To The Exhausted Mom Who Never Gets A Break

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
An exhausted mom carrying her two sleeping daughters, showing the invisible workload of motherhood
Blend Images - Inti St Clair / Getty

You stare out the window and wonder how you got here.

Your abdomen, soft and pillowy from the battle scars of child birth, presses against the countertop near the kitchen sink.

Below you, the dishes are piled up, smelling of soured milk and discarded oat cereal, breakfast long since forgotten. The lunch dishes are smeared with ketchup and remnants of the chicken nuggets your toddler demanded and then refused.

The buzzer of the dryer breaks you from your reverie and you sigh.

The laundry never ends.

The house is never quiet.

You can barely hear yourself think over the din of the evening news, kids yammering about homework, and a dog who never leaves your side.

You take a deep breath and rub your neck, trying to ease the tension between your shoulder blades that has somehow become a constant.

You try to remember a time when your head didn’t throb with a low-level headache, and you sigh wistfully as you catch a glimpse of the tired eyes staring back at you in the window that is smeared with fingerprints.

The floors are always sticky.

The carpet is always covered in dog hair.

As you amble to the laundry room, to fold the endless pile of clothing, you feel on the edge of tears.

You chastise yourself because you wanted this life and the guilt of realizing that stay-at-home motherhood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be washes over you like waves crashing on the shore.

You silently bear the sting of loneliness and isolation, spending your days with humans under 4-feet tall is harder than you expected. So much harder.

You run through the list of errands that must be accomplished. The list never gets completed because dragging a toddler to the grocery store is futile.

The fridge is always empty.

The toilet is always covered in urine. Because toddlers with bad aim don’t care who cleans up their messes.

You drag the laundry basket upstairs and catch a glimpse of your children’s bedrooms. There was a time when things were neat and tidy, everything in its place. But that is no longer the case.

You look at the brightly colored walls and the animated character bedspreads that cover your babies at night and realize that bedtime is coming. Again. Bath time has become a nightly battle that you have come to loathe.

You shake off the feelings of irritation when you see that your tween has left her wet towel on the floor. Again.

You wonder when you lost control.

Your thoughts are interrupted as you hear the phone ring. As you cross the room to answer, your eye falls on the stack of bills that have to be paid and the color-coded calendar revealing an overscheduled family’s life.

You try not to let the tears fall as you hear your husband say that he’s going to be late. Again. A business dinner seems to take priority over a wife who needs her partner to run interference for a few minutes.

You walk silently to the refrigerator and begin the daily ritual of short-order cooking for the children who are picky and critical of everything you place in front of them.

You referee arguments as you chop onions, you help find missing soccer cleats as you boil water for pasta. You kiss a skinned knee as you gather plates to set the table, and you feed the dog who has been yapping for scraps at your feet.

It’s always something.

You watch as your children turn up their noses at your meal and negotiate with the toddler on the number of bites that must be consumed in order to be eligible for dessert.

There is never a reprieve from the chaos.

There is never time to read a book, enjoy a quiet glass of wine, or simply lie on a chaise longue and have the sun kiss your face.

You miss your old life, the life before kids and stretch marks and college funds. You long for the days when money wasn’t tight and when date night didn’t find you both snoozing on the couch in front of Netflix.

There is never enough time (or energy) for sex.

There is never enough couple time.

As the twilight sun breaks the sky, you stare out the window, your soft abdomen pressing against the counter. Again.

The dinner dishes soak, and the remnants of macaroni and cheese float on the soapy water.

You look at yourself in the grimy window and share a quiet moment with the only person who understands just how tired you really are these days.

The eyes looking back at you plead for an answer, some sign that it’s all going to be okay. A signal that she will survive this journey.

You look at her and tell her that it’s okay to feel this way.

You tell her to be kind to herself.

You tell her to forgive herself when she forgets PTA meetings or to pick up the dry cleaning.

You look her hard in the eye and remind her that she’s doing the very best that she can.

You tell her that there is love in her house and that her children are warm, safe, and happy.

You tell her that this, too, shall pass. But you don’t say it in a patronizing way.

You simply remind her that her break will come.

You tell her that she will feel rested again. Someday.

And you tell her that she’s doing a great job. Even if no one else says it out loud.

She smiles a tired smile, dips her hands into the warm soapy water, and slowly starts to do the dishes.

There is always tomorrow.

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