It was about 7:30 in the evening, close to bedtime for all, when my daughter grabbed a can of playdough and asked me to help her make a dinosaur.
“Not tonight,” I replied. “Mommy has met her quota of building and playing for the day. Let’s do it tomorrow.”
It wasn’t that I had a particularly active day. I certainly didn’t do anything too strenuous or taxing on my body. I just did the things I normally do on any given day: make breakfasts, lunches, pick up toys, do a load of laundry, color, read, play and well, mother. Nothing too difficult, right?
But I feel this way every night at about the same time.
Every night by the time the sun starts to set I hit my limit and yesterday I realized why: I am always on.
Do you know what I mean by on? It means my senses never rest. My brain never stops from the moment my eyes open until the moment they shut. I’m answering questions, calming arguments, explaining, listening, talking.
My sensory receptors don’t get a chance to chill out even for a second. My ears are always listening, my eyes are always watching, my mind is always processing.
There are stimuli around me always.
I know there are plenty of other jobs that demand this sort of vigilance every minute. But when you mother around the clock, the only minute of quiet you might get each day is the few minutes between the time they fall asleep and your eyes shut. Even then we tend to sleep with one eye open, listening for middle of the night cries and wake ups to use the potty.
It is rare that I go more than two nights in a row without one of them waking me up.
And I’m not complaining – I adore them and there is no other job in the world I’d rather do – I’m just explaining. I’m telling you why moms are so damn tired everyday, even though it appears we’ve done nothing extraordinary with our day.
This is why you need a break.
Moms, this is the reason why you need to say yes to a Saturday afternoon babysitter or a sleepover at Grandma’s house. Your body and soul needs to be able to stop mothering every once in a while.
Yes, you’ll think of your kids while they’re gone and probably worry about them, but you won’t have to keep your ears open to baby cries or hover over someone as they attempt to pour their own juice. You can sit in the quiet for longer than 15 minutes.
(P.S. if you’re looking for a sleep course to get those little ones to finally sleep through the night check out Coos to Snooze – it’s incredible.)
I’ve come to realize I can be a better mother when I get a break from being one. And that’s OK. It’s necessary to understand these things about yourself. To know your limits and how to refill your cup because no one else will do it for you. (My friend Rachel has another great take on why moms are so tired.)
So dads and husbands, if you’ve ever wondered how your wife could fall asleep on the couch every night at 8:45, this is why.
. . .