It’s 5:30 a.m. when my toddler shakes me awake. He needs me because he had a bad dream. We cuddle and I console him. We watch cartoons together and I stroke his hair. I get him a new diaper, a drink, and a snack.
My brain is already listing all the chores, errands, and appointments for the day, before I even get a chance to brew my coffee. I start another load of never-ending laundry. By now, my older child is up, and she has her own list of things we need to do today.
The day is a series of shuffling children on different errands, refereeing fights, and answering an endless stream of questions. It’s my daughter arguing about every single thing. It’s my 4-year-old son’s inability to communicate and the frustration causes him to cry-scream to get what he wants. And it’s me giving in to both of them because I’m literally too tired to do anything else.
And at the end of the day, when the kids are finally in bed, I still can’t sleep. I am too busy worrying about the things I need to do tomorrow, next week, and next month.
I am strong, but the burnout is fucking real.
I can’t remember the last time I woke up and didn’t still feel tired. Most nights are more like a series of naps than a full six hours of sleep. (If you’re thinking six hours of sleep doesn’t sound like enough, you’re probably not a parent.) The mental load of motherhood demands your attention, literally all of the time.
It’s lists of things that need to be remembered. It’s having to be emotionally available to everyone else when they need it. It’s being ultimately responsible for everyone and everything, and making sure nothing is forgotten or slips between the cracks.
I give my all to my family, to my kids and my spouse. I want to be there for them whenever they need me. I want them to know and feel that I love them, unconditionally, above all else.
I work hard. From home, with children who constantly interrupt me. I have my own deadlines to meet and I do the best I can to do a good job.
I don’t have a village. I don’t have parents around to help, and I don’t have the mental energy for making new mom friends. Motherhood burnout isn’t just about the exhaustion and stress we always carry; it’s about loneliness too. It can feel incredibly isolating when you’re too tired and/or too nervous to make small talk.
The world is burning. Our government is tearing mothers from their children. I know I need to pay attention, but I feel overwhelmingly helpless to stop the cruelty we’re witnessing in real time.
It can all feel like too much sometimes. I wonder how much I can take without breaking. But then I remember these days will not last.
The state of the world might be in shambles, but there are glimmers of hope. There are charities hard at work who need your support. There are heroes all around us, and even though present may be a damn mess, the future is bright.
I sacrifice so much for my family, but soon my kids will be grown and able to take care of themselves. And before I know it, I’ll have all the time in the world to focus on myself. (I promise not to ever romanticize the burnout, or tell anyone to “enjoy every moment.”)
The burnout is tough as hell, but it is temporary. And the fact is, I’ll always put my kids first and be here when they need me, no matter how old they are.