A Mother’s Exhaustion

tired mom(Image courtesy of criminalatt/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

How many nights have you been awake in the middle of the night?

A baby needing to be fed, a toddler with a bad dream, a thunderstorm scaring various children, children who can’t find the toilet in the middle of the night, a neighbor’s dog barking, pregnant potty trips. It seems the list can go on and on.

Living with exhaustion seems to be the burden of motherhood.

I used to think that once my children were no longer nursing at night that I would be able to sleep. WHAT PLANET WAS I LIVING ON??? When you have multiple children (especially if they are fairly close together) just takes you from one phase to another, and the exhaustion changes but never quite goes away.

Even today, with my youngest being 11 years old, I STILL struggle with exhaustion and the lack of sleep. I remember 26 years ago having to tie my baby to me with my bathroom backwards so I wouldn’t drop her in the middle of the night when I was trying to get her to burp. Short cutting the process only resulted in, well, let’s just say a lost meal and a now hungry baby!

How have I dealt with lack of sleep for these past 27 years?

  • NAPS

Naps have been my very dear friends. When our children were little, they took naps, and so did I. I found that 45-60 minutes of lying down took the edge off the feeling of not being able to function. When I had newborns, I often would nap 10 minutes in the morning while the baby napped and the toddlers lay down with me. Then we’d all take a longer afternoon nap.

play outside

Image courtesy of photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I know it sounds a little strange, but I found that being outside (particularly taking walks with the children) was very invigorating. Now I’m the #1 hater non-fan of exercise, but having a good amount of fresh air and a bit of exercise really helped clear my often foggy brain. It also helped with children who were a bit cranky and allowed me time to pray aloud while pushing a stroller without people thinking I was cracking up! They all thought I was talking to my children. (unlike my poor husband who tends to talk aloud — they DID think he was cracking up!)


During those early years, my time with the Lord was much less structured. I didn’t always have mental acuity to sit down and read. I had my husband  on tape (yes, this was back when we actually HAD cassette tapes) reading scripture. I would listen and meditate on the passages as I nursed babies in the middle of the night. I had scripture passages on index cards that I put over the changing table, over the dryer where I folded clothes, over the sink where I washed dishes (by hand). I would read the verses as I cooked. And I prayed aloud on and off all day long. It wasn’t the hour long intimate quiet times of my single days, but the Lord still used this time to refresh and fill me when I felt empty and drained.


Spending time with girlfriends, whether they understood my plight or not, was a huge help to my exhaustion! In the very early years, time laughing, and sometimes crying, and just hanging out with Chelle, Michele, Tami helped me keep my sanity and reminded me that I was not alone. In later years, God also brought me Andrea and another Michelle for sweet fellowship and encouragement. And this kind of friendships – centered in the Lord – are nourishing to the soul and strengthening even to the body!


Knowing that a time with your husband is coming goes a long way to give strength to carry on! Our date nights had numerous functions. They helped me reconnect emotionally and spiritually with my husband, BUT they also helped me keep him informed with how we were doing as a family. If he found I was losing it (and it happened frequently), he would do some serious rearranging in our home. Kevin took his role seriously as the one to nourish and cherish me. He tried to be up-to-date with how I was doing so that I didn’t get stretched beyond what was healthy. If my exhaustion was taking a toll on me, he made sure to jump in and do what needed to be done so that I could get refreshed and renewed, both in the Lord and with some serious sleep!


This was one that I didn’t take enough advantage of. Granted, we lived thousands of miles from extended family and I never had help or support from them. But I seldom shared my needs with others. Not because of pride (although there is always a touch of that going on, I’m sure) but because I always assumed others were just as tired or busy as I was and I didn’t want to impose. Silly since I would have jumped at the chance to help and bless others. So, call on that older lady in the church to come over and watch your little ones while you REALLY nap. Ask that women’s bible study or prayer group to come and help you get some cleaning done. The church is MEANT to be our extended family. Let them bless and minister to you!

What things have YOU found that help you deal with, and overcome, the exhaustion of motherhood?

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Blogs I might be linking to:
Menu Planning Monday, On The Menu Monday, Erin Branscoms, Mommy Mondays, Marital Oneness, The Better Mom, Multitudes on Monday, Hear it On Sunday, Sharing His Bounty, What Joy Is Mine, Playdates at the Well, Making Your Home Sing Mondays, Domestically Divine Tuesdays, Time Warp Wife, Funky Planet Frequent Flier Club, Encourage One Another, Walking Redeemed, A Wise Woman Builds Her House, The Welcoming House, Legacy Leaver Thursday, What’s Up Wednesday, Thought Provoking Thursday, Hearts 4 Home, Thankful Thursday, Thankful Thursdays, Thankful, Thankful Thursday Brown-eyed Bell(e), Big Family Fridays, Faith Filled Fridays, Feasting In Fellowship Friday, Fellowship Friday, Homemaking Link-up Week-end, A Little R&R, Pieces of Amy, Homeschool Mother’s Journal, TGIF Bible Love Notes

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  1. I have been suffering from a lot of exhaustion with my almost 9 month old son. I live in Guatemala with my husband, but I am from North Carolina. All my family is back home in NC and I need them so bad sometimes, but God called me to the mission field and that is why I am here. My husband is a native Guatemalan and our cultures are so different, and his view of a woman and mother is so different than mine in so many ways. His mother is so self sacrificing for her kids, even to the point of making herself sick to serve her grown children who can do things themselves. My husband thinks that I should be the same way, but I struggle with exhaustion and depression and the fact that I cant live up to his standards, and the fact that I dont even want to. He works so hard in ministry, and many times I find myself crying so hard because I dont have the energy to do everything I have to get done in a day. The dishes pile up and the dirty laundry piles up, and we dont have a washing machine or a dishwasher. The bathroom is dirty and the floor needs mopping, the clothes are strewn all over the place and everytime I start to clean and organize the baby starts crying because of separation anxiety. I am at my wit’s end many days and I dont know what to do. I have asked for help, but this is a very different culture. People here, not even church family, wont help out if you dont pay them for their time and effort. Do you have any advice for me in my specific situation? Sometimes I find myself getting mad at my precious baby boy, and wanting to scream at him. He doesnt deserve that, he is a precious little baby who has all my love, but I am so exhausted sometimes and cant figure out what to do next.

    • Hannah, I have no experience with different cultures, but I do think you need to talk to your husband. I would encourage you both to read Genesis 2:23-24:

      “The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

      I would ask him what he thinks that means for a marriage. Part of the leaving his father and mother means that he needs to recognize that God has given YOU to be his wife… not his mother. You, with your unique strengths and even your unique weaknesses. He needs to let go of his expectations from his mother of what a wife is supposed to be and look to the two of you to come up with what GOD calls your family to look like.

      I would also ask him to look at this passage with you:

      “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.” Eph 5:38-30


      “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7

      The reality is, unless you are struggling with postpartum depression (and for that you should see a doctor), just some actual physical help (and even for a short period of time) is what you need right now. Would he be willing to pay someone (if that is required in your culture) for a couple of weeks to help get your house in order or to watch the baby while you slept? If you could have 7 days of regular sleep and just a bit of help to get the house back in order, it would be much easier for you to maintain. It is so much easier to keep up a tidy house than to start from scratch.

      BUT it will be important for your husband to know that you are not looking for long term help. But something to help you get over the hump, so to speak. Help enough to allow your body and mind and spirit to renewed. After all, even Jesus would go away from His responsibilities to be refreshed by the Father for His return to the demanding life of ministry. And you minister 24/7 – to your husband, to your baby AND in whatever ministry you do with your husband. And you are much more frail than Jesus!!

      Father I lift Hannah up to You. Lord give deep insight and understanding to her husband to see the very real need in her life. Give him compassion and tenderness to help to nourish and cherish her and to give her the help and guidance she needs to be refreshed in her body. Drop away any expectations he brought into the marriage and let him see HIS responsibility in helping Hannah to be strong and healthy so she may minister to her family and to the lost. And I ask for a fresh filling of Your Spirit for Hannah, let her sense Your presence and feel Your loving arms giving her rest and strength. And let the hours of sleep be 1000 times more restful and rejuvenating than normal. In Jesus’ mighty name.

  2. I love all your different ideas! I was never able to take a nap. If I fell asleep I would then awake later and feel like I was dragging all day. However, I did on occasion lie down and just rest a bit. I didn’t fall asleep but closed my eyes and just let my body and mind rest and recharge.

    Thanks so much for hosting today!

    • I’m like that if I take a nap longer than 20 minutes. I either have to nap 10-15 minutes or 2 hours — but nothing in between! But sometimes just lying down and resting is enough, like you mention. But then again, I’m at a point in my life that I can sleep anywhere, anytime! 😀

      Thanks for coming by today.

  3. I’m beginning to believe lack of sleep and exhaustion go with the territory of being a woman – It’s a never ending cycle of life. Sorry to dampen your spirits but once your kids leave home you’ll be hitting that age of not been able to sleep or if like me wake around 4.30 am most mornings! Exhaustion, it’s a way of life! I find walking with friends, getting out into the countryside and fresh air make all the difference.

    • Oh Anne, I AM in that phase of life, even with children still home!! And you are right, I do think that women just deal with exhaustion. This is one reason why I’m hoping that in heaven I get to sleep for 1000 years – afterall, to God, 1000 years is as a day! 😀 😀

      Thanks for sharing today!

  4. I had to laugh at what you said about thinking that once they were weaned you’d get more sleep. 😀 I have said so many times that I got WAY more sleep when mine were infants than I’ve gotten since! Such good advice for tired moms…I think female friendships and time outdoors are two things that are overlooked to help in this area. Thankful for God’s grace in all seasons, and His strength when we are weak from exhaustion!

    • Oh thanks, Jen, for those sweet words and for the encouragement in them!! Blessings to you, sister!

  5. Kate….what a fabulous list! I love naps but don’t take as many as I’d like. I do limit my nap time though so I can sleep at night. Oh….and being outside…yes…great way to catch a breather. I especially love my walks in the morning or really anytime. Dates and female friendships are blessings, too. Of course, it is a given that being the presence of God always refreshed the soul. Thank you for the encouragement friend and for the link up. Blessings always.

    • Naomi, thanks for coming by – it’s always a delight to see you (here or at your blog). It is so true that different things work better or different gals, and I’m glad that outside is such a great one for you!!

  6. Thank you so much for you response and your kind words of wisdom. I am so thankful to say that this Monday we will be moving to a nicer house, where we have more privacy and comfort. My husband’s boss has offered to pay our rent and utilities because of my husbands hard work and advances in ministry here in Guatemala. Thank God for answered prayers! We will be living in a one level house with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths (rare here in Guatemala)! Where we live now is on the 3rd floor and I have to go up and down stairs all day to cook and clean and what not. That in itself is exhausting, so I wont have to do that anymore. Everything will be on one single level and we will have the privacy we need as a family! I am so happy. I will have more opportunities to bring someone in to help me get everything in order so it can be kept tidy afterwards. I am so happy. Thank you so much for your words of consolation! God bless you

    • Oh Hannah, I’m DELIGHTED that God has begun to intervene for you in the new house!! And what a blessing that your husband’s boss is pouring on your family!! Praying that bringing someone in becomes a REALITY for you! Come by again soon.

      Blessings to you, dear!

  7. lol! Were you thinking of me when you wrote this? Your tips are spot on (says the mom of 5, including a newborn).

    Long ago I discovered the beauty of napping. When my oldest was a toddler and first trimester exhaustion hit hard, I toddler-proofed his room, put a gate on the door and slept until the exhaustion faded enough I could function. He was safe in his room playing with toys and I was 3 steps down the hall. It’s the only way I could function. This time around my kids are old enough to not burn the house down while I nap with the cranky baby.

    • 😀 I wish I could tell you it gets better. But God is so sweet, even in the midst of our exhaustion, isn’t He?

      Oh yes, baby gates are SUCH A BLESSING!! Thanks, sweetie, for coming by.


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