Motherhood,  Mothering Through Fatigue

I’m not lazy. I’m a “real mom” with Chronic Fatigue

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I have used the phrase “real mom” in past blog posts. I’ve show you my cluttered home. I’ve shown you my mess – on more levels than one.

“Real mom” is really a poor choice of words though.

I’m no more or less real than the mom who keeps a tidy home, the mom who rises early each morning, the mom who never gets behind on laundry, or the mom who exercises every day.

I used to think that those moms weren’t being honest with the world, hence the phrase “real mom.” But it turns out that some of these moms actually exist. I’m friends with a few of them, and we’ve talked about some of these things.

While the phrases “real mom” or “keepin it real” may not be the best choice of words, they are true to the extent that here, on my blog, I show you my reality of mothering through chronic illness and family stress.

A good friend of mine recently posted on her blog a humorous, satirical post called “Things No One Really Wants to See on Facebook” and one of the things on that list was this:

“9. A picture of your messy house and how you are just keepin’ it real, yo. No, you are not. You are just showing everyone that you have more time to take picture and post status updates about your messy house than actually cleaning it up, yo.”

Her innocent comment, meant as a joke, stung a bit. My mind instantly went to pictures I’ve posted on social media of my unfolded laundry.

Finally, I took the risk of messaging her and sharing my experience, defending my reasons for the over-sharing:

What you don’t realize is that it takes a lot less energy and pain to Instagram my laundry than it does to fold it.

You also don’t realize that most times, folding laundry or cleaning my kitchen is painful. Whether I’m sitting or standing, my body starts aching long before I see the bottom of the basket or the sink.  Sometimes, turning my husband’s boot socks right side out physically hurts my skin.

This is my reality.

So when the laundry sitting in the corner of the dining room or the dirty dishes clogging the sink mock me, the guilt threatens to overwhelm me, and I feel so alone in my mess? I reach out to the online community – for encouragement, reassurance, and grace – just hoping that maybe someone else has a pile of laundry or a mound of dishes staring at them too.

She so graciously explained her post as satire and apologized for how it hurt me. We opened a dialogue about what mothering with chronic illness looks like. Our friendship was definitely worth that risk.

Sharing my mess, sharing my “real,” isn’t because I like drama, take pride in laziness, or hate being a mom.

I don’t really want this to be my reality. But it is, so I am trying to rest in grace while trying to navigate mothering through my limitations and feel less alone in the process.

So it’s really hard to read things like this post “The Real Mom Myth” that make an awful lot of assumptions about these moms who are vulnerable online by sharing their realities.

We can pout all day and claim that we can’t get our housework done and take care of our kids. We can also convince ourselves that making a home-made meal for our families is just too much work. But, I guarantee you, you wouldn’t convince the mother of Proverbs 31 that. In fact, she would say the opposite.

She woke up before her family and made breakfast. She chose not to be idle, lazy or a time-waster. She chose to speak with her husband, children, friends and neighbors with kindness. She chose to make herself coverings of tapestry and be dressed in silk and purple — not sweat pants for days on end. She knew her husband had to look at her every single day, and she chose to be beautiful for him.

Moms, be honest and stop believing the “real-mom” myths! You do have time to invest in getting a shower, getting dressed, cleaning the house, playing with your kids and yes — even cooking! If you feel pressed for time, try cutting back on your internet or TV time first. Then, consider waking up a little earlier or staying up a little later. Those simple changes will help you realize the time you do have available.

I encourage you to read Proverbs 31 and see what a “real Mom” should be. (Portions, emphasis mine.)

The author here assumes that if we say we can’t get our housework done or take care of our kids or that cooking “is just too much work”  that it’s a “claim” – a false one that demonstrates unChristian attitude.

Ma’am? Do you realize that for some women, this IS their reality? 

what it's like to be a mom with chronic fatigue

I wear pajama pants or soft cotton stretch pants when I’m at home. I do so because it can physically irritate me to wear the coarse waistband of jeans for extended periods of time.

So yes, I choose physical comfort and lack of pain over always looking put-together or attractive for my husband. 

This author seems to think that if moms just make “simple changes” like getting up a littler early, staying up a little later, and spending less time online then everything would be better for them. But that is a gross oversimplification for most moms. Many moms, like myself, physically can’t do those things on a regular basis for varying reasons.

For me, the issue isn’t time – it’s energy. I run on exhaustion. So yes, do I technically have time to fold the laundry or do the dishes or cook dinner every night? Sure. But do I have the energy and physical fortitude to do so? A lot of times the answer to that question is no.

She seems to think that modeling our 21st century lives after that of a woman, (if she actually was a real living person instead of an ideal that a father was sharing with his son, which is debatable) – who had a maid staff to help her do all of those things. Most moms these days are considered LUCKY if they have a mom, mother-in-law, or sister nearby to help – let alone a maid staff!

Here is my comment response to her post, which she chose not to publish, (as is her right):

Not every mom has the physical capability to improve their mothering just by “waking up a little earlier or staying up a little later.” Some moms have real-life extenuating circumstances such as chronic illness, children with special needs and/or extenuating needs (such as not sleeping through the night for 19 months), husbands with PTSD symptoms, deployed husbands, and the list goes on. At certain times in my 3 1/2 years of mothering – I have dealt with ALL of these. So yes. My laundry is rarely done, my floor is usually dirty, and Netflix is on more than I’d like. And yes. I am PROUD to share that with my blog readers and social media followers because that is what real life looks like for me and I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not. I am still a good mom in spite of these things and I believe that other moms can be too – which is why I share.

If other moms are capable of exercising every day, getting up early every day, staying up late to do housework, keeping things neat and tidy, and being around their kids 24/7 and still have a smile on their face – they are no less of a “real mom” for that. But that’s not my reality and never will be no matter how much self-discipline I’m able to develop in myself.

I really love what my friend Katie, a mom of a boy with autism, had to say on the subject:

I am a “real” mom, but I am not ‘idle, lazy, or a time waster.’ I have a chronic illness, a son who has autism, a baby daughter, and a husband who works long hours to provide for our family. I am often tired, wear sweats, and have a messy house, but my husband and I love each other very much and we both love and care for our two precious children with all our hearts. Rather than dividing into “fake” and “real” shouldn’t we encourage one another as moms no matter our circumstances or appearances?”

And oh how I love that last sentence, because it really does touch on the heart of what I am trying to say. The author of the “Real Mom Myth” post has a really good point that I think gets overshadowed by her judgment.

Moms who are able to live a life resembling that of the Proverbs 31 woman and do it well are just as real as the moms who can’t. And I’ll admit, I have not always given them that respect.

At the end of last year, a friend of mine who just has that kind of a home told me that she felt judged by me, that she felt that I hold her in contempt because she is able to keep a clean home and make her bed every day. And that hit me hard because that’s the last thing I want to do to my friends.

Do I judge her? No. Do I hold her in contempt? No. Do I find her unrelateable sometimes, when I’m surrounded by a mess and am so overwhelmed with the fact that don’t have the physical capability to fix it? Admittedly, yes. But she is a real mom. Just like I am.

We are all in this together ladies. I know for me? I’m going to keep sharing my mess – my reality – because that’s who I am and I’m not going to hide it. But I’m also going to show more respect to the moms who can keep their homes together in a way that I can’t.

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  • Jackie

    I understand very well what you have expressed very beautifully. I am surrounded by those with chronic illness who would love to be the “oerfect house keeper, Mom, wife etc…” but who are too weak. and who feel like they live in “survival mode” most of the time.

  • Rachel

    I’m also in the midst of writing a post about this post. I tried to comment on her site but she wouldn’t publish it. It’s funny because in the comments she says something like “There’s room for grace. Sometimes we get behind, but we try harder the next day.” That’s not grace. Grace is accepting a person regardless of their effort. This is more than just missing a few moms in different circumstances. This is about trying to enforce her preferences on others by disguising them as biblical imperatives. Even a completely healthy mom does not somehow fall short if she doesn’t make beds.

  • Courtney

    Aprille, I love this. I also read the other post you mentioned, and I respect both points of view. Your response, in my opinion, was articulate and honorable, and I admire everything you said. I have often used the phrase ‘real mom’ to describe someone who shares the not-so-pretty parts of their life more transparently than others. However, I have also been discouraged in my own efforts of motherhood and blogging by self-proclaimed ‘real moms’ who’ve made sideways comments on my posts that made me feel like I was either trying too hard to be perfect or being altogether ‘fake’ with the kids arts and crafts projects and activities I shared – as if I was somehow trying to represent a reality that couldn’t possibly be. It was a little bit of a slap in the face, and I felt ashamed for somehow hurting or making others feel less-than with my well-meaning intentions (not saying this is anyone’s fault, this is just how it made me feel). Since then, I have had a really hard time opening up in my blogging (I’ve picked back up, then quit over and over, again). I strive to be the Proverbs 31 woman for my husband and children, and I admit – I struggle with perfectionism, but that doesn’t mean that I am perfect. I think, what’s really important here, is that we remember we are ALL human – insecure and vulnerable – and, for the most part, as mothers, we really are trying to do what’s best for our families with what we have in the unique circumstances we find ourselves in. It’s not fair – nor is it our place – to cast judgement on anyone. One reality is not better than the other, and REAL life is a mixture of all things beautiful and messy (as you so eloquently share with us every day).

    • Aprille

      I am SO GLAD to hear your perspective. I’ve been that mom in the past – really crafty and trying to do preschool at home with my son. Eventually, I had to let a lot of it go, but I so respect the moms that CAN do those things on a regular basis! But it is good to hear that you related to her perspective too. I truly think that she DOES have a valid point, but it was perhaps shared poorly with too much judgment for moms in other circumstances. As always, I love and appreciate your comments! “One reality is not better than the other, and REAL life is a mixture of all things beautiful and messy.” Love that!

    • luv2bemommy

      Dear Rachel,
      Not sure why you think I am trying to “enforce her preferences on others by disguising them as biblical imperatives.” Wow. There are gray areas in the Bible, but Proverbs 31 :10-31 is not gray. Whether or not I bring them to light does not change what it says. We should all look at the Proverbs 31 woman and feel inspired to be more like her, not attack others that are striving to be that woman! Saying things like this about me on someone else’s blog is just not kind. May we all seek to be like the virtuous woman and let the law of kindness rule our tongues!

      • Aprille

        Where in the Bible does it say that we should look at the Proverbs 31 woman and strive to be like her? That passage was written from a father to a son. It is ONE passage within the whole of scripture that women twist and contort, holding it up to a high standard and then use it to beat down other moms who can’t attain.

      • wifosaurus

        The Proverbs 31 woman is a biblical standard. If mothers feel like it is an unattainable standard, that’s their issue, not scripture’s. We have to keep in mind that God gives us grace, and actually think for a moment about context rather than focusing on how something makes us feel bad. Many mothers have circumstances that mean they cannot live up to that Proverbs 31 standard. Many mothers are in a season of life that is not the same as that of the woman in Proverbs 31. We need to be encouraged that “To everything there is a season.” She can still be my standard even if she isn’t my standard in the here and now. When my children are grown and independent, and when I have more time on my hands and am out of my current situation, which I’m not going to detail because I don’t need validation, then maybe I can measure up more. But one view of virtue in scripture isn’t comprehensive. To say she is virtuous does not mean she is the ONLY example of virtuousness.
        We need to give grace to each other as moms. But we also need to have enough security in Christ that we don’t treat exhortations as offensive, judgmental rants.
        Being offended is not a virtue. Every time we find ourselves being offended or feeling judged, we need to stop pointing fingers and ask God why we are feeling judged. Is it because the Holy Spirit is convicting us of something, or is it because we have insecurities? Either way, those feelings need to be dealt with at the cross, not in online debates. Humility is a virtue. Humility isn’t allowing yourself to be judged. Humility is not thinking less of oneself. Humility is thinking of yourself less.
        Judgmental posts tell me that the author is trying to encourage others but has no idea how to actually empathize with people.
        On the other hand, posts that are written out of a blogger’s need to justify herself tell me that s/he is insecure and needs to go to the cross for justification, rather than asking for validation from strangers reading blogs.

        • Aprille

          Caitlin, I have thought long and hard about this comment over the last few days. I disagree with your opinion that the Proverbs 31 is a Biblical standard for women for much the same reasons that Rachel Rogel mentions above, but I’ll caveat that that’s something that has been debated for centuries so I won’t discuss it any further.

          I didn’t write this post out of a need to justify myself. I wrote it because I want to raise awareness about mothering with chronic illness and how it affects both the physiological and psychological aspects of mothering and homemaking.

          Were any of my words written out of insecurity? Sure. Much like Rachel wrote, I have spent “a lifetime of striving in vain to be a person I was not designed to be.” I too am coming into that place of embracing “a sense of joy in who God actually made me to be.” Part of that process is owning where I am right now: expressing it, glorying in my infirmities, so that the power of Christ might rest upon me.

          “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

          Insecurity is a part of life, a part of being a woman. I know not one woman who is not insecure about something. If I chose to never write until I had reached a place of completely resting in the cross for all of my security, then I would never write about anything. This life is all about that process, that journey. I admit that I have not arrived and probably never will this side of heaven. It’s an area of weakness, but I am on that path to daily seeking him for my validation and justification. So if I write a post or two out of a place of struggle or insecurity, I’m okay with that – especially if it helps others too. God knows where my heart was on this and if glorying in my weakness in hopes of helping others makes me less virtuous or humble in the eyes of a reader, so be it.

      • Rachel Rogel

        I’m sorry I did not see this earlier. I just reread the passage – I will admit that before now I was discussing it from memory. I realized that it is actually a message from a mother to a son about what kind of wife he should look for. I would say that any man who found a woman like that would indeed be wise to marry her. But It isn’t actually addressing women, so I don’t understand how it came to be a standard of how women should act. And if it is, then we should take it as a standard across the board and engage in management (she had servants – employees) trade, agriculture, making clothing for our families, giving to the needy…. It seems clear to me that the woman described here is wealthy, but Jesus, in his ministry often pointed out that wealth does not lend itself to spiritual growth. Also, it’s not a characteristic that people have much control over.

        Also I realize from the description of this woman that she is described as being strong and not needing much sleep – up before dawn, awake after dark. But there are those in the Bible with disabilities who were not seen as spiritually deficient because they did not accomplish everything this woman was able to do. When the pharisees wanted to know who had sinned – the man cured of blindness or his parents – Jesus said that sin was not the cause of the disability, but rather it happened so that God might be glorified. Being physically able is not a spiritual achievement.

        As to discussing your blog on another blog, I will admit that I have struggled with this aspect of online communication. But I went ahead for a couple of reasons. One is that the internet is a public place. I think that anyone who posts on a blog can expect that what they say may be discussed in other contexts. The fact that you have been able to respond at length shows that this was a desire for meaningful discussion rather than attack. Also, although I may not have been successful, I tried to limit my discussion to your ideas and avoid character assassination.

        I will admit that I may be a little defensive on this issue. That is because, after a lifetime of striving in vain to be a person I was not designed to be, I have slowly started to build a sense of joy in who God actually made me to be. I do not want to return to the despair of knowing that I will never measure up. I do not believe that God wants any followers of Christ to be in that state. Grace is not trying harder tomorrow. Grace is knowing that although I will never be perfect in God’s sight I already measure up. When He looks at me He sees the blood of Christ and that’s enough.

        You say that my words are not kind. But when I read your post the flame of hope in my heart sputtered a little like someone was trying to blow it out. Then it leaped up a little brighter with the hope of helping other women to see that we don’t have to be weighed down by a one-size-fits-all picture of what a wife and mother should be. If I sound angry or seem aggressive it is because my heart has not completely healed from the wounds of trying to be accepted by squeezing myself into a mold that wasn’t meant for me. Although you may not have intended to do so your words seemed designed to try to push me back into that place. Which also did not seem to me like an act of kindness.

    • Aprille

      I loved it. I’m AFK for now but I will share it when I get home. I also really want to read your post on blessing a mom with chronic illness. That post needs to be written!!!

      • Rachel

        Thanks so much! The baby and I both have ear aches and I can’t make it to the doctor until tomorrow. Somehow blogging still makes my list of priorities. 🙂 I’m having to adjust my expectations again, though.

  • Meredith Bernard

    I truly appreciate your post today, Aprille. You are so right, every mother is a “real” mom…it just looks different for some than others. I’m living life now as a SAHM after 9 years of corporate life and 5 of those years missing out on being what I thought was a “real” mom to my two small children. Now, I see I have always been a “real” mom, but in a different way. Both ways have their good and bad. God’s grace is sufficient for all moms if we choose to accept it. I question what I’m doing and how I’m doing it daily, but know I’m doing the right thing, because it’s what I felt God calling me to do. I don’t look down on any other mom that works, I’ve been there. I don’t look down on mothers that can keep there homes much better than I do. I often find myself looking down on myself for not keeping a better home that I “should” now that I’m home. But being a mom is hard. And I can’t imagine having a chronic illness to deal with in addition to being a mom and for some, even more, having a special needs child. Kudos to you for what you are doing and how you are doing it. And for using your words to inspire and encourage all “real” moms. 🙂

    • Aprille

      Just to clarify – I used the term “special needs” because I have a ton of friends who are special needs moms! My son is actually neurotypical but is what I and others would consider “high needs.” He’s always needed a lot of interaction, had a ton of energy, and hated to sleep!

      Thank you so much for your sweet encouragement and I’m so glad that this post was a blessing to you!!!

  • Jill

    Interesting thing about that Proverbs 31 Woman, she never seemed concerned about what other women were and were not doing. THAT part, I’ve NAILED!

    And….my housework still overtakes me.

    Here’s the truth: Love God, love your family, fulfill your call, and encourage others. How do we do this? By keeping our eyes on our own paper.

    Love you, Aprille!

    • Aprille

      Great advice! And yes, you have such a knack for not caring what others thing or are doing. I’ve come a long way in that department but still so far to go!

  • luv2bemommy

    I am the author of the post, and like I said earlier, if your comments were under the 500 character limit, it would get published. You wrote three or more comments in succession which is against the policy. Feel free to re-write a comment that follows the rules, and it will get published. 🙂

    I did publish the other ones, but have been out of town. Sometimes I do get busy with six kids, home-school and traveling 3 hours away in a third-world country just to go to the grocery store that I am a little late on publishing comments and responding to them .Btw, we really don’t know how many handmaidens the virtuous woman had and what exactly they did. But, nevertheless, we still see that she was diligent and hard-working. She did not have McDonald’s pizza delivery, frozen fish sticks and pizza, microwaves, vacuums, washing machines etc. I can relate to her as I do not have those things either and housework takes a lot longer than it did in America. However, I don’t want to complain about my hard work set before me, but I ask God to give me the strength and wisdom on how to get it done. Some days are better than others. I am not perfect, but I so desire to be virtuous! 🙂

    • Aprille

      I have resubmitted an edited version of my comment.

      There is a difference between complaining and sharing ones reality in hopes that she can encourage and bless others who are in similar difficult circumstances, reminding them that they are not alone and that it’s okay to struggle. Most of the moms I know who you say believe the “real mom myth” are trying to do just that.

  • Marcy Hanson

    Real motherhood is so different for all of us. For me my mind always goes to the differentiation of birth moms and adoptive moms whenever I see or hear that phrase. Then there’s the vs. the SAHM battle? Who’s the better mamma? That depends on who you ask, which I hate. Why do we as women always have to compare and contrast each other? We can’t we all just join in the forces of trying to survive this war of mothering ans support and encourage? Like you said, we’re all real moms, and isn’t that all that matters?

  • Kalley C

    I really like this post! I love the honesty that you share here, and the open community around it! It’s hard to be the woman in Proverbs 31, but you are so right, regardless if we are, or are not that woman, we are no “no less than, no more than” a mom. I’ve had my life before homeschooling, and my life now during homeschool and it’s hard to be on top of all things and be all things to everyone. I think at the end of the day, we just need to learn to respect each other. Great post!

  • peaofsweetness

    Thank-you for sharing what definitely needs to be said. You know my blog tagline is “My Journey to Proverbs 31,” and it is a journey. Perhaps for me, it will be a long one. Although I’m finally finding the right things to help my chronic pain and chronic fatigue there are still days that are exhausting. 3 special needs children, a husband with a disability, and my medical issues. It’s not an excuse but a real reason for my limitations. I don’t know if I’ll ever “get there,” but I’m going to take it at the pace that is needed, and I’m not any less of a wife or mom because of that. I don’t think negatively about those that are, either! I’ve held back on my blog because I have felt insufficient. I don’t want to do that anymore, so again, thank-you.

  • cynthia

    This is a a really late reply :). But, I happened to find your site today and this touched me heart. I have read so many well-meaning Christian blogs & books about being a good wife and mom. I’ve tried so hard to live up to them and failed miserably. I deal with fatigue. If I don’t sleep 8 hours, I’m useless the next day. My house is not clean by any stretch of the imagination. That of course isn’t a judgement on a mom’s whose house is clean. It just isn’t something I can manage. I’m finally after nearly 10 years of marriage accepting where I am and what I’m able to do. Thanks for the touching words – I needed them today!

  • Tammy

    “For me, the issue isn’t time – it’s energy. I run on exhaustion. So yes, do I technically have time to fold the laundry or do the dishes or cook dinner every night? Sure. But do I have the energy and physical fortitude to do so? A lot of times the answer to that question is no.”

    Amen sister!!

  • Cynthia H

    Just saw this on Pinterest. I love it!! I needed 9 hours of sleep or I ran a fever. I also had to rest every afternoon. Since I did child home daycare, resting was usually spent relaxing in a recliner while the little ones took their naps. The one thing I feel bad about looking back, is my grouchiness. That was during a time before FB, Pinterest, blogging. .. I didn’t know anyone else that had the fatigue like me, so will be sharing in hopes of helping even one mom. Somehow the kids have good memories. So I must have done some things right. 🙂

    • Aprille

      Cynthia, my mom had CFS and Fibromylagia. She had to have her afternoon nap and was normally in bed at a decent time. She was not perfect, but I still have good memories. I think it is still very possible to be a great mom with these issues. All moms are grouchy. Because we are human.

      Thank you so much for any sharing. I have a real heart to help tired moms – even if it’s only one!

  • Cheryl

    Thank you for posting this. I had a baby that is now 1 and she is my 3rd baby. I was doing pretty good until I had her, and now it seems so hard like you say to work all day, and when I get home get supper on the table (this wasn’t a problem before), and getting laundry done -I have piles too all over the place- and feel like its even a challenge to help with homework. My husband has pretty much taken over the kitchen because it takes me so long to prepare its always late when we eat and then there’s caring for a 12 year old, and a 7 year old -who gladly do their best to help, and a toddler now. But I wonder if you had a certain point when you felt like ok, this is more than just being tired,and when you decided to find out or talk to a dr about it and how you found out its chronic? I guess I wonder if after a year to hang on to hope that it’ll get better with time, or is it time to speak up at the dr office to see if its more…

    • Aprille

      I am seeing a doctor this month because I feel like there may be something hormonal going on (but I have been experiencing some weird female symptoms for the last year). I’ve had thyroid testing done in the past and it has always come back normal.

      I have read that having 3 kids is the hardest. I’m sure there are pros and cons to the way your kids are spaced. I don’t know how old you are, I turned 30 last year and feel (physically) very different than I did 5 years ago. I have found excercuse (which I really hate) has helped more than anything (such as natural supplements, chiropractic, essential oils, I’ve tried it all!)

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