Motherhood,  Mothering Through Fatigue

9 lessons learned from mothering through fatigue

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I am continually in awe of the tired moms who land here every day, at the posts from the archives about mothering tired that continue to get sometimes hundreds of hits every day, and at the encouragement that all of this brings to both myself and others.

Fatigue wears you down, isolates you from others, and makes you feel like you are utterly alone.

Seeing something good come of it is worth everything to me.

So, what I’d like to do now is offer some advice to moms struggling with fatigue. These are lessons I’ve had to learn – most of them, the hard way.

9 lessons learned from mothering through fatigue

1. You’re not alone.

Every. Single. Day. Women out there are Googling stuff about being a tired mom. And these are the women desperate enough to turn to Google for hope. What about all of those who don’t?

mother of a 12 month old so tired all the time

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too tired to be a good mother

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(And this is just today, y’all.)

However tired you feel today, I can assure you that you are, in no way, alone or deserted in this journey.

2. People aren’t gonna understand. And that’s okay.

I’ve spent a lot of time and words trying to get people to understand my reality. I’ve devoted whole blog posts to the topic. The cry to be heard and understood has come from deep within my being – just longing for people to get why cooking and housework is overwhelming, why there’s so much I can’t do, why I’m not the one signing up to bring food or take meals or volunteer.

But unless you have lived a reality where fatigue is your arch-nemesis, you really can’t fully grasp it.

They don’t need to understand. They don’t need to get it. I need to do what I need to do (and not do what I can’t) because I’m the only one that has to live my life. So what people think about those choices really has no bearing on me, or shouldn’t. I shouldn’t feel threatened by them if they make different choices because they have the energy to do so. They are living their life, I’m living mine.

And I’m finally learning to be okay with that.

3. People will have opinions on how to fix your problem. You don’t have to listen to them.

Fatigue is one invisible illness that can have so many underlying causes. Low progesterone, thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies, illnesses like Chrons or Celiac, food allergies, and so much more. It can also be caused by motherhood.

I’ve gone through plenty of testing and seen several different doctors and come to my own conclusions about what has caused my fatigue levels to be what they are. What causes my fatigue might not be what has caused yours. A lot of well-meaning people have come to me and told me to get this or that test, try this supplement, try this diet, see this doctor, try these essential oils, and on and on and on. It’s been overwhelming and disheartening, especially when, more often than not, I’ve already tried so much of what they suggest and it didn’t work. Or if I believe different research than they do. Or, sometimes even, I’m just so exhausted that trying something new is too overwhelming to consider.

You can be open to suggestions and gain from others. You can also say, “Thanks, but no thanks – I’ve talked with my doctor, and we are trying something else.” If they push, walk away. You don’t have to defend the choices you are making (in your treatment or lack thereof). You don’t have to explain what you feel or know is going on in your body. Walk your own path.

4. You might just have to accept that your normal is going to look different from others.

Sometimes, you need to fight for a diagnosis. Sometimes, you need to go through the trial and error of seeing doctors and specialists, trying supplements or treatment options.

Earlier this year I sat in the office of a yet another specialist. She had run a gamut of tests and told me her findings. She gave me a small list of supplements to try and things that I needed to do to help my body heal (both emotionally and physically). But then she told me, “Aprille, given your life-long history of fatigue, your normal is probably always going to look different from the normal of others.”

I walked out of her office angry and frustrated. But over time, I’ve come to appreciate the truth of her statements and accept it. To truly embrace my limitations, stop fighting to “get better” so I can do more and keep up with the crowd and instead be okay with where I am.

I don’t know where that line is going to be for you. But acceptance of your fatigue can actually be a great asset in managing your fatigue.

5. Exercise is vital. Walking preferable.

No matter what your diagnosis or underlying cause for your fatigue is, doctors are agreed on one thing: exercise helps combat fatigue. I hate it for ya. I hate it for me. But I know it’s undeniable. When I’m exercising regularly, I feel better. Simple walking lowers stress hormones, and is also gentle on joints that maybe can’t handle high-impact exercise. It’s also great for the spirit and mind.

You know it, I know it. We just have to do it.

{For some encouragement on exercise and eating right, please check out the 12 week Faithful Fitness Fridays series that I co-hosted with my friend this summer.}

6. Winter is just going to be awful. Plan ahead.

The last two or three winters I have been blindsided by the intense fatigue that hits during the early days of winter. I am not exaggerated when I say that I have laid in bed at night so tired that I wondered if I was truly dying. This year, I’m planning ahead – mentally and physically in hopes of not being blindsided again. I’m taking high doses of Vitamin D (prescribed by my physician) to help prepare my body for the winter. I’m planning to do a lot less during the holidays than I normally do {a whole post on this will be coming in the following weeks}. And come January, I know I’m just going to have to do a lot of extra resting. It is what it is.

7. Overestimate how much energy tasks are going to take.

A few weeks ago I wanted cake. I looked at the store-bought frosting ingredients and decided that I couldn’t put that junk into my body, so I would make my own chocolate buttercream frosting myself. Everything went fine but my kitchen was a disaster, there were dirty dishes everywhere, and by the time I got done, my knees were throbbing and I just wanted to lie down. I had forgotten, once again, how much it exhausts me to bake.


Last week, to thank our small group for something they had done for our family, I volunteered to bring a snack for group. I was planning on making chocolate no-bake cookies. Easy, right? I read through the recipe and thought…“Nuh-uh. Too much mess. Too much work.” Call me lazy if you want. But my box brownies were a hit with the group (and the hubby). It took me only a few minutes, one dish to clean, and I was much happier for it.

A year or two ago I would have pushed through and done the thing that took more work and more energy. But I’m learning that, for me, it’s just not worth it. Baking and cooking is never going to be my gifting or something that I enjoy. It’s always going to have physical consequences. I’m learning what I can handle and what I can’t – when to say yes and when to say no.

8. Work in spurts. Use a timer.

I get incredibly overwhelmed by housework. But it has to get done eventually. What I like to do is go through the entire house and set the timer for 10 minutes of cleaning in each room, with short breaks in between where I sit down and rest.

This morning, I just cleaned one small section of my kitchen countertop while the coffee was brewing. It barely made a dent in the overall appearance of the kitchen, but it made me feel a little bit better.

Do what you can do, when you can do it.

9. Kids don’t need as much as we think they do.

If Pinterest, DIY, and crafting is your thing, more power to you. If that’s how you love on your kiddos, then I so I love you for using your gifts to serve them.

But kids don’t need Bento lunches, holiday-themed crafts, sensory bins, or homemade anything. Those things are good and fun but not necessary for childhood development.

Kids DO need a happy, as-rested-as-possible mama.

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And if that means grilled cheese for dinner and Netflix for family bonding, that’s okay. If that means we read books in bed then that’s okay. And if all we do at Christmas is put the Christmas tree up and eat candy canes then that’s okay.

Tired Mamas, you don’t have to try so hard to entertain your kids and make their days special. What they are going to remember is you – your hugs and kisses and how you made them feel. Everything else is just sprinkles on top.


Let’s hear from some other tired moms. What’s something that YOU have learned by mothering tired?


  • Tricia

    Thank you for this post. It was exactly what I needed today. It’s been one of those “people aren’t going to understand” days. Thank you for reminding me that I don’t have to listen to people who think they know how to solve my problems. I have had a really tough day. But now I don’t feel alone. Your post helped take the sting of loneliness away that I’ve felt all day long.

  • momssmallvictories

    Love this post, thanks for sharing. I have a reason for my fatigue (rheumatoid arthritis) and I have been reallyfeeling it the past week. I am on vitamin D prescription too and still its not helping. I was thinking I needed to get back to exercising (for me its the stationery bike to put less pressure on my joints) cause nothing is helping. Thanks for sharing with #SmallVictoriesSunday #linky. Pinning to our linkup board and my coping with chronic illness board. Take care and hope you link up with us again this weekend.

  • Debra

    Aprille, I found your site for the first time this morning lone behold when googling “exhausted with a 10 month old”. I was in tears around 6:30 am trying to pull myself out of bed to attend to my son. He was changed and fed by my wonderful husband who then left for work at 6:40. Most women would think what I am complaining about right? Well I suffer from Fibro and another autoimmune disease called Lupus. I deal with chronic fatigue, pain and sickness each day. I also have a bulging disc in my lower back which limits my physical abilities and adds to my daily pain. I pop Advil so often it’s awful. I have been beating myself up for months regarding being a good mother. I always thought I would be that mom who does it all, the cooking, cleaning, crafts etc. I have a masters in Early Childhood Education and always assumed I would be the Supermom so to say. As I have learned, my body just won’t allow me to do a lot of things most days. My son is my life, my heart, my soul, I want the best for him and have felt I haven’t been providing “the best”. I cry daily to my mom who also suffered since she gave birth to me with Lupus and later found out Fibro as well. She helps me so much because she understands, but I still feel so alone feeling like I am the only current mom who lives this way. Struggling to get out of bed and just care for my son and my house. I am surrounded by high-energy moms who want to go to malls, play groups, cook, sew, bake etc! I make excuses to not participate with and I’m tired of hiding. Your one blog here has brought me to tears because I know I’m not alone! This has helped me decide to start accepting what my normal is and be honest with others about it. I want to stop hiding and feeling embarrassed! I just feel like others will judge me and wonder why I so badly wanted to be a mother if I struggle like this. Well I need to stop worrying about the judgements. People won’t understand – they never have about my disorders. I do my best everyday and my son is happy and healthy! If I clean some of the house and take my son on a walk in one day then I’m going to start being happy with that and not go to bed feeling like a failure. Thank you, thank you, thank you…. I look forward to reading your other blogs!!!

    Sincerely, Debra

  • Katie

    Thank you so much for this post. Glad I stumbled upon it today. I especially needed to read number 9. I am a new mom of a 6 month old baby boy. I have CFS and an inflammatory nerve disorder called mononeuritis multiplex that causes me a lot of pain. I am having a CFS relapse this week and felt so scared and down on myself until I saw this post.

    • Aprille

      Katie, it sounds like you have MUCH on your plate. Rest, rest, and more rest. I’ve learned to cut out WHATEVER is non-essential to my and my family members’ survival. We do FAR too much as moms. Hang in there, one day at a time.

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