There’s a difference between exhausted parenting and toxic parenting.
There’s a seemingly infinite number of articles out there citing all the ways you’re screwing up your kids. You’re constantly being fed the lie that everything you do as a parent is wrong.
What you really need to know is, you are not just a good parent, you’re an excellent parent…but you’re exhausted. When we parent from our exhaustion we fear we’re doing more harm to our children than good.
If you’ve ever stopped to consider how your parenting will influence your children’s lives, chances are, you are not hurting your child. Any parent who takes time to reflect on their parenting style is giving their child more love than they realize.
At the heart of parenting, you’re still a human. One that learns, grows, and makes mistakes like any other — just as your children learn and grow — and that process is highly rewarding, while simultaneously overwhelming at times.
I think most people can identify with exhausted parenting. You work, raise kids, maintain relationships, tend to older family members, run to extracurriculars, manage groceries, deal with the laundry, and occasionally find a slice of time for yourself to breathe a silent breath or two.
You’re tired. Some days more so than others. On those days, you yell, you’re cranky, or maybe even “mean” or snappy at the people you love. You may not have it in you to be nice. You work your ass off and feel as if people don’t notice. Everyone has their tipping point — it’s completely normal to wear your parent fatigue on your sleeve.
Exhausted parenting is the epitome of survival mode. You scream, cry, and shatter to the ground. You attempt to save it for the privacy of your bedroom closet, but it spills out of us, unwillingly at times, and guess what?! It’s completely okay.
Exhaustion means you mentally beg for relief, but never ask for help. Because people are quick to judge your not-enough-ness which leaves you recoiled in guilt. The idea that mom (and dad) really do need respite is met with scorn and your overwhelm is shamed. Instead of support in your devastation, you hear the intolerant whispers of, “What’s wrong with her? Why doesn’t she have it together by now?”
So you sacrifice your mental health and bury away your needs while you silently struggle inside.
You’ve been running on fumes since your precious babe emerged from your womb and you haven’t stopped since. And you don’t even know, because a 30-minute shower isn’t enough time to allow the truth of your depletion to emerge. It’s really only enough to refuel for the next 18-20 hours of non-stop parenting.
Because you’re consistently on low battery, it makes you prone to bite. You bark when you meant to be calm. Or you decide it’s only fair to expose the overwhelm so others know you’re in pain.
Exhausted parenting means you stare through your kid when they ask for one more snack.
It means you begrudgingly drag your ass to the bathroom when their little bums need a wipe.
It means you order them to find daddy to help with homework.
It means sometimes your enthusiasm is lacking when something exciting happens in their world.
It means you release an exasperated “WHAT!” when you’ve heard “mom” for three minutes straight.
Yet somehow, you manage to summon the strength inside, to show up when you know they need you. Even if it’s half of you. Even with bags under your eyes. Even if it means sacrificing your needs.
Despite this unyielding exhaustion, you can give yourself permission to see how much you do for your children, every day. You always find a way to be better for your kids, and that is the true beauty of parenting with exhaustion.
Because GOD FORBID we moms reveal our soul struggle, our heartache or our yearning to be flawed! Really, all we want to know is, it’s possible to be imperfect and still raise good kids.
For the record, it is okay.
It’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to be touched out. It’s okay to get it wrong, and it’s even more okay to praise yourself for getting it right.
And yes, it’s even okay not to love every minute of momming. *GASP*
It’s okay to be exhausted, mom. You’re not a danger to your child for it. In fact, they need to see it. They need to know you’re only human. Humans make mistakes and are loved for it, deeper for it, and bigger for it.
The same way you hold our breath when they spill milk on the brand new sofa,
or feed the dog ice cream, or put tampons in the damn toilet. You get frustrated but you also know curiosity is healthy. There’s this unspoken balance between the reveal of your frustrations and acceptance of their flaws.
Toxic parenting is not exhausted parenting.
Toxic parenting is abuse, manipulation, disorientation, and unrealistic expectations the parent puts on the child. It’s not teaching the child how to survive/thrive on their own. Toxic parenting is physical/mental/emotional neglect or deliberately tearing your child down with words.
A toxic parent will focus only on the child’s mistakes. Toxicity is not empowering the child to explore within age-appropriate safety parameters or demanding they hold onto every grievance. It’s commanding authority without forgiveness or berating them until they have no sense of self left.
Toxic parenting is setting the bar so high they never live up. It’s energetic torture because your child never knows how to make the parent happy.
A toxic parent will be sure to let the child know mom’s or dad’s happiness lies in the hands of the child’s behavior. And if the child makes a mistake the parent determines as wrong, shameful, or unforgivable, the child is punished for it.
Exhausted parenting means you’re human — and a damn good one.
Toxic parenting is emotional, mental, or even physical abuse.
Mom, I know you’re afraid you’re screwing up your child but there is a difference between exhausted parenting and toxic parenting, Even though exhaustion doesn’t feel good, it will not damage your child in the long run.
You’re fed this lie that all aspects of parenting are pure bliss, and by not enjoying every second, you’re somehow ruining your kids. The truth is, you’re living in a world where your worth as a parent is undervalued, and the standards are unachievable. And when it feels like you’re not living up, you start to believe exhausted parenting means you’re toxic.
Exhaustion isn’t scarring your kids. You are a good person who shows up every day for the ones you love most. That isn’t harmful, that is courage.
It’s time now to speak up. Imperfect parenting is beautiful. You need to yell, cry, and feel your truth. It’s not that you don’t love your kids, it’s that you feel overwhelmed by the high demand of being an everything mom in an unforgiving world. How are you supposed to maintain this level of work and not feel the sting of your own depletion?
It’s not supposed to be this way. You are entitled to proper self-care, a bit of alone time, respite, travel, or even a walk in the forest. Missing three hours of your children’s lives on a Saturday afternoon to go drive to the beach does not mean you’re abandoning your kids, it means you’re nourishing your spirit.
Yell if you must, you are not harming your child so long as your fire does not tear the village down.
Cry as much as you need. Let your children see your sorrow.
Grieve, you are grieving as they grow and change, as you grow and change. There are days you need to curl into your sorrow and feel its weight.
And all of this is natural for who and what you are.
You must feel safe to do that. You must be encouraged to do that. You must be empowered to turn your Mothering into living art.
You must feel the power of your meltdown, for it is the magic wand that waves the path of true change.
And the more you do the things that fill you up, the more room you have for the ones you love. The more you demand balance in self-care, the more joy you find in parenting. Because the moments that suck, you’ll have permission to feel it, and the moments that are good, feel really good.
And the more you display compassion for your needs, the easier it is to maintain the balance of what is right for you and your kids.
You are a strong, capable and caring woman…do not allow those around you to convince you your exhaustion is somehow toxic to your family. Your mothering is a gift, you are the answer to their prayers, and you must take time to say yes to yourself if you are to continue saying yes to those around you.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends Tears to Triumph: The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment.
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