 minutes. Finally had to go to sleep early and my husband would take over until midnight so I could at least get 3-4 hours uninterrupted.

    And a little mom retreat never hurt anyone. A friend told me the best vacation she ever took as a new mom was by herself in a hotel room so she could catch up on sleep.

    Be comforted that it does get better. At least until the teen years when you’ll be up waiting for them all night.

    • comment avatar Kendra May 21, 2013

      Wow, every 40 minutes?!? You are my new hero!

      I like that mom retreat idea! I just wonder if my brain would be able to actually relax with all that quiet. 😉

  • comment avatar Sher May 21, 2013

    I think the biggest thing we moms need to look at us what we put in our bodies ( or what we arent putting in.) We have many people counting on us for support, nurturing, and love; and I know when I’m not feeling strong, I may not be my loveliest because I
    I think we put our health on the back burner at times. You could get some bloodwork done. I put this off for so long and recently found out that I am borderline deficient in Vitamin d even though I am an outdoor person; can be a real hindrance to having energy. One of my hormones was really low which was probably also be leading to my fatigue.
    I am taking extra doses of D, stopping Starbucks , adding green supplements (kelp, chlorella), and taking DHEA to help balance the hormones. I’m also taking a natural Melatonin at night before bed bc I noticed my slept was very broken and anxious. My sleep is more sound and I wake up feeling more mentally clear and ready for the day.
    It is a blessing if you can find a nurse practitioner or doc who is versed in conventional things but also naturally minded. They just may have some answers! Everyone is so different. You also may need to wait on checking hormone levels if nursing, but routine bloodwork may be helpful.
    Agreed about mommy retreats too!

    • comment avatar Kendra May 22, 2013

      Thank you for the advice. I did just get some bloodwork done to test my thryoid levels which can also lead to exhaustion. But they came back in good shape. I never really thought about a hormone check. May have to try that!

  • comment avatar Ann Haggard May 21, 2013

    Hi Kendra – Have you had your hormone levels checked lately? Or your thyroid? Yes, being tired, even exhausted, can come with the territory but wacked out hormones and/or thyroid levels can be a big contributor to unnecessary exhaustion over time, especially from childbirth and nursing. Your OBGYN may be able to help you with this.

    Diet can make a difference also, although I remember the days of grabbing whatever I could find to shove into my mouth because who had time to cook? Not me! Sit down meal? What’s that?? Have lots of clean fruits and veggies on hand, whole grain bread, easy proteins (hard boiled eggs, frozen burritos to microwave, nuts, cheese)and maybe a good quality natural protein drink (no need to get out the blender, just use a blender cup, mix with whatever type of milk you like {reg., almond, rice, soy} and shake). These foods can help boost your energy level a great deal. Also, limit your intake of sugar and coffee (a little is okay – I’m not into deprivation 🙂 And drink lots and lots of water.

    If you have time and now that the weather is beautiful, going for an evening walk can be helpful on many levels – even with the littles.

    Be kind to yourself, treat your body with care, reach out and keep on writing!

    • comment avatar Kendra May 22, 2013

      Thanks, Ann! I did get my thyroid levels checked but you are the second person to bring up hormone levels. I hadn’t thought about that. I will definitely be looking into that! I also agree about the diet and exercise. I do a pretty good job but I know I could do better. It is an easy thing to fix!

  • comment avatar Christina May 21, 2013

    I find my physical exhaustion isn’t really physical – it’s mental exhaustion. I tried exercise but that just made me more tired. I tried a weekend out of state to visit friends. Alone. And found I came home feeling amazingly refreshed. I now go away once a year. Toddlers, I think, have a supernatural ability to drain your energy. It’s like a super power of epic proportions.

    • comment avatar Kendra May 21, 2013

      Ha! You are so right about toddlers!! Epic proportions, indeed!

  • comment avatar Laura May 21, 2013

    Thank you for this story. I can empathize with you. Everything you said is exactly how I am feeling. I too get about 7 hours of sleep a night and am tired all the time. It helps to know I’m not alone – there are other “Energizer Bunnies” out there! Hang in there!

    • comment avatar Kendra May 22, 2013

      Thanks, Laura! Solidarity is a moms best friend. 😉 You hang in there too!

  • comment avatar Dana May 21, 2013

    Amen, sister! I have a 4-month-old and a 6-year-old. LIke you, our 4-month-old sleeps through the night and has done so for quite some time. I should feel rested, right? So wrong! I dream about what I need to get done and these days, I can’t relax to go to sleep until 11 p.m. or midnight. Many of nights when it’s quiet I think to myself, “What did I do today? Wait, what day is it?” My husband travels a lot so that doesn’t help. But, I keep reminding myself that this is all part of our own journey and one day I won’t have to go-go-go.

    • comment avatar Kendra May 22, 2013

      I know exactly what you mean and you are right about this being our journey. I bet years from now when the kids are grown and we are sitting in a silent house we will long to be in this stage of life once again. Perspective…

  • comment avatar Lisa May 22, 2013

    Kendra, you are so brave for sharing this. So many of us just plod through putting on our smiles and falling apart inside. It takes a lot of courage to share your fears and ask for help.

    I love the advice of taking some time for yourself and making sure you’re looking at all the medical possibilities.

    Remember that the quality of your sleep can make a huge difference, too. If you’re getting 7 hours of light, restless sleep without any deep REM sleep, you won’t feel rested at all. I take Valerian before bed and it really helps me let go of stress and move into deeper sleep.

    Exercise helps with energy and sleeping better, too, but be thoughtful about what you choose. Choose exercise that you enjoy and helps you feel relaxed. I love to walk and always recommend yoga because I teach it and I can do it at home in those little moments I find rather than always having to make arrangements to get out of the house. 🙂

    And a little ray of hope for the future…my boys are 10 and 13 and I actually do feel rested and energetic a fair amount of the time. The physical exhaustion decreases as they get older, although the mental work kicks in.

    You’ll make it, just keep asking for help when you need it.:)

    • comment avatar Kendra May 23, 2013

      Thank you for your kind words and the helpful advice. I used to do yoga regularly and I can feel my mind and body yearning for me to get back into it. 🙂

  • comment avatar casey November 13, 2013

    this is an older post, but I will comment anyway. I have no comforting advice, only to say…..I am at that point! My kids are 21 months apart they are now 2 and 4 (almost 3 and 4). They come home exhausted from daycare. I am equally exhausted from work. I have such an aweful time I almost always end up yelling or spanking at the end of the night. I hate this situation! I feel so stuck. My husband works long shifts and doesn’t get home until 7:30 or 8. How will I ever make it through this? I love my kids so much and I hate that I don’t have energy for them. What can I do????

    • comment avatar Kendra November 14, 2013

      Casey, I know it is hard and I think the worst part is when I catch myself taking it out on the kids. It’s not their fault. But I am tired and I have a short fuse and any little temper tantrum or misbehavior can send me over the edge. I think it is important to walk away and take a deep breath when you feel yourself starting to get worked up. Also if the kids are acting out there are some great techniques for getting them to behave that don’t require yelling or spanking and that helps to keep you and the kids calm. It’s called 1-2-3 Magic and it worked wonders for us. You should check the book out. It is an easy read and like I said, it really worked for getting our toddler to behave and curb tantrums. That alone will make for an easier night when you don’t have your husband around to help. It’s just a thought and if you’re like me you will at least try anything once to keep some sanity!

      Good luck. Hang in there. And even though it may not always seem like it… you’re doing a great job.