I am a rockstar in the morning. I have the whole day ahead of me! I have life goals! I will make good choices. I will meditate. I will exercise. I will eat healthy food. I will drink the recommended daily dose of water. I will be a fun mom. I will get all the stuff done. I will be amazing. (This might all be the coffee talking, I’m not sure.)
And then reality sets in. Some days it sets in very early, like when any other person in my family wakes up.
And then it’s all of their needs first. I, me, the person who was a whole person minutes before, am now just Mom, the person getting everything done and saying all the words and wiping a shit ton of countertops. I move from place to place, trying to keep up with all of the needs of all the people. Feeding, finding, fixing, teaching, comforting. And then repeat.
By the end of the day, I’m not sure where my rockstar self has gone, but she has packed her bags up and left the premises and did not leave a note. She ghosted. I have forgotten about all the great choices I was going to make, and all of the things I was going to accomplish, because I’ve been in survival mode for hours.
My motivation is gone. My willpower depleted. I’m exhausted.
Most days end with me sitting on the couch after the kids have been tucked (and tucked again and then again), sometimes eating too much, sometimes drinking too much, and usually watching mindless TV. I just need one thing for myself today, and the snacking and drinking and screen time is typically what I get. I seriously don’t care about anything but having a bowl of ice cream. With chocolate sauce. And maybe peanut butter. Maybe I can find myself in this glass of wine.
Or this one.
See? My willpower is shit.
But it turns out, I’m not alone. Willpower is a tricky thing for many of us. Willpower is defined as resisting short-term temptations for long-term goals. For example, resisting the urge to eat an entire chocolate cake at 9 o’clock at night because you don’t want to be bloated and constipated for a week.
A 2011 Stress in America Survey found that 27% of people found that lack of willpower was the biggest thing that kept them from making positive change in their lives. But do we have only a certain amount of willpower? Some scientists think there is such a thing as “willpower depletion” — or using up your willpower for little things all day causing you to then dive naked into a vat of chips and salsa at night.
You can use up your willpower in myriad ways, like resisting the urge to smother your husband while he snores, or stopping yourself from throwing all of the food from the refrigerator into the garbage can because nobody in your family is grateful for the hours you put into feeding them.
I use up my willpower when I bite my tongue from responding to nasty commenters, or when I eat frickin’ cucumbers when I really want to slather myself with some kind of fried cheese situation. When I bring out Patient Mom instead of releasing that one mom who wants to yell obscenities.
So what happens when we deplete our willpower?
For me, the nighttime shitshow happens. By the time evening comes, I’m all out. I’ve used up all my willpower and now I’m going to take a bath in chardonnay or give myself a pepperoni pizza facial with a side of Orange Is the New Black. I’m going to tell morning rockstar me to get over herself and live a little and that the Oreo cookies are going to just get stale if I don’t eat them all.
As the kids get older, it is getting easier to find me during the day. I exist more. I don’t find myself staring in the mirror after they’ve gone to bed saying “WTF just happened?” quite as often. When I exist more during daylight hours, I find that I’m not as likely to be quite as self-sabotaging at night. The evening shitshow is getting a little less dramatic over time. Thank the Lord.
For those of you still deep in it, I understand. Motherhood is the most beautiful mindfuck I’ve ever had, and I know we are all lucky to come out of the trenches with just stretch marks and some saggy boobs and nonexistent willpower. We will make it through this time in our life, with possibly a few extra pounds and a Netflix addiction, but hopefully also with a lot of laugh lines and a healthy appreciation for practicing self-care.