Letter to an exhausted mother
I know you spend most of your life being Mum, but I’m talking to You. You, that person underneath the cloak of motherhood. Remember her? I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t. When you have children who have yet to reach an age where they are able to step into any degree of trusted independence it’s hard to be anything other than Mum because their need for you to do things with or for them is pretty much constant.
Remember before you became a mother, when you were pregnant and everyone was concerned for your wellbeing? Were you getting enough rest, were you eating well, do you need to sit down? And then as soon as you’d gone through the trauma of birthing your little one there was a palpable and dramatic shift in everyone’s attention.
You were no longer the focus. That tiny bundle of human was all anyone was interested in.
This is where it begins.
At some point during delivery, when you were understandably far too pre-occupied to notice, the exquisitely beautiful and voluminous cloak of motherhood was slipped over your shoulders and the hood gently draped over your exhausted head. How could you possibly have realised? You were staring into the eyes of the most wondrous being you had ever seen.
Now there is a part of your heart out in the world that doesn’t always beat to the same rhythm but whose contentment is essential to that of your own. Every fibre of your being is finely tuned to the wellbeing of that child.
In the early days you are the provider of his every need, just as you were before he was born, except now that he’s here it takes an awful lot more effort on your part. It’s down to you to be aware of every little change in her demeanour, figuring out what it is she needs to make her existence bearable.
You’re on call 24/7. You knew it would be like this but nothing prepares you for the intensity of it. Emotions you’ve never felt before hit you like a ton of bricks on a daily basis, emotions you simply don’t have the time or energy to process properly.
The hardest emotions to deal with are the ones you think you really shouldn’t be having.
“Please stop crying, please… I’ve done everything I can think of… I just don’t know what it is you need.”
“This is too hard, I never knew I could feel this tired. I don’t think I can cope with this.”
“I. Just. Want. A. Day. Off. Even a couple of hours.”
“I miss having a life.”
All of which make you feel incredibly guilty and wretched and a failure.
These are the unspoken. These are the things that go unsaid for fear of judgement.
If you allowed them out of your head people might think you’re a dreadful mother for even thinking them… when actually you’re exhausted from trying to be the best mother you can be in every, single, waking moment.
“Who am I”, you think, “to have brought this child into the world, defenceless and completely reliant on me, to have the audacity to harbour thoughts of abandonment, for however brief a time? What kind of terrible person must I be to feel like this? What has happened to me?”
Take heart, dear one.
It takes courage to admit that you sometimes feel that way because we live in a society where motherhood is mostly portrayed as the most wonderful thing in the world. All. The. Time. In fact, I questioned whether to include the last few paragraphs for fear of a backlash but if I omitted them I would simply be adding to the problem rather than acknowledging it and offering solidarity and support.
Does having these feelings mean that you don’t love your child? Absolutely not.
Does having these feelings mean that you’re failing at being a good mother? Absolutely not.
Having these feelings mean that you are a normal, sentient human being. No more, no less.
Of course, there are moments of counterbalance when the overwhelm is replaced by a wave of love so strong that it sweeps you off your feet. If you’re lucky these moments happen often. And when your little one becomes able to express how they’re feeling then your one-way love street becomes a motorway, busy with two-way traffic.
This is motherhood in all its grit and glory.
It’s all ok, all of it. Really it is.
It is hard.
It is the most exhausting, exhilarating and life changing thing you will ever do without any shadow of a doubt. But you will get through it. You will keep putting one foot in front of the other, the minutes will become hours will become days. Those days will turn into weeks and months and things will change.
Things will get better.
You will still feel like running away on numerous occasions. And you still won’t. There will still be challenges, and many, many of them, but they will be different. Myself and countless other mothers will testify accordingly.
Here’s the thing. That cloak of motherhood is huge. While it is beautiful in its own right, its volume can hide so much beauty beneath it, your beauty, that rarely gets to see the light of day, especially when your children are little. When you put on the cloak of motherhood the person you are underneath disappears and the longer you wear it the harder it can be to find her again.
Occasionally you might get a glimpse. You might catch sight of yourself in a mirror when you’ve had the opportunity to spend longer than 30 seconds on your hair and perhaps added a smidge of make-up and experience a flash of recognition.
There she is! That person you used to be before you were someone’s mother.
She’s still there. You are still that person deep down. Irrevocably changed, yes, but at your core you are still You.
The cloak of motherhood would be a pile of rags without You. You, that amazing woman with open arms and a heart brim-full of love, with strength and courage in more abundance than you thought possible, on whose shoulders that beautiful cloak rests and sparkles with life.
All this is what I wish someone had told me when my son was small.
If you know someone who needs to hear it please share it with them.
If this resonates and you’d like to take some simple steps to boost your own wellbeing without compromising the amazing mother that you are, I have a gift for you. It’s a free ebook called How To Set Up You HQ that will show you how you can lift your spirits when you feel like there’s no You left for you. Short and sweet because I know your time is precious. Click here if you’d like it.
Sending all the love you give out right back to you.