Working mom exhaustion is real, and I definitely have it (and probably so do you). I love my toddler to bits but balancing a full time job as a mom is hard! The struggle is keeping up with my own expectations of the type of mom I want to be.
I am not a single mother, and yes, my husband is great with our toddler when they are together. The reality though is that our son ONLY wants me if I am home. I also yearn to spend time with my toddler (more than my husband does) during the day. If there just were more hours!
I teach part-time at a university, run a pet sitting business and started this blog, all while parenting a toddler who is not in full-time daycare. Needless to say I love working. When at home, my toddler is trying to put toys in my hand constantly. He keeps begging for more 1:1 time like we haven’t just played for 2 hours straight. We go back to play again, but I can’t help dreading it.
Putting ourselves last is a vicious cycle that is hard to come out of. When I implement these 7 tips regularly, I am a happier mom so I want to share them with you.
7 Tips for Surviving Working Mom Exhaustion
I have not figured out the special formula for being happy and energetic every day. Maybe that is not what all this is actually about. Some days I am exhausted and miserable while other days I seem to be dancing on clouds. These tips below have worked really well for my mental health and I hope they help you too.
1. Pick a Time To Be the Latest You Stay Up
The only super rigorous routine in our house is bedtime, and it’s purely selfish. That boy needs to be in bed by 6pm so that by 7:30pm he is sleeping. I then get up and work until 10pm. Sometimes I get in the groove and end up staying up to midnight. But I always pay for it the next day.
We have all done long nights and go in survival mode the next day. The problem is that my tiered self ends up snapping at those I love the most. This is not the person I want to be. Therefore, I have decided that with a toddler who is usually up by 5am, 10pm is my sweet spot.
Having a toddler takes a ton of patience. If you are not taking care of yourself, you will become that angry mom that’s yelling all day long. No one wants that.
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2. Get a Time-Timer to Manage Toddler Expectations
I learned about Time-Timers from Allana Robinson who is a parenting couch. Toddler’s and preschoolers don’t quite understand time yet. Telling them that something is happening in 2 minutes vs 20 minutes might sound the same to them. The time-timer is a visual aid that helps the child see the passing of time.
I will often use the time-timer when I need my toddler to wait for something they really want (like for me to play with him). I will also use it when we need to make an activity transition I know will be difficult (like going to brush our teeth for the night).
A new way I use the the time-timer which has been super helpful is to set it up for an hour in the morning. I tell my toddler that I need time to wake up and will not play with him until the timer stops.
You can definitely use this for getting some emails done or check off minor tasks on your work list (or zone out). I wouldn’t use the time-timer for larger work projects if your toddler does not like playing alone. You might end up just getting stressed if he is constantly talking to you and breaking your train of thought.
3. Set up a 2 hour Down Time Period for the House.
Toddlers and Preschoolers are in that age where they can often fight and skip their naps. They are so excited about the world and exploring is so much fun, that sleeping just sounds boring. If I have planned to get work done during a nap that he is resisting, it can truly get my blood to boil. It ends in a power struggle and that is never helpful.
Instead, I don’t plan to get time sensitive work done during this nap. This brings the pressure down for both of us. Often the lack of forcing, increases the possibility of our toddler relaxing enough that he falls asleep. What I do instead of calling it a nap, I say it’s down time.
Rules of down time?
- we stay in the bedroom with blinds down.
- mama is only available for chatting or to read books. No pretend play.
- jumping or physical play during is on hold until down-time is over.
If he is still awake when downtime is over, we go about our day. At least we both are more rested. If he falls asleep, then I let him nap until he wakes up on his own (although I usually don’t have him nap past 4pm).
Now you might be asking yourself, well Stephanie, how is this helpful if I didn’t get any quality work time? My answer for you is that resting during that time will give your more energy to be productive once you are not with your toddler. If you don’t have access to daycare, I am sharing below 2 strategies I use to get quality work time anyways.
4. Find a Play-Date Mom
I have a mom friend with a similar aged toddler who also works from home. We are play-date mom buddies. Every Tuesday her son comes for 3 hours to our house so she can get uninterrupted time to work. On Thursdays our son goes to her house for 3 hours so I can work.
If you like this idea, you could increase the play-date schedule. You could even set up the toddlers to be in one house M-F mornings and at the other’s M-F afternoons.
Don’t have a mom friend to do this with? Find your community Facebook group for moms and simply post this inquiry. Proceed with getting to know the person that shows interest to assess if it’s a good fit. I met my mom friend on the meet-up app. This was about a year before we set up our playdate-swap.
Even if you don’t have moms you know well right now that’s ok. I still think that a month or two of warm up between two moms can be enough. You can start building that trust to allow the kids over a few hours a day.
On a side note, I am fortunate to have my aunt less than a mile away. Most Sundays she takes him for 4-5 hours while I get to catch up on work and also (sometimes) relax.
5. Pick Specific “Working Time” where your partner always has Toddler Duty.
This is by far the most important tip for managing working mom exhaustion. You need specific times for yourself. This does not mean whenever the opportunity arises. Instead have a set schedule when someone else is taking charge of your toddler so you have guaranteed time off.
This has been a game changer for my exhaustion. This way I am not constantly thinking about everything I have to get done all the time. I know exactly when that time will be and can relax. It also allows me to really be present with my toddler. I know he can tell the difference in my mood when I am not stressing over work in my mind.
Currently I have guaranteed time Monday – Friday 8am-10am and 3pm-5pm. Having this set up works for me because I still want to spend quality time with my toddler and I also like putting him down for his naps as we breastfeed. We are fortunate to both be working from home so daily toddler swaps are possible. Your swap schedule might look different but I recommendation is that it’s ALTEAST 2 hours and ATLEAST once a day. You need that!
6. Don’t Multi-Task Toddler and Work!
Another reason to have specific times that are guaranteed is so that you stop multi tasking. Moms are making themselves exhausted by trying to cook, entertain their toddler and think about work at the same time. We are just human and that is an unrealistic expectation that both we and (unfortunately) society have set on us.
Forcing yourself to stop multi tasking is in-itself a form a self care. Focus on one this at a time. Need to cook? Have someone else entertain your toddler or put TV on. Need to work? you have your preset time to get everything on your list done. This way you can spend quality time with your toddler and truly connect through play, which they absolutely love.
7. Change Scenery Throughout the Day
Part of what makes me exhausted is thinking that we will be sitting on that couch playing with paw patrol all day long. Mama needs stimulation too and I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say play should be fun for both you and your little one. For example, my toddler loves pretend play right now and I really don’t enjoy it. In fact if makes me exhausted just thinking about it.
==>The Ultimate Routine for the Tiered Toddler Mama (+printable)<==
However, if I know in my mind that we will play for 45min, but then go out and take a walk, or take a bath, or see friends, it allows me to kick myself in the butt and follow through with what he enjoys. It’s important though that the change in scenery sometimes involves things you want to do.
It Takes Time to Rid of working Mom Exhaustion
I get frustrated when after some self-care, I am still exhausted by my toddler. I wonder what’s the point if it didn’t help? The answer is time. We need to be consistent and patient. It has taken years of putting ourselves last to get to this point, it will take more than a day to find our inner energy again.
I have been pushing myself too hard these past 6 months and now I am feeling the consequences of this lack of self care. That is why I will give myself time too to heal. In order to recuperate you have to delegate your toddlers to others though! There are moms who are able to be with their kids all day, run their own business and go out to jog with the jogging stroller, but that is definitely not me and probably not you either.
Acknowledge that expectations have been set too high, bring down the tempo and start enjoying your toddler again. Working mom exhaustion is real and it’s hard, so let go of the unnecessary demands. I think this is the only way to enjoy motherhood again.
Do you have a working mom hack to lessen exhaustion?
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