Are you running on empty? An exhausted mom who is tired beyond belief? I’ve been there. My hope is that this open letter to moms will fill you with encouragement and a way to move forward, particularly if you have a child with autism.
Dear Tired Mom,
Life can throw a lot at you at once. You’re better than you think you are at weathering it all, but sometimes it’s all too much and you feel like you’re pushed beyond your limit.
Motherhood can be one of the toughest jobs there is.
You know what the quote “Having a child is like having your heart walk around outside of your body” means down to your very core. You are deeply affected by everything your child goes through and understandably so.
It’s not just life as a mom; you have the rest of life to contend with too. There are financial worries, health concerns (maybe even your own), work challenges, family drama, and more. You might even be a single parent. And that’s not even touching all the things you do for your children!
Then add in the fact that one of your children has special needs, such as autism, and that mountain gets bigger and bigger until you’re so overwhelmed and exhausted, you are running on empty.
Dear Exhausted Mom…You are Not Alone!
Sometimes you might be in the midst of a challenge that’s really tough, but you know it will end eventually. Maybe you have a colicky baby and while it seems endless now, you know this too will pass (hopefully sooner than later!)
Or your kids are sick. Or perhaps your spouse is deployed and you’re a single parent for the next few months (if this is you, thank you for your service to our country).
Perhaps your exhausted mom burden is more open-ended with a child who has autism or a concerning medical condition where you don’t know when or if things will improve. Maybe you’re facing a divorce and raising your children without the support of a spouse.
It’s really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes.
Wherever you’re at right now, it’s okay to admit that you’re worn out, exhausted, and overwhelmed. You might even throw up your hands and admit that THIS was not how you thought your life would turn out. Trust me, you won’t be alone.
You might not be able to fix everything, but I want to encourage you that there are real and tangible things you can do to make sure that YOU ARE OKAY in the middle of it all, including recharge yourself.
I believe so passionately in self-care for moms (particularly moms of a child with autism) that I literally wrote a book about it.
How to Get Through the Tough Days as a Mom
1. Be honest with yourself
I bet that you are really hard on yourself. That you often criticize yourself and wonder, at least silently, why you are struggling so much or why you don’t do a better job or have it more together.
I do it too. At least I used to and now I try hard not to!
It’s okay to admit that you’re struggling with the cards you have been handed and that you are currently an exhausted mom. This doesn’t make you a failure, this makes you human.
The truth is we each need an outlet for our emotions. If we bottle up all that frustration and anger and anxiety and stress, it WILL come out somehow, usually in a form we don’t want, like a breakdown or health issue, some more serious than others.
Many do find an outlet that works well for them – maybe it’s kickboxing and beating the crap out of a target or a regular night out with friends for venting.
But sometimes that’s just not enough if you’re really struggling and you need something MORE than the typical “self-care” routines.
2. What do you NEED right now?
Ask yourself what would help you the most right now and think about what first comes to mind. Don’t push that thought away because it sounds impossible, ridiculous, etc. Other than a magic wand fixing everything. 😉
Really think about this.
Now, ask yourself what if you actually did this particular thing?
I went through a really tough time back in March and during one of my toughest days where I didn’t know how I would keep putting one foot in front of the other, I made a drastic decision to do something purely for me. It was something I’d never done in my entire life and, not only did I decide to make it happen, but I actually went through with it.
I packed my bag and went to Maui, Hawaii for 10 days in April. All by myself. No kids, no husband, no family, not even a girlfriend. This was for me and me alone. (This was also my very first vacation in my entire life, beyond driving an hour away or visiting family, which really doesn’t count.)
It was one of the BEST DECISIONS I’ve ever made in my entire life. Not only did this trip help restore and refresh me, but going to Maui gave me some big revelations that not only changed my perspective while I was there but also helped me keep going when I returned home and faced reality once again.
So what is YOUR thing?
3. Find Your Happy Place (and Don’t Feel Guilty About It)
What would you love to do that would completely fill you up, recharge, and refresh you? What new thing would you love to do? Or, what old thing would you be thrilled to do again? What is your happy place?
Your happy place might not be as drastic as a vacation to Maui, but you should definitely think beyond the usual self-care ideas. Because there are times when a bubble bath, pedicure, or visit to the gym just won’t cut it. If you’re feeling stuck and desperate for hope, remember: desperate times call for desperate measures.
But what about your family? If you’re worried about what your family will do while you’re doing your thing, remember this truth: your family needs you to be okay. If you’re not okay, your children won’t be okay either.
It’s not selfish to take care of you; it’s essential for the exhausted mom.
I’ll be honest. My family was put out big time while I went away. But I came back so much happier and in such a better place, that it was absolutely worth it for all of us.
Your happy place should be for YOU. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Be creative and go with your gut.
Your happy place can do some amazing things for you.
4. Realize That You Are Still You.
As mothers who always take care of those around us, we can get lost in our roles as wives, mothers, co-workers, daughters, friends, etc. and before long, we don’t know who we are as individuals.
Who are you as _______ ?
Who am I as Erika Bragdon?
Take the chance to explore and find you again, which in turn, can be incredibly empowering and uplifting. You can then bring that renewed YOU back to your family.
5. Know That You are SO Important.
When you choose you, you’re not only telling the world that you are important, you’re also telling yourself.
This is why it’s so important to choose something you will actually do. Wishful thinking will only get you so far. When you CHOOSE you, it’s refreshing and uplifting to a weary soul, especially one who gives so much to others (and often without thanks.)
6. Realize You Always Have a Choice.
The toughest times are often when we feel trapped with no end in sight. There is freedom in doing something to remind yourself that you DO have a choice in life.
For me, ever since I made the choice to do something big for me, that decision empowered me and reminds me every day that I do have a choice. I can’t wave a magic wand and “fix” my autistic son’s challenges, but there are other things I can choose to do, including taking the occasional break for me.
7. Try to Gain Perspective.
If you can get away for a couple of days and take a break, it can help you sit back and bring a new perspective into your life. Perhaps you’ll be able to come up with a new idea for the family dynamic or the courage to say “no” to someone or something that isn’t working for you.
Sometimes we are so close to our everyday lives that stepping back for a short period allows us to see things differently and make changes or decisions we wouldn’t normally do.
8. Balance Your “Supposed To’s” with your “Want To’s”
Life can become overwhelmingly full of the “supposed to’s”.
You’re supposed to take the kids to school. You’re supposed to take them to soccer practice. Then, you’re supposed to balance work and home and family. You’re supposed to make a healthy homemade dinner. Yes, you’re supposed to eat clean, work out, lose weight.
Plus, you’re supposed to adjust your schedule again when the school calls because they don’t know how to handle your autistic child and they refuse to institute an IEP.
You’re supposed to balance all this with very little sleep and a smile on your face too.
You might even enjoy doing those things individually. But when they become regular requirements combined with everything else you’re juggling, it’s no wonder you run out of steam!
Here’s the epiphany I discovered recently while away at my “happy place” that changed my perspective forever: Doing things I “want to” recharges me for the “supposed to’s.”
Dear Mom, your “want to’s” recharge you for the “supposed to’s” in life.
Obviously, this too requires balance, but let’s be honest. You’re not reading this post because you do too much for yourself. You’re here because you’re running on empty (or getting close to it) and you need encouragement.
Do more of what makes you happy. You won’t regret it.
9. Make Time for Intentional Self-Care Every Single Day
I know that not everyone can pick up and go to Hawaii anytime they feel like it. But, we all CAN schedule out a few minutes during the day to practice some much-needed, much-deserved self-care.
Don’t get caught up in the lie that self-care = spa day. While spa days are wonderful and certainly can be useful, you can do self-care right at home easily. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Use a homemade lavender honey facewash to give yourself a 5-minute facial
- Make some aromatic fizzy bath salts
- Spray some of this DIY “renewed patience” calming essential oil blend created just for an exhausted mom
- Spend some time reading, whether it’s a morning devotional, a historic fiction, or a book that fills your cup such as my ebook, Empowered
- Meditate and/or pray
Special Encouragement for the Exhausted Mom Who Has a Child with Autism
While every mom is occasionally overwhelmed, no one knows overwhelm or exhaustion more than a special needs parent. I know, because I have experience parenting a child with autsim (you can read our entire autism story here).
I am incredibly passionate about giving hope to moms of autistic kids. It’s a tough road and can feel so isolating. That’s why I wrote my ebook, Empowered: the Self-Care Guide for the Autistic Mom.
In this book, I go into more detail than this blog post could ever hold! I share about:
- how to help your child while also being true to you
- how to find balance in life (yes, you can!)
- practical tips on what to do when you feel overwhelmed and guilty
- finding ways to set boundaries and protect your family
- so much more
If you’re an overwhelmed mom, I wrote this ebook for you! There is hope!
And along the way, let’s say goodbye to barely getting by and hello to thriving. You and I were meant to THRIVE and be happy in our crazy, sometimes stressful, yet beautiful lives.
You’ve got this, girl.
And always remember, you’re not alone.
Pin the image below to save these tips for later.
More Encouraging Posts for an Exhausted Mom:
- I Quit Putting My Kids First
- How to Say “No” More & Reduce Stress
- The Simple Trick to Reducing Everyday Stress
- When You Feel Like a Failure
Isabel @ Family Life Blog says
Omg, Erika! Taking care of ourselves is so so important. I could relate to basically about every single word you wrote in this post. I recently had the very first panic attack in my whole life and… IT. WAS. SCARY. I had to learn the hard way that if we’re not well, then we can’t take care of our family. Our mental, emotional, and physical health comes first. Like you said, ” Your family needs you to be ok. If you’re not ok. They won’t be either.” I wish I had read your article before I had to experience my panic attack. It was really scary but eye-opening. Now, I’ve stepped back from a couple of commitments and I’m giving myself a lot more grace than I did before. Thanks again for opening up and sharing all of this!
Heather Rushing says
Wow, okay I’ll tell you what happens when you don’t get away for some you time. It is forced on you. Take me, I had a hear attack back in April. So, here I am recuperating but it has not been a “happy place”. Anxiety kicked in and I have been struggling with panic attacks while trying to get better. I am not staying in my house, my husband and are staying nearby in my parent’s cottage. My Mother-in-law came a month ago, and while she has been a help that I needed , the kids have not fully appreciated her style. In another week or so she will go home and I will have to be the “Mom” again.
This sounds pretty negative, it has been a hard time. I do, however, believe that God has a purpose for it all. A purpose for my good – our good – if for nothing but me learning to trust Him for my strength.