No One Cares If Mothers Are Exhausted

I came to the conclusion this morning--at 4:42 a.m. to be exact--that people who don't have kids should not complain in the presence of mothers about how exhausted they are. Or how they have no life. Sure, fatigue is relative but sometimes there's only so much "I'm soooo tired! I have NO time to myself," a mom can handle, especially when she's just woken up after falling asleep in an armchair.

But here's the bottom line: no one cares if mothers are exhausted. It was our choice to have a kid, right? No one made us get pregnant, and we should've thought about how because of the way society is set up, we'd just have to deal with working during the day at one job, and working a second job, that of being a parent, the minute we left the first job.

No one wants to hear about how mothers dash through traffic to pick up their kids from an afterschool program that ends at 6 p.m. --how your kids are ALWAYS the last kids there, and then you take them to baseball or to piano or to swimming lessons, and then you take them home, feed them, check their homework, listen to their problems and get them to bed. And by the time you're finished with that, there are dishes in the sink and you need to at least make sure you paid the light bill...meaning it's almost 11 p.m. Sometimes later.

Oh, and when you're married to someone who works nontraditional hours, guess what? You're doing all that on your own.

I love my two sons and I dislike it intensely when people act like having a children is a burden. Really, my boys are the best thing that ever happened to me and they're genuinely cool people. I'd rather hang out with them on any given evening than do most things. There is nothing like seeing my youngest have a great baseball game like he did last night, or spending hours hunting for a pair of pants for my growing-like-a-maniac 10-year-old because he's going to the LAUSD school board meeting. But I have to tell you, life really sucks for working moms who don't have help--whether that's family or the ability to pay a nanny or maid. There is no way to do it all, and you always feel like it's not enough.

So if you're around a mom today who works and you're not a mom, please be considerate and step into her shoes before you start to bitch about your schedule. Think about everything else she has going on--all the stuff she doesn't talk about because she knows no one cares.


Miss Leliel said…
While I can understand your frustration with the stress and a lack of respect from individuals, stress and time management is relative. Their life is stressful for them; they haven't experienced your stress. I hate to be one of those people that says "you chose motherhood" as you point out, but I am. I made a conscious choice not to have kids. Regardless of how much love and fun there might be involved, I dislike babies (kids are fun, but I don't want to keep any) and love the freedom too much. Google "I hate being a mom" - There are a surprising number of women out there who cry themselves to sleep at night because regardless of their love for their kid(s), they regret they sacrificed their entire life for it. It makes me sad for them. I am very glad that you are happy being a mom. As I am sure you know, having children requires an intense amount of work and sacrifice - one that I am not willing to make. I agree with you that people DO underestimate how hard it is to be a mom; but I don't think their being child-free means they are intentionally disrespecting moms when complaining about themselves. If someone complained about YOUR being a mom or your busy lifestyle, then that'd be grounds for a verbal beating.

If society has a problem with respecting motherhood it's news to me - I (and friends like me) are constantly dealing with a society that expects women to want to have children. Motherhood is treated like the crown jewel of life accomplishments; that you are somehow broken if you don't want it. Colleagues ask expectant questions, parents pester for grandbabies. It's always awkward when you try to explain yourself and people look at you like you grew a second head. They say things like, "But you clock is ticking!" "Won't you be lonely when you're older?" or the worst, the dismissive "Oh, you'll change your mind."

It took me a while to get to my point.. If people without children have to stop complaining about time and stress whenever they're around people with children, then people with children should stop asking people without children when they are having them (avoiding baby talk and a ban on parading babies around the office would be nice, too, but that's asking too much and might not be fair).
Bronwyn said…
Miss Leliel, you said everything I wanted to say! I think it's hard on both ends. Being made to feel like your exhaustion isn't valid because you don't have kids isn't super fun either. It would be nice if compassion goes both ways.

And I have felt for a long time (I'm 36 and if I do have kids at some point, I'd like to foster to adopt, don't want to birth them) that society DEFINITELY devalues women without children. I don't watch that much TV but I saw three shows this week where someone was in either a real or mock dangerous situation and they said some version of "Don't shoot me, I have children!" That's bothered me before - are people with children more valuable? OK, it's OK to dispose of me because I don't have children?
Liz Dwyer said…
So, I'm at a staff retreat and I will reply more fully later but I actually don't think this is an either/or kind of issue. I have lots of friends that choose not to have children, or can't have children, and I don't think the way they are looked down upon or treated as less than is OK. And I'm not one of those people...and that's a separate post. I could totally write about how crappy it is when my friends tell me how people harass them about babies.

But what I'm really talking about is why does it have to be so hard for everyone? Maybe so many women would cry themselves to sleep if they actually didn't feel so alone or disrespected as mothers...because I do think our society has REAL problems respecting moms. But OK, back to work.
lej said…
Amen! Amen! Amen!
nick said…
I totally hear you, Liz. In other societies it's normal for a wide range of relatives and friends to help with childcare but in so-called "modern" societies it's normal for working mums to be left to shoulder the burden with little help. And I know of plenty of mums who're permanently exhausted like you. How they cope I don't know.

Sure, people choose to be a mum but they don't usually realise in advance just how onerous and all-consuming it's going to be, especially as I say if other people just leave them to it.

But it's also true that non-parents can have pretty stressful lives, particularly if you have a full-time, demanding job that means you have to work long hours with not enough down-time. Or the sort of job your husband does. Or a soldier or an airline pilot.

I sometimes think I'm exhausted, and I think straightaway of parents like you who know what exhaustion really means.
Anonymous said…
I must agree with you especially on the fact that if hubby works odd hours that you are pretty much on your own. For the first year of baby's life hubby was working 100-120 hours a week (yes, a week) and it was more often 120 than 100. I am a stay at home mom and have an auto-immune disease and yes, I chose to be a parent and I LOVE being a mommy- it is by far the best job EVER! :) That being said, I have always experienced more fatigue than a healthy person which means I must push myself to the limits to be the mommy my baby deserves and when someone makes nasty comments about my choice to mother or the fact I seem or look tired it irks me. Yes, moms choose to be moms but why does that mean we can't be human? Why can't moms express fatigue and not be judged?
Bronwyn said…
why can't anyone express fatigue and not be judged?
adoptive mom said…
I think part of the issue is that as pointed out- being a mother is NOT valued in this country- if a woman expresses fatigue from a highly stressful job with long hours that is one thing- people might say the poor thing is working herself to death (and yes, there should also be sympathy for working women). BUT if a mother expresses fatigue then it is often assumed that she regrets her choice to be a mom when in reality she may just be tired, plain and simple, and would like someone to acknowledge that being a mom is also in and of itself a job...Prime example of how mothers are not valued- look at maternity leave here vs. other first world countries- the same can be said for dads, too...6 weeks vs. up to 2 years in places like Sweden...
Bronwyn said…
yes, but Liz (who I usually agree with) is specifically asking non-mothers to not complain about being tired. How is that any different than telling mothers not to complain because they chose it? Shouldn't we all be able to express our feelings/fatigue/etc?
Liz Dwyer said…
Hi all, sorry to not reply but I've somehow managed to get really sick, and am having such severe headaches, it's hard for me to look at a computer screen for more than a few minutes at a time.

So, this post was prompted by a rather irksome conversation with a MAN who is single. He always gets to complaining about how busy he is, how tired he is and how he has no time for himself. Now, he can complain all he wants to...that's certainly his right, but after a certain point, my STFU side-eye can't help but emerge.

That said, I do have sympathy for the state of overwork everybody is in. Pretty much no one these days, whether they have kids or not, has work-life balance. And I am the last person to be interested in some sort of game of comparative suffering--who's more exhausted? We all are, but I know a divorced mom with young twins and I know that she has struggles and challenges I can't even imagine. I have a friend who has health issues and two kids and her husband's deployed. She has a LOT of help from her extended family, but I still know she is having a tough time. When I talk to her, I keep that in mind.

Anyway, it has taken me an hour to type this little bit simply because my head hurts so much. I have more to say, but I don't think I can right now.
Bronwyn said…
Liz, first of all, I hope you're feeling better before you get online again!

I've read enough of your blog to know that you're a generally compassionate person and a great mother. I think that the title of your post really sums up what you're feeling. And I think that is legitimate. Women still do more than half of the housework and child-rearing - usually much more than half - even if they're working. It's a virtually impossible state of being and I have heard people say "but you chose it."

That said, as a childless person, I'm still very fatigued sometimes. I have medical issues contributing to this and I'm a teacher, but even if neither of those things were true, I would express fatigue and not expect to get a "you don't have kids so don't talk to me about it" from somebody. That's the feeling I got from your post although I don't think that's what you actually meant.
1969 said…
The comments turned into an "I have the right to be tired and complain too" type of thing. LOL

Hell everyone can be tired for a variety of their own reasons. I'm sympathetic to everyone's plight. We are all exhausted!

However, as a working mom, I totally understand where you were coming from with this one. Sending you hugs and wishing those migranes away. Yes, it is often a thankless job because as mothers we do what is expected of us. No one says thank you, great job. It's what we're just supposed to do. You are superwoman and I salute you!
D'Ven said…
I do all of my complaining to single friends. Because listening to everything my children-having friends and coworkers did after work made me exhausted.

Now, I will say I have no life. Because I sit and chill at the house and have a hard time making friends, connecting with friends, etc. People with children have a life. They have people to interact with. Sure, they may prefer to spend more time with adults, and long for more quiet time and all that, but dollars to donuts they don't have to deal with night after night after night of the only other human voices coming from the television. There are pros and cons to bothe situations, and erasing the cons is just as bad as being callous to how mothers are exhausted.
Anonymous said…
You know what I'd love, as a severe narcoleptic with cataplexy and other severe chronic illnesses? If mothers would get off their high horse over their own decision to have children and stop rolling their eyes at me when I complain I'm tired. I wish I had a dollar for every self-absorbed divalicious mama who rolled her eyes at me and said "No honey, don't you even start with me, you don't even know what tired is!"

Do I even need to get into how even when I sleep for 22 hours straight, the chemistry level in my brain is STILL the level that it's at for normal people after they've been awake 72 hours straight, THEN decide to go in for another day at work?

YOU made the choice to have kids. I do not feel ONE IOTA of pity for you. Children are a blessing that require work and sacrifice, and you should be ashamed for complaining over this GIFT that many people in this world will NEVER GET TO EXPERIENCE.

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