Anyone that thinks being home to raise children is easier than having a job outside the home is quite mistaken.  The task you have taken on is a formidable challenge but very worthwhile, as I am sure you have already discovered.  Exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed are definitely part of the package, but if they are your constant and unrelenting companions you probably need to do something different.

That “something different” falls into three broad categories:  practical assistance, self-care, and changing your expectations.  In the practical assistance category I find that many mothers are really quite reluctant to ask for help or accept help, even when it is offered by people they care about with no strings attached.  They have always been highly competent and independent women and carry these traits into their mothering role.  There is nothing wrong with that, but we all need a little help sometimes and mothers can often use more than a little help.  Allow yourself to ask for and accept help from others.  In most instances they feel good about giving and it really is OK to ask and to feel OK about receiving the help. It will actually make you better as a mother, not worse.

Self-care is the hardest thing to talk to mothers about.  It’s hard to see how doing something for oneself can be justified when the needs of the children and household are so endless.  However, that is the whole point: those needs are endless. You can either exhaust yourself without replenishment, which leads to burnout and impatience with your children and partner, or you can exhaust yourself and then replenish.  Doing so can lengthen your irritability fuse and increase your patience. It also ties in with suggestion three: changing expectations.

Many mothers think changing their expectations or standards for housekeeping and other things is the same as being lazy and letting her off the hook of personal responsibility. There is another interpretation of what it means to change your expectations:  it’s called being realistic.  Exhaustion and chronic feelings of not being enough, not doing enough and not having enough are always interwoven with our expectations.  It’s fine to have aspirations, but the reality of having children is that they consume huge amounts of time and energy.  This necessitates alterations in your life patterns and in how many things you can expect to get done and do well.  By lowering some of your self-expectations you can do things and you might even feel a sense of accomplishment instead of a constant sense of failure.

In spite of the growth of whole industries to help mothers and provide gadgets that make their jobs a little easier, mothering young children never really becomes less work.  Children’s needs don’t diminish even if the tools we have for meeting those needs have become more and more sophisticated. Even at its easiest, parenting is an incredibly demanding job.  Give yourself a break and take the time to enjoy your children instead of berating yourself for all that no longer fits on your plate.