The mental load of motherhood is what I didn’t fully expect

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Did you ever guess you’d grow so tired your heart would physically ache?

I didn’t.

Oh yes, I heard all the warnings and snide remarks that inevitably come the way of soon-to-be mothers in the days and months leading up to childbirth. “Enjoy your sleep while you still can,” and “Oh, you think you’re tired now? Just you wait!”

And looking back, if I’m honest, I did think I knew what it was to feel worn out before I had children. Then I had children.

This is not by any means to say women without kids are lazy—that’s not true. Women are hard workers by nature, and we overextend ourselves in every aspect of life.

The thing about motherhood, though, is that it’s a different kind of exhausting.

It’s physically taxing, to be sure, and for some strange reason the guaranteed long hours don’t promise any overtime pay. We’re constantly on the go, helping the littles from one task to the next. We prepare the meals, do the laundry, clean the house, wipe the noses, bandage the boo-boos, run the errands, drive the carpools, break up the arguments and administer the discipline. It really can wear a girl out!

All of that is nothing, though, when compared to the emotional exhaustion moms battle day in and day out.

It’s a level of weariness I truly knew nothing of until I had little ones, and it caught me completely off guard. I suddenly found that even when my body felt rested, my spirit was tired. So what gives?

Tonight I yelled at my son during dinner. Like, I legitimately scared him. “Oh my WORD, for the LOVE, would you quit goofing off during supper time?” He’s 6, mind you. A 6-year-old acting like a… 6-year-old does. And I am shocked by that behavior because why?

I can’t stop thinking about my son, and how I hurt his heart in that moment. The more I think about it, the more it shreds me inside—and I want a do-over, but we all know there’s no such thing as a do-over. Once the words escape, they’re gone for good, and all that’s left is my regret, which leaves me feeling… tired.

My love for my kids, my care for their souls and contentment and wellbeing, exhausts me. It’s hard work loving tiny humans that much, because it means you have to care. You have to want to care.

It’s crazy the power these little people have over us as mamas. When they’re sad, we bear their sadness. When they hurt, we hurt. When they’re angry, we feel a bit of the venom coursing through our own veins. When they’re embarrassed we want to cover their shame, and when they’re teased, well… we want to take out some mean kids, Towanda-style. (I desperately hope you just pictured Kathy Bates losing her ever-loving mind the way we all wish we could; if not, watch this.)

When our children are happy, there’s a lightness to our steps. When they’re laughing, we giggle along. When they’re confident, we stand ourselves up a little taller. When they display wisdom, we marvel at their maturity and growth.

When they’re deceptive, we worry about the state of their hearts. When they disrespect us, we put on our big-girl pants and dish out the consequences, all the while silently aching like we’ve been sliced clean through the gut. When they make decisions we know are contrary to what’s best for them, we grieve.

It’s no wonder we’re tired. We feel ALL THE THINGS, and it’s utterly exhausting.

When your son can’t make it through the day at his middle school without being bullied, and your heart aches for him.

Tired.

When you know your 17-year-old daughter lied to you about where she was and who she was with on Friday night, and you’re scared to death about the direction she’s headed in.

Tired.

When you’re in the thick of the early years and you know you love your itty-bitty to her core, but her colicky self is about to make you grab your cut-and- run bag and make a break for it, maybe all the way to sunny California.

Tired.

When your teenage son takes a girl on a date for the first time, and you smile at the puppy eyes he can’t conceal while at the same time begging God to help him remember everything you’ve taught him in preparation for this day.

Tired.

After all, when half of your heart is living outside your body, it’s an exhausting thing.

So, my dear mama, don’t ever apologize for being tired. Ever.

Instead, take a nap when you need one. Sit down and kick your feet up for a bit, and maybe play a round or two of your favorite mindless game on your phone. Get a massage. Go to bed early, and leave the dishes for the morning (trust me, they’re not going anywhere). Slow your roll and take a minute to breathe, letting your love wear you out, in the best and worst ways.

One day you won’t be so tired anymore, and you might wonder what happened to the time.

This story was written by Jordan Baker Watts of Feel Free to Laugh.  Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.

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