I have so many memories of myself sitting on this bed, resting, or doing nothing, or mindlessly scrolling through social media, looking for something to ‘wake me up.’
I’ve also spent a lot of my time sadly shaming myself for feeling this never-ending need for rest. Do other moms spend sometimes half or more of their days laying down just to rest for “a few minutes,” but it ends up turning into an hour or two? I look back and try to remember my own mom in my childhood. Granted, while my mom also had four kids in roughly the same amount of time I did, I still have to remind myself it’s not fair to anyone to compare ourselves to others—but we do also take cues from our environment to know if we’re onto ‘the right path,’ or if we’re off. I do recall my mom laying down to rest after busy days, before dinner time, and sometimes I’d catch her nodding off. Man, just replaying that imagery in my head and I now feel completely transported back to that time and knowing how tiring certain days can be as a parent, I wish I’d let my parents snooze just a little more 😉
Regardless though, I find myself still feeling shame for not always having boundless energy. I’m generally an upbeat, happy person but lately I’ve felt this diminishing ability to respond to stress. My resiliency to stress has really taken a beating.
It usually goes like this:
I get up thanks to the youngest waking me up and wanting to comfort nurse, and start executing several tasks simultaneously: I make myself lemon water; I boil more water for coffee. I assist small children in their quests for breakfasts. I try to remember to make my own breakfast. I make sure the PreK’r has his lunch packed, and that he’s getting his clothes on in due time. The older kids are way more self-sufficient and do their tasks, but they still need reminding of what to do and by when more days than not still. I try to get myself dressed and brush my teeth, hurriedly, and if I have time I wash my face before running out the door. There’s usually a panic yell for help for Greg to get Rowan changed and dressed and we are bursting out the door grabbing shoes and waters at 8:31am when Will’s school drop-off ends at 8:40am. And it’s more like a 10 min drive, not a 9 min one :P. Sometimes I’m so wound up by the time we’re pulling out of the driveway that I can’t even handle any noise, talking or questions, and I ask my kids to keep it quiet until we get out of our neighborhood, because I’ve escalated my flight-or-fight system so much in such a short amount of time and my sensory system feels overloaded. If I’m lucky we get there by 8:40 and I don’t feel additional shame dropping him off as the last, or almost last parent, I try to put on a happy face that exudes ‘calm,’ not frazzled, and I quickly zip on out of their parking lot where several city police cars hang out and take my older kids to their school 20 mins away with no time to spare.
We do this, x3, every single week—because of the way our kids’ school schedule falls. By Friday morning, I sometimes catch myself at a breaking point after drop-off and I remember one day in the fall when I just pulled into a parking spot after drop-off and just tried to breathe for 20 minutes to calm my nervous system down while I fought off tears. I think that was the closest to a physical panic attack I’ve ever had. And it was…exhausting. I felt completely strung out after that experience.
On one hand, there’s no one else who can do all my jobs, or more importantly, the needed job of motherhood. But on the other hand, I literally….can’t do all these jobs. The feeling of expectations and demands vs physical ability and the mental load — it’s a mean matchup and very rarely do I feel like I’ve conquered it all. In fact, on days when things do seem to be going well, it feels so foreign and so unusual I often think, “Am I missing something? Am I doing something wrong? It shouldn’t feel this easy, today…”
ALL THAT TO SAY—I think I have adrenal fatigue. Also known as HPA axis dysfunction. Yay! Neither term sounds amazingly desirable, but it all points to the cute little dances our hormones do when we burnout and get stressed day after day after day. We burn through so much cortisol and adrenaline and it taxes our endocrine system, which controls our hormones and glands, and things start to break down. It’s repairable, but if left undamaged it can lead to some narsty and much worse health outcomes, like metabolic syndrome, heart disease or stroke When I’ve read about it before, I remember thinking: how does literally not every American mother have this?? And why do we keep doing this?