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The Mental Load of Motherhood Keeps Me Awake at Night

Mom’s do the Day Shift and the Night Shift: the mental labor we do that no one else sees is often even more exhausting than the physical labor (which is a whole other topic all on it’s own as mothering is backbreaking, holy-work).

Awake or asleep there is always someone or something demanding my attention since I became a Mom. The days are long and the nights are longer. Sometimes I can’t sleep for the sheer fact that I am afraid I will be woken up by one of my three little ones just as soon as I enter my much needed slumber.

I can’t be the only Mama out there who feels like this.

Am I going crazy or is this normal?

For years I kind of felt like I was going crazy. Before kids, sleep came naturally to me, after kids sleep became something I daydreamed about amidst changing diapers and feeding hungry bellies. But as soon as my head hits the pillow I am wide awake.

I am wide awake mulling over every single thing I need to do the next day for each my children. The wheels of my mothering mind are also turning over what I did not get done today. I am like the description of the Proverbs 31 Mom whose “candle goeth not out by night (v. 18). The mental flames of my mind are always blazing. I can’t turn them off, even if I get an afternoon to myself to rest; they are still ablaze. I often find myself making mental lists of things in the midnight hours such as:

  • what needs to be done,
  • what needs to be scheduled,
  • what needs to be bought,
  • what needs to be cleaned,
  • what needs to be cooked.

Nights are my only time to think

My mental presence is constantly needed when my little ones are awake. I can’t take my eyes off the youngest or he’s climbing up something and toppling over hitting his head. My middle asks about a million questions a day on fast forward and expects intelligent answers. My oldest constantly wants to be doing something, anything that does not involve sitting still. I have exactly zero time to sort my thoughts during the day when I am in the thick of mothering so my only option is to sort my thoughts out at night time.

And there are far too many thoughts and worries that circulate the minds of each Momma.

The mental gymnastics are exhausting

Before kids, I just fell asleep and let the next day take its course. Not once has that happened since babies. I do not just fall asleep without thinking about the myriad of things I need to do for my family or the myriad of ways I feel that I am not doing enough for my family. Then after I go through my “to-do” and “should-do” lists, I start going through my “shouldn’t-have” done lists:

  • I shouldn’t have raised my voice
  • I shouldn’t have answered her question that way
  • I shouldn’t have been so impatient
  • I shouldn’t have responded to my spouse that way
  • I shouldn’t have let the kids eat so many cupcakes

These lists sound ridiculous, but on and on they go because mothers worry about ever single solitary thing they do, or don’t do, should do or shouldn’t do. We get one shot at raising each of our babies and deep down we are terrified we are messing it up, because well, we are really only human too.

So instead of sleeping soundly when our heads hit the pillow we do mental gymnastics. Then we wake up exhausted and it’s a vicious cycle.

Babies changes your sleep patterns – to put it lightly

We also listen for cries and screams and night-time feeds when our babies are born which sets us in this mode of not sleeping through the night in the first place. I have found this is actually really a difficult cycle to break. Even my husband says he slept like a rock before kids and now the tiniest sound has him wide awake. Often people say that naps are the answer to these constant wake-up calls but for most of us, napping isn’t an option.

Mom’s who are up all night, are also up all day. It’s as simple as that. We do the day shift and the night-shift. Awake or asleep there is always someone or something demanding our attention, even as our kids get older, the lists and worries just change.

These things have helped me carry the mental load

Here are four things I find helpful to keep my mental load from keeping me awake at night:

1. A notepad by the bed to get the thought out of my head and write it down.

2. Praying always, day and night, casting all my cares on Him continually (1 Peter 5:7)

3. Reading scriptures when I first open my eyes that remind me of what is really important when it comes to raising my babies (before checking my phone).

4. Remembering that on the seventh day God rested (Genesis 2:2) and that if rest is important to Him it’s important to me too.

Here’s the scripture I read first thing this morning (as mentioned in #3)

“The people that do know their God shall be strong.” -Daniel 11:32

If I am putting Him first, really getting to know Him and relying on His strength, not my own: my children will arise up and call me blessed someday (proverbs 31:28)

And at the end of the day that is really all that matters.

Kali Dawson

Kali is a School Teacher, Pilates Instructor, Mama of two young children and a beautiful 2020 Baby. She is Married to her real-life Superhero. When she's not holding small hands or looking for raised hands you will find her writing fervently about faith and family. To read more, you can find her on Facebook at: Faith, Family, Freelance.

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