A woman feeling mom burnout talking to her child while sitting in a park.
Photo courtesy of Allison Cooper

But What If It Doesn't Get Easier?

by Allison Cooper

The other day, I put my daughter down for her nap, poured the now-cold coffee that I had reheated about 10 times and still didn’t have a second to drink, refilled it with the tiny little bit of red wine that was left in the bottle I found in the back on the refrigerator, and sat on the couch. I knew that I had an hour to an hour and a half (fingers crossed) of silence ahead of me, but had to digest the fact that most of that needed to be put toward working. I grabbed my phone and changed the Pandora station from "Moana Radio" to “White Houses Vanessa Carlton” because this nostalgic mix has been my jam lately.

It isn't like me to have a drink in the afternoon unless I am on vacation. In fact, this was the one and only time I’ve ever done that on a weekday, but I just needed that moment in time, those 20 minutes or so for me. I needed to freeze time before I could give anymore of myself to work or kids or mom duties or life in general. I was feeling mom burnout and needed a little refresher.

Typically, I’m that goalsy mom who is overly excited to start her day. I begin to stir before the alarm clock goes off and relish the moment when I spring to life as soon as I hear that vapid iPhone alarm music, let my feet hit our hardwood floors, and launch into the morning. Things get even better once I get my coffee brewed and kiss my son goodbye as he walks to the bus stop with my husband. I turn on Sofia the First and cuddle with my 20-month-old daughter. From there, I can ease into my day. I love it all, especially opening up my computer, reading emails and seeing what the day has in store for me.

Photo courtesy of Allison Cooper

Lately though, I’ve been feeling far from this motivated and inspired person — it is as though a completely different version of myself has pushed forward. I keep going to bed at night wondering, “What if it doesn’t get easier?” And then I find myself struggling to rise the next morning when my 6 a.m. alarm goes off. I’m in a bit of a mom slump and having trouble pulling myself out of it.

I feel like I’ve opened my eyes each morning, blinked, and then the day was over. Sometimes, I have forgotten to eat.

Lately, it’s like a mini tornado has whizzed through our home, taking my energy and routine right along with it. Between work and kids, I’ve found it hard to catch my breath and get my bearings before the next thing hits me smack in the face and has me starting back at point A again. I always try to be the best version of myself, try not to let the fatigue of everyday motherhood rub off on my kids, but sometimes there are these periods of uneasiness where things just feel off and getting back on track seems impossible.

It all started with my husband, who is in the Army Reserves, leaving for a lengthy training many states away. It’s always hard when I have to fill the role of two parents. These are the moments, especially, where I feel for all the rockstar single moms out there. My mom came to visit to help me through these weeks since I had a crazy workload and an extra busy toddler and no time to really do it all. But still, I feel like I’ve opened my eyes each morning, blinked, and then the day was over. Sometimes, I have forgotten to eat.

Photo courtesy of Allison Cooper

Instead of my picture-perfect mornings, things have gone a little something like this: I’ve argued about getting to the bus on time with my son, fought about what I put (or didn’t put in his lunchbox), and then repeated the show in the evening over homework and bedtime. Then there is the toddler. She is feisty and sassy and I can’t believe that so much independence is enveloped in such a little person. Even my mother, who braved parenting not two, but four children, kept casually saying, “you’ve got your hands full,” with raised eyebrows.

I’ve pushed forward, I’ve tried to enjoy the wild ride, because that’s what you do in motherhood. My husband returned home and we’re slowly but surely getting back into our routine, it’s just taking a little time. Parenthood will almost always throw you for a loop. All moms deal with chaos in their every day, not just me, but everyone's crazy is different. As much as we push forward, get ourselves organized, hire help or, in my case, have your mom visit from another state for a week to help you catch up, this one consistency almost becomes the one things that you can count on everyday.

Things will get easier — and then they will get harder again.

And just like no two children are alike, no two days or parenting are alike. Even if my extremely structured Type-A personality has a hard time handling unstructured days filled with so many twists and turns, that is what being a mom is all about. And even during these most difficult moments, where I feel like I just can’t add another task, another temper tantrum or another complaint to my day, I am somehow able to handle it and still stand strong.

But I’ve realized that my answer to my question is yes, yes things will get easier — and then they will get harder again. Motherhood is cyclical like that. The easy days have to somehow be balanced with hard days and those hard days help us really, truly appreciate those easy days.

I’ve also learned that if I need to take that 20 minutes to help me feel whole again, I should move mountains to take it. Even if it that 20 minutes is nothing more than a quiet little bit of wine inside a Dr. Seuss coffee cup that says “the mother of all things.”

No one is judging.