Ezra,  Health, Wellness, & Self Care,  Motherhood,  Mothering Through Fatigue

How to be a better mom while being exhausted

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“How to be a better mom while being exhausted”

I didn’t make up this title. Someone searched for it on Google and landed here.

I immediately took a screen shot because I felt that it would make for a great future post. I recently wrote a post sharing how I feel like women need to give themselves a break when they are too tired to be a good mom. But I felt like this search term would make great content for a practical post for all the exhausted moms out there who really do want to be good moms.

I didn’t intend to write this post today–it was far down on the list of posts to compile, below all of the posts I have yet to write…

But then this morning happened. 

I was in an unusually deep sleep. I know I was dreaming, but I couldn’t tell you now what about. All the sudden I awoke to Ezra talking over the baby monitor, hearing his door open, and hearing the pitter patter of his feet running into our room. Normally Ezra is in his room with the door locked overnight, but we are still getting used to this apartment, and if the doors aren’t closed tightly, they don’t latch, even if they are locked. Apparently last night it wasn’t shut tight enough so he was able to make it into our room within 30 seconds of being awake.

I don’t wake up quickly. And I especially don’t like to be forced to wake up in 30 seconds.

He immediately started asking that I get out of bed and get him a banana.

Groggily, I pulled him up in bed with me for a hug and cuddles and started fumbling for my thermometer and my iPhone, as taking my waking temperature is an integral aspect of natural family planning. Ezra continued to squirm, trying to reach for my glasses on my night-table which he said that I needed. I managed to get my app open and thermometer in my mouth, at which point he exclaimed, “NO! Don’t put dat in your mouf!” and tried to pull it out (managing only to get the battery cap pulled off and leaving the rest of the thermometer in). My husband tried to assist, but thankfully I was saved by the beep and was able to take it out before more harm was done.

By this point I had only been awake for 2-3 minutes.

Ezra hopped down off the bed and grabbed my hand, again asking for a banana. I pulled on my pajama pants while rubbing sleepies out of my eyes, all while he exclaimed, “Come on Mommy!! Let’s go!”

The rest of the morning was much of the same. Three breakfasts and a lunch to make, in between sips of coffee and a short sit-down on the couch to check Facebook. There were questions from my husband. So what’s up in that cupboard above the fridge? Where did you put the pants you washed yesterday? Do you know where we might have a mechanical pencil? Could you get me a different kind of lunch box? This one doesn’t have pockets… I think I want to do xyz for storage in the bathroom if we are allowed…

…all sung to the accompaniment of Day of the Diesels and requests from the Little Man for more food.

Every request made me bristle with anger and frustration. I just wanted the world to go away and leave me alone.

Can’t they see I just woke up?

My husband left for work and I knew something had to change. Yesterday was bad enough (can we say “terrible twos”?) and I could already see that Ezra was heading that direction again. And I was exhausted from all of the moving, unpacking, adjusting to a new schedule, and recovering from the 4 hours of hiking on the “strenuous” trail that we did on Saturday.

If there was ever a morning that *I* needed the “how to be a better mom while being exhausted” post it was this morning. So I turned to my arsenal of tricks and solutions and topped it off with a little bit of grace and a lot of deep breaths.


It’s only 10:30 and I still have a long way to go, but here’s some of the things that I recommend that I’ve done so far this morning.

10 Tips For Exhausted Moms

1. Take a hot shower. There’s nothing like having hot water running over your head to clear away the cobwebs and sleepies, rest the sore muscles, and make you feel refreshed. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if you can sneak a shower in, DO IT!

(P.S. If you have littles who are not confined, prepare to have this sacred moment interrupted by children who want to “take a shower wif mommy?” Just try to enjoy the 1.378962 minutes before that happens…)

2. Take five minutes for yourself*. This may mean locking yourself in your bedroom while your child cries on the other side. (Yes, I know, it sounds horrible…but stay with me here.) This morning, I crawled into bed, closed my eyes, and listened to a song. Just one song…while taking deep breaths and praying for grace. Five minutes really can make a huge difference and turn your whole day around.

forever reign

(*This is a concept that I have unashamedly stolen from my friend Leigh Ann at Intentional by Grace. Please check out her take on this in her posts I Just Need Five Minutes and Five Minute Fresh Start.)

(P.S. If you have potty training littles, be prepared to emerge just in time to discover that your child has both peed and pooped in his underware during that five minutes.)

3. Get dressed. Now, I’m not talking jeans, boots, scarves, earrings, and red lipstick here. You won’t find me “dressing for success” on a day like today. In fact, I greatly dislike that concept and more often than not you can find me in pajamas. But, sometimes taking off the pjays and putting on a clean and comfortable can make you feel a little less sleepy. My choice for today was cotton stretch pants and a tshirt that reminds me of my beauty in Christ.

get dressed

Find more shirts for tired mamas here!

4. Hug your babies. Especially if you have been “neglecting” them to take a shower, take your five minutes, and get dressed and they are about to DIE of dismay… they need a reminder that mommy loves them. If they are old enough to understand, explain to them that you love them, you just needed a quick break to feel better. It really does help. Hugs are easy, quick, don’t require too much energy–and are what a lot of children crave the most.

hug your baby

5. Let your children color outside the lines. By this, I mean, relax the rules a bit. Maybe it’s a long movie. Maybe it’s Cocoa Puffs for breakfast or Spagettios because you are too exhausted to cook. Maybe it’s putting them back in a diaper even though they are potty training. Maybe it’s coloring on their body. Remember that you don’t have to be perfect all the time, and sometimes, something has to give.

color outside the lines

Get This Decal Here

6. Rock your babies to sleep. So it was 10am and Ezra had just thrown three things across the room in the space of about five minutes. He was now laying on my bedroom floor crying. At any mention of nap, he says, “No! I’m not tired!” I tried to lay him down but he refused, still insisting that he wasn’t tired. So I scooped him up in my arms and rocked him for a while.

Rocking is great because, like hugging, it requires little energy. You can close your eyes and breathe deeply. I also (Unless you have a wiggly baby, at which point, this might not work for you. I couldn’t rock Ezra to sleep for a very long time!)  I also usually have on lullabies or praise music for him to fall asleep too, which often helps to calm my frustrated soul. Cuddling (especially if there is skin-to-skin contact involved) also helps increase both your and your child’s oxytocin levels which helps reduce stress in both of you.

7. Make sure you are eating. I’m not a morning person, and consequently have a hard time eating first thing after waking. Sometimes it’s not until later in the morning when I even realize that I haven’t eaten yet. Sometimes I run into trouble if the day gets busy…a hungry mommy is a cranky mommy, and eventually I start feeling it. Taking time to eat a small breakfast or a snack, even if it’s mid-morning, helps to make me feel a little refreshed.

eat breakfast

8. Give your babies a change of scenery. This is something that I picked up from the e-book Parenting Wild Things. I don’t know how the rest of this day will go, but I plan to take Ezra out somewhere. Our four go-to FREE getaways are local parks, the library (most libraries offer nice children’s sections with books and puzzles, or story times!), the train table area at Barnes and Noble, and the play area at our local mall. Check out your area to see what is there and get out of the house for a while! Invite a friend to go along, or take a good book that you can read while your child plays.

These last two are things that I practice continually, but am not really doing specifically today:

9. Say no to outside stressors. I have learned through experience that I do not do well with commitments when I am mothering a little one. I have had to step back from taking on a lot of great things that I would love to do, simply because it stresses me and makes me exhausted. I love having less commitments, so I can CHOOSE what I want to do each day without worrying about that decision affecting a lot of other people. Even things that I love to do (MOPS, Bible Studies, etc), some days I simply have to say, “Nope…I’m staying home today to get some extra rest.” Almost always when I make that decision I am a better mother for it.

10. Stay connected to other moms. While seemingly contradictory to #9, it’s actually meant to be complementary. There have been many days when getting myself and the baby out the door for another MOPS or PWOC meeting was the last thing that I truly wanted to do. But once I wolfed down some coffee and made it there (harried or not), I found myself refreshed by other moms who had done just the same thing and arrived just as harried and exhausted as I was. And there, we found community and friendship, and were better mothers for it.

If you are not a part of a local mom’s group or Bible study, I urge you to spend some time on Google and see if you can find something to be apart of. Check out the MOPS International, Community Bible Study, or meetup.com websites. Other great search terms: mother’s day out, mother’s morning out, parents morning out, MOMS (mothers of many seasons). Check your local library, YMCA, or gym to see what programs they offer.

This list is definitely not exhaustive, but doing even some of these things on the hard days really helps me. What about you? What do you turn to on days when you are exhausted? What helps to make you a better mother?

How To Be a Better Mom While Being Exhausted: 10 Tips for Tired Moms

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  • Faith @ Artistic31Mama

    Absolutely LOVE this! I can sooo relate. As a mom of four with two in school (K and 1st grade) it is all I can do some morning to drag myself (or be drug) out of bed! I was smiling and nodding while reading this. Loved all your suggestions I can especially relate to #9 and have pulled back from a lot of commitments recently due to that.

  • Melissa@Home on Deranged

    Superb list and ridiculously true. If I think about the reasons I feel bad most days or get angry at stupid little things, it’s because I need sleep. So why am I here at 11:35 p.m.?? Lol. Thanks for sharing this on Tuesday Baby Link Up!

    • Aprille

      You are welcome.

      I think we stay up so late because it takes us a while to unwind once the kids go to bed. We crave alone time, personal time, me time…more than sleep a lot of times. We can’t have both so have to pick one or the other.

      It it might have to do with a Dr Who addiction…but I can neither confirm or deny if that’s the case in our house.

      • Jane

        VERY TRUE! We need ‘me time’ but we also need to rest and sleep… as you said, we can’t have both, so we pick one. One evening it’s ‘sleep early’ time for me, another night it’s reading which is ‘me time’, I need that to unwind…hmmm… what about ‘husband & I’ time though? No time for that :/

        • Aprille

          Somehow we squeeze in hubby and I time too. It helps that we like the same TV shows so several nights a week we watch TV together after our son is in bed.

  • paula

    these are great tips!!! I think we all have those days, so it’s nice to have a list to remind myself of when I’m in the moment and not thinking clearly

  • IThoughtIKnewMama (@IThoughtIKnewMa)

    This is excellent advice! I have had many a day where I could not have gotten by without doing several of the things you suggest above. 🙂

    Thanks for linking up at The Tuesday Baby Link Up!

  • Lissa

    Oh I am smack dab in the middle of this! I have a 3-year-old, 1-year-old, and 6-week-old. Exhausted is my middle name these days! These are practical but helpful too. Great reminders and when I do them I feel the difference, although some of them are harder to do now that I have more needy kids than hands 🙂 (specifically the rocking) Thanks for reminding me what’s important!

  • holly

    Great post! I am a night shift nurse that is 38 weeks pregnant and I have a beautiful 3 yo baby girl. I can’t tell you the guilt I have struggled with not being the A1 mom but my three year old now knows Fridays are snuggle days for the first few hours and she looks forward to watching Netflix snuggling next to me. I am definitely blessed by an amazingly understanding daughter but I have had to come to grips with the fact that on that day that is the best I can do.

  • Kim

    Totally needed this tonight! I took my 22 month old to a local children’s carnival tonight. We left with her screaming crying and she cried most of the way home as well. Hubby works 3rd which makes moments like this even worse. Currently I am trying to get my very sleepy to quit fighting sleep so I can have a moment to myself.

  • Jennifer

    Penned with perfection. I have a thyroid disorder so I get worn down fast. I beat myself up because I don’t do as much I like or need. Homeschooling is exhausting but we are flexible. Thank you for encouraging me that there other moms who aren’t able to even attempt “super momma”! Many blessings….

  • Kasia

    I’ve just found this post on Pinterest and I love it 😀 You’re so conscious of that nobody could be perfect and also U seem to be a very loving and normal mother 😀 Such a model to me (I’m struggling with some fears related to having a family and giving birth and I look for good models and positive information all the time).
    Thank You. Blessings!
    PS do You use prof. Roetzer’s natural family planning method? 😀

  • Carolyn @ Raspberries in the Rough

    I love this post! My husband is a night owl and likes when I stay up late with him, and I often find myself burning the candle at both ends to try to please everyone. Too often I feel it is the little ones who suffer from my tiredness. I’m trying to do better at an earlier bedtime. I think your ideas are great and I really appreciate that you don’t think its horrible to leave your child outside your door for 5 minutes to get yourself together. I always worry that people would think me a terrible mom for doing things like that.

  • Raquel

    Hi! Your story is so inspiring, and what makes it more interesting for me is that your a christiab too..
    It’s been 3months now since i lost my job and still trying to find a new one but still no luck. I have a daugther who is 2yrs and 6months old, and this past few days i feel tired and exhausted with all the choires and never ending to do list.. i been wanting to have a “Me Time” but i couldnt do so bcoz no one will take good care of my daugther and since we are living in middle east it is so hard to entrust your daughter to someone. But during the week end i try to bring my daugther to a Park where she can play and run around. thats one of the things that we do together.
    But i been wanting and thinking about of going out by myself thats what i feel like of will energize me, hoping that i will be able to do it without feeling guilty.
    Anyway, Thankyou to your inspiring story and Godbless you and your family.

  • Amy

    This is almost my every day life. I thought I was the only one that felt like this. So glad there are mom just like me. I often cancel planss or hope people forget so I don’t have to leave the house.

  • fiftarina

    Hi Aprille, I found your blog thru Paula’s blog. It’s nice to read your writing, especially those motherhood stories, they are so real. Thanks for sharing with us..

  • Christy

    I understand where you are coming from but I think you should feel lucky you are staying home with your baby. Try working hard all day then coming home and trying to be “present” with your baby. It’s harder. You feel guilty for not enough time together but you also feel too tired to do much about it. I stayed home for the first 8 months so I know it’s also tiring to go all day with little one but it’s not as hard as working full time outside then coming home and trying to make up for it. Just saying. 🙂

    • Aprille

      I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to play “who has it worse” between SAHMs and working moms. The challenges are different and it’s not fair to compare them. I’ve never been a working mom so I’m not going to presume to know or understand those struggles. I will continue to write about the struggles that SAHMs face whether others see them as valid or not.

      • CC

        Christy presents another POV. I too have been a SAHM for a short time, but largely, a work-outside-the-home mom. I would choose SAHM over the working mom thing in a heartbeat. I think I speak for many working moms when I say, be grateful for the opportunity to be a SAHM. It is not a competition, and to say it is, is diminishing the challenges we face, and are speaking honestly about, in regards to being a working mom.

        • Aprille

          I gladly welcome people sharing other points of view. But I was not the one that came on here and said “it’s harder” in regard to being a working mom – that was Christy. So it’s completely not fair to accuse me of making it out to be a competition and diminishing the challenges of working moms.

          I have never been a working mom. I will not presume to know your challenges. However, I will not let the fact that I do not understand those challenges keep me from encouraging SAHM’s or being honest about how hard it is. Your hard is your hard. My hard is mine. The two do not have to reflect upon another.

    • CC

      Yes Christy, this is the biggest challenge to me as well. Working outside the home is not a choice for me, it’s a necessity to pay the bills. I can’t help but feel guilt that my kids get the short end of the stick sometimes. I am so exhausted after a full day of work. Then coming home to a 9, 6 and 3 year old. That plus 40 + hours per week at my company job is no joke.

    • Crystal

      I worked full time as a teacher with my first child and then left my job when she was 1. I now have two girls age 27 months and 6 months. I can say that staying home is much much harder than working full time and then coming home to children. Of course I missed my little one like crazy but socializing with other adults and earning money kept me balanced. I had the best of both worlds. If come home happy to see my daughter and spend all my time with her till it was time to go to work again. Now as a full time 24/7 stay at home mom it is HARD! The daily struggles can only be felt by a stay at home mom. I wish I could go back to work but now I feel guilty and want to stay with my girls (even though they are quite a handful). I trust my mother to care for them but no one will ever take care of them like I would..and that’s what keeps me home with them. For me personally staying home with children is so much harder. “Me time” exists when my girls are asleep but then again I’m sleepy too. Lol so it’s pretty much non-existent. Oh and of course we’re lucky to stay home with our children but that definitely doesn’t mean it’s easier. Especially when significant other expects us to do everything for the children and home since we “don’t work”. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had…and I’ve taught middle schoolers before!

  • Ilze

    I’m so happy I saw this post on Pinterest this morning. My 3 month old baby girl wasn’ t sleeping much last night and I felt so tired this morning, but I definitely feel much better and encouraged now. Thank you.

  • Sophie

    I am a young adult who for the most part looks upon the responsibilities of motherhood with dread (for some obvious reasons), but who still wants a family. I love this article because it was so realistic and genuine. Au natural photos and practical, non-perfectionist advice. Thank you!!

  • Brittanee

    Great post!!! I just had my 3rd child, and he’s not even a week old, and he thinks between 1-4 am is the perfect time to cluster feed! I’m exhausted a lot! This was a great post to remind me what I am doing does make me a good mom. Plus gave me a few more tips. Sometimes it’s the things we don’t realize that we do that make us a good parent still even when we don’t think we are.

  • Heather

    I found myself reading this.. Well because I’m Exhausted…. I haven’t slept a straight night through in about two years, and my 10 month old still gets up 3-4 times a night where I have to get up get a bottle change him, ect, several times a night not to mention if I have to get up between to use the restroom, I recently bought a memory foam topper for my bed which seems to help and also went to the doctor for medication, my husband works out of town and is only home on weekends and Wednesday night, I’m tired and worn out I have three boys who from the moment they wake in the morning are ready to hit the ground running… And I am not, I want to thank you for this as I completely relate, and have forgotten that they sometimes just need a hug when mommy is having one of those days, great post and thank you.. From a really exhausted mommy!!

  • Tracey Karst

    I was disappointed by this article. I was really hoping for some hope and advice on how to keep yourself same when you wake up at 515 and are on the go with a full time job until 530 pm then come home to the same things you described until 10 pm at night. This is tired. I just found myself crying actually-what is time to myself? Change of scenery? What? I found myself wondering how busy someone who doesn’t work with one child could possibly be ‘tired.’

    • Kristen

      But she clearly does “work”. Her job is taking care of her child. You know, how a babysitter or childcare takes care of your child. The difference is, she does this all day, while you split the day between your childcare provider and yourself.

      I’m tired of people who say SAHM’s don’t work.

      • Tracey Karst

        No. Staying at home is being a mom. This is not a job-a job is where you go somewhere, do a task and get a paycheck. Unless your husband is paying you it is not a real job. I do not ‘split’ my time-I do it all. And do not judge me because you dramatize your own parenting.

    • Crystal

      Lol I worked full time teaching middle school students and would then come home full of energy and happiness to be with my little one. Now I’m a stay at home mom and find it extremely difficult compared to leaving the home and working. It is extremely tiresome to care for children unless you just come home, sit on your butt and watch tv with your children. Stay at home moms cook, clean, clean babies, feed babies, play with babies, read to babies, teach babies…RAISE babies. Guess you don’t have high expectations of whomever you leave your children with. Loving babies and raising them to be caring, thoughtful, curious little boys and girls is not as easy as you think. Whoever says raising children is not a job, definitely hasn’t been a stay at home parent. Try telling that to whomever raises your child while you’re working 😉

  • teresa

    Amazing article!! thank you, this is so my life with my toddler! you made me laugh out loud! you are a brilliant writer made my day … xx

  • Arnie Akers

    Thank you so much for this post. I am always exhausted – I have an almost three and just turned a year old (22 months apart). Between the tantrums, potty training, demands, and playtime, I barely have time for myself. I’m lucky if I get to have a cup of coffee. I am terrible in time management, but by the grace of God, my children are healthy, very active, and on good moments, very sweet and independent. I really appreciate your post and has given me a chance to rethink that I do deserve a five-minute break. I will definitely take heed to all your advices. Thank you again and may the good Lord continue to bless you and your family.

    Sincerely, Arnie

    • Aprille

      I am AWFUL with time management too. It’s probably my worst flaw and gets me into SO much trouble and causes so much stress. Ugh. I’m glad my post was an encouragement to you. And yes, you deserve a 5 minute break. We all do.

  • Millyissa

    I am pregnant, tired, and the mother of two toddlers. Some activities that I have found useful:
    Pretend: Once found myself laying sick on the couch and they wanted me to blow up balloons. God blessed me with inspiration and I took my hand and blew up huge invisible balloon and let it fly. They would run get it and even fight for turns. I’ve also done the same thing with an invisible mixing bowl and they would get cookie ingredients. Most recently we did pretend birds of all different colors flying around and landing on us.
    Massages: It is amazing the amount of good a toy car can do driving on your back. They will want turns too, but all of it can be done laying down.
    Outside: just find some place to sit and let them loose.
    Books: especially if they can get them on and off the bookshelf by themselves.
    Stretches: you can sit or lay and do stretches. They love copying the different poses.

  • Rachel

    Thank u for this. I am a part-time worker outside the home. My husband works 3rd shift. I have a 2 yr old and a 4 yr old; both boys. The day you described seems to be the constant chorus for every moment I am at home. I have tried the things you discribed and figured I was worthless compared to everyone else who seems to have children that listen to them, always dressed for adventures out of the house, and with children who seem to be constantly enriched with story/art/learning time at home. I guess we all roll through life with mostly caffeine running through our veins. Maybe we should all be a little less hard on ourselves. Thanks again. God bless.

    • Aprille

      No you are NOT worthless. Life as a SAHM is HARD! And boys at 2 and 4 – busy busy, active, energetic – they require SO MUCH! Yes, we all need to be less hard on ourselves.

  • Healing Mama

    I know this post is old, but seriously I feel like you described my morning. If I don’t get up before my family I’m bombarded with questions and request as soon as I wake up. Honestly, it puts me in a bad mood. I think these are great suggestions!

  • Jenny

    Thank you.

    I googled almost exactly this title yesterday. I may be facing a CFS diagnosis (have been praying not though), and hate the afternoons that I can’t think through the fog to pay proper attention to my 12 year old; the time I need to lay back on the couch all afternoon just so I can cook dinner and do the bedtime routine; or all the house work I can’t do (and therefore leave for my husband) because my legs and arms have turned to jelly and if I push it I end up sore.

    Also I support locked doors where necessary, though I understand the worry. If there were a fire… However I have a child who got into laundry products while she was supposed to be sleeping. She made a mess and damaged the carpet but it could have been SO much worse. That same night a lock was installed on the laundry door.

    • Aprille

      Fire is a legitimate concern about locking doors. So I get the shock factor. But kids who struggle with boundaries in other ways and absolutely refuse to stay in their rooms can endanger themselves in other ways. There are risks either way, IMO. Parenting isn’t risk free, ever. It’s all about making the right decision for your child, today.

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