When does parenting get less exhausting? The answer, unfortunately, is never.
But despite that super depressing news, I do have some hope for you to help you get through those early years of sleepless nights and realize that being chronically exhausted is part of the whole experience and I can tell you that even though it never really ends, the chronic fatigue of parenting will eventually ease up a bit. That part is true.
The exhaustion new parents face is real.
Let’s talk about those early years. The newborn days can be super rough. The baby stage does not come with a lot of deep sleep, and you have very little time to yourself. Sleep is but a distant memory, and you find yourself operating in what I like to call “zombie mode” during the newborn stage.
Now, don’t get me wrong, those baby cuddles are precious, and sometimes I still dream about them, but they come at a cost. It’s a rollercoaster of sleepless nights, diaper changes that defy the laws of physics, and the constant worry that you’re doing it all wrong.
The sleep deprivation that happens when they are teething, or decide to be wide awake at 2 am is no joke. Make sure to take care of your mental health during this time.
I know there’s a temptation to be productive when the baby is asleep, but the exhaustion of new mothers is something that you have to be careful with.
A chronic lack of sleep because of a new baby can lead to postpartum depression issues, anxiety, and a whole other host of problems just from being overly tired.
Sleep when the baby sleeps sounds cliche, but it’s crucial to reach out to family members, get some help, and take those naps during the baby years.
The toddler years can be just as rough.
Fast forward a bit, and you hit the toddler stage. The terrible twos (and even threes) – they’re not called that for nothing. It’s like living with a tiny dictator who has a knack for testing your sanity.
The sleep battles continue, and you start to wonder if coffee should be classified as a food group. Toddlers are sleeping through the night, but you have new challenges.
Sometimes they have nighttime fears, want to crawl into bed with you, or even fight being moved to their new big boy or big girl bed. Their sleep cycles are better, but you’re still at risk for some major parental burnout if you aren’t careful in this stage of transition.
I believe every parent has to do what’s best for them.
So that may involve co-sleeping, or not. Keeping them in their crib a little longer than what other parents are doing because it’s helpful for you, or even just setting up a bed at the foot of your own so you don’t have to go through nighttime battles of putting them into bed over and over and over again.
But, those middle-of-the-night struggles can take a toll.
Make sure you’re thinking about the long-term consequences of whatever you decide to do at this stage. Sometimes when you form habits with little kids like co-sleeping they turn into bad big kids habits.
The magical age of older kids that are still young children.
As your little tyrant grows, so does your chance for a breather. Elementary school years bring a new set of challenges, but you start to regain a semblance of sanity.
Homework becomes a thing, extracurricular activities take over your calendar, and you find yourself chauffeuring a pint-sized socialite to playdates and soccer practice. The good news is, you’re all probably sleeping through the night, and the baby blues are over.
But, now you’re exhausted from all the social activities.
Leaning on your support network is just as crucial to avoid parent burnout and the chronic exhaustion. Those early days are rough, but now as your kids get older you start to have bigger kid worries.
At this age, I worried so much about screen time. Yes, I was getting longer stretches of hours of sleep, but there are still plenty of worries at this stage.
This can be about whether or not they are doing well in school, eating healthy foods, having friend issues, and how you’re going to get everyone where they need to go all at the same time. It feels like a full-time job on top of your full-time job to meet the demands of everyone in your crew.
The best parent knows that there is no such thing as a perfect parent.
Give yourself grace to face the new challenges. Girl drama can start in kindergarten, and when they want to spend more time with friends than with you, that’s hard.
You find that now that you’re sleeping through the night, your anxiety is in overdrive from the constant demands during the day, and the worry that keeps you up at night.
The teenage years bring a different level of parental exhaustion.
The teen years bring hormones, drama, and the sudden realization that you’re no longer the fountain of all knowledge anymore. This news may hit you like a ton of bricks.
But here’s the twist – as your teenager becomes more independent, you might find yourself with a smidge more free time. Sounds amazing right?
But, it never truly gets less exhausting. Yep, you heard me right. Parenthood is a lifelong gig, and the fatigue is just part of the package deal. However, here’s the silver lining: it does get different.
Sure, the physical demands may ease up a tad, but the mental gymnastics? They’re here to stay.
The worries evolve from diaper blowouts to college applications, and you’ll find yourself Googling “how to survive parenting a teenager” instead of “how to get a baby to sleep through the night.”
You’ll worry about when to let them get on social media, and how safe of a driver they are.
For me, my high school kids come alive at night just as I’m taking my last deep breaths of the day and wanting to melt into bed.
They suddenly want to come into my room and gab and laugh and show me funny (and weird) videos on their phones and I’m just trying to keep my eyes open through it all. I don’t want to miss out on the bonding time with my big kids, but at the same time, kids, can you give me enough sleep to feel like I can do it all over again tomorrow!??
When you have a young adult child, trust me you’re still tired.
Hear me out – you’re past the age of two-year-olds and school-age kids, and your teenagers turned out ok. But, while the days of trying to learn how to be first-time parents and sleep regressions are long gone, your sleep schedule may still be wonky.
You’re adult child is calling you at all hours of the night, and now you’re in the thick of being middle aged and if you’re like me – you’re probably starting to wake up with hot flashes. Fun!
There is always a constant need that comes with being a parent. Whether physical or mental – it doesn’t matter. Parenting never ends.
Trying to be the perfect parent will make you exhausted too.
Although parenting brings us so much joy, the lifestyle changes that come along with being a parent can lead to chronic fatigue. The thing I want to remind any parent about is that experts say you only need to get it right 30% of the time to be a successful parent. In fact, I’d argue that we all need to embrace being a good enough mother more often.
I don’t want to downplay that it’s incredibly hard to parent these days with all the demands on us. Modern parenting is rough.
Single parents, families that have a lack of support, and parents with all sorts of other challenges like special needs, mental health issues, emotional problems, etc. Parents of little kids grow up to have young adults with real big problems.
This really isn’t a contest to find the most exhausting age of parenting. The demands of parenting never end.
Just by nature, the challenges of parenthood make us tired.
But, trying to be perfect will just lead to higher levels of stress. Instead a great way to feel less exhausted at any stage of parenting, is to reach out to your support network, or get professional help if necessary. And, for the love – stop trying to be perfect.
We all need help, none of us are perfect, negative feelings are NORMAL when you’re dealing with physical exhaustion, and fatigue happens at all the different stages of parenting.
We should all stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. That alone will help us sleep better at night and avoid that parental fatigue. Because we’re all doing the best we can.
So, when does parenting get less exhausting?
The truth is, it’s a perpetual ebb and flow. Some days, you’ll feel like you’ve got it all together, and other days, you’ll question if you’re cut out for this gig. But hey, that’s the beauty of it – the messy, unpredictable, utterly exhausting beauty.
If you came here to this post because you feel like you’re in the most difficult stage of parenting let me tell you – you’re right. It’s hard work. All of it. Every stage.
But, despite all the tough moments and the nights where you only get a couple of hours of sleep, you’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other and before you know it, you’ll be sleeping again and start to feel more like yourself. I promise.
In the meantime, my friends, take a page from the parenting journey playbook: embrace the chaos, find humor in the messiness, and for the love of sanity, don’t forget to sneak in a moment of self-care. Whether it’s a hot cup of coffee or a guilty pleasure TV show, give yourself that well-deserved break.
In this wild journey of parenthood, the only thing more exhausting than raising tiny humans is forgetting to take care of yourself along the way.
Parent on, my fellow warriors, and remember – you’re doing better than you think.