Connecting with Kids When You’re Exhausted

How can you connect with your kids when you’re totally tapped out?

I know I’m not the only mom who gets absolutely swamped from time to time.

We’ve been in one of those phases lately where the kids are indoors more because of winter-  more mess inside,  the baby needs me at just the time when the rest of the family needs a meal, and we’ve been having our fair share of winter colds to pass around.

The house is hovering on the brink of disaster and laundry threatens at every corner.

So- How to stay sane?  Good question….

Connection on the most difficult days

Parenting Priorities:

  • Do not engage with crazy (This is shorthand  for not getting wrapped up in drama, anger and craziness.  I want to show my children a peaceful mama, not a yelling madwoman.  If I’m heading that way it’s time to pause and reassess.)
  • Retain connection with my kids
  • Retain connection with my husband
  • Maintain essentials (pay bills, do laundry, provide food)

Practical Matters

(we know most of these, but they bear repeating.):

Make a list of your top priorities (see above.) Don’t worry about the rest for now.

Get sleep any way you can. That being said, I know sometimes you just can. not. get enough sleep.  Believe me, I’ve been there.  Try to remember what being sleep deprived does to your mind though, so when you are saying hateful things to yourself you can stop yourself and remember that really, you just need sleep.

Hire a mama’s helper– I’ve got a girl from my church who comes over to be a  mama’s helper one afternoon per week.  It may feel like a pain to get set up, but it’s worth it.

Find your bare bones routine. For us that goes back to morning routine (breakfast, dressed, brush teeth), eating times,  evening routine (dinner, brush teeth, pjs, clean up, stories, bed)  The very very base of our routines is when we eat during the day.  I know my kids need Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Snack, Dinner.  The book Steady Days by Jamie C Martin is helpful when you need to establish workable routines.

Eat healthfully. It doesn’t mater if it’s simple and repetitive, but don’t give in to the temptation to just grab sugar and caffeine.  I have to realize that when I am tired what I want very most is sugar and caffeine, but if I just eat chocolate chips all day I will feel even worse.

Ideas to Steady You:

Forgive yourself over and over.– You will not get it all done and that’s ok. You are enough, really.

Find connection points in your day– I make little rules for myself.

  • Currently I don’t turn on the radio in the car and instead pay attention to our conversations there.
  • I focus on my kids during meals, even if I am not eating and am simply holding the baby while they eat at the counter.  At dinner we always ask, “What was your favorite part of the day?”  Even if it’s dinner while we watch a  show or a dinner in the living room, we pause to ask this and listen to each other.  I can’t tell you how centering this is to my kids.

Looks for opportunities to smile and laugh. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches the mindfulness meditation, “I breath in, I calm my body. I breathe out,  I smile.”  Try that in the midst stress and you may find more moments you can enjoy with your family.

Get Re-inspired– I recently wrote about Books to Inspire.  For me loading up at the library works.  I also look for inspiration on other mama blogs, at my church and in conversation with friends.  (When it’s not so cold just going out in the woods usually works too,  but I’m a wuss about the cold.)

Make Lists–  Lists are so reassuring.  It helps most if you have one spot where you make your lists though, so you can find them again.

And finally, If everything feels like it’s about to fall apart and the kids are bonkers and you got no sleep- put in a load of laundry, figure a game plan for dinner and then ignore the rest of the chaos.  Call another friend with kids at home, take your kids over to her place and just spend the day drinking tea and reassessing your daily routine, your priorities and making lists of easy to make foods (This helped So much last week when I did it)

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. ~Carl Bard


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  1. says

    Thank you so much for this! We all need reminders; you are NOT the only one :) And it is amazing how just loading the dishwasher and starting the washing machine can make you feel more in control, or at least like you did something with your day. Hang in there!

  2. says

    Love this post. I have written on my blog before about my “bad day plan” which came about when I had PND. I recommend it for all parents regardless of depression history – it is mostly about letting go of the pressure to carry on as normal during tougher periods/days and sticking to essentials and taking care of yourself (however that needs to be for you).

  3. Pam soper says

    I thought your advice and comments to be so helpful
    And wish I had blogs, mother groups when I
    Was a young mom. Now I’m watching my daughter
    Trying to raise her first child and im glad she
    Has so many support outlets to give her ideas
    And know she’s not alone.

  4. says

    I just found your site via Pinterest and I’m so glad I did! We seem to be on the same path: choosing joy in the midst of chaos. Looking forward to reading more.

  5. says

    Thanks for sharing this! As a mom to a special needs child (he’s seven now) I’ve had my share of difficulties! And if you are a mom reading this right now, and all these tips and advice have not helped your situation, don’t be shy about making an appointment with your doctor for medication. I say this because after my dad passed away in 2009, I got depressed–and it did not go away, plus a lot of feelings that were buried inside (regarding having a special needs child) came to the surface… to make a long story short, medication helped me through it, that and adopting a dog who I love to walk every day, staying away from sugar (LOL), alcohol, and white or enriched carbs! So hang in there all you moms!

  6. says

    Great blog and really good things to remember! I will need to refer to this often I’m sure. It’s funny how the easy, simple things are sometimes the hardest to remember!

  7. says

    Lovely post— thank your for compiling all these great ideas into one place. I have discovered nearly every one of them at one time or another, but I forget and lose center and it is good to come back to them, even if it has been far too long since I practiced them. Thank you.

  8. says

    Great reminders and great ideas! Thanks for sharing! I’ve discovered the truth in these and it’s always helpful to reread them somewhere else and remember!

  9. says

    Great post. Some days are definitely harder than others. This is the sort of thing I write about all the time on my Awesomely Awake project because I get it. Truly, I do. HUGS to you.

  10. says

    Wow. Just found your post through pinterest. It’s exactly what I needed to hear/read. I feel like my personal life is spiraling out of control right now. I have a very naughty 4 year old who I’m struggling with and I’ve had a rough rough week! I’ve turned into that “yelling madwoman” and I’m not happy about it. I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m carrying to much in my “load” and I’ve GOT to let a few things go and “refocus”. Thanks for the encouraging words and tips. I’ll be using them!

  11. says

    Thank you so much for this! I’ve done a few of these, but it’s nice to have them all in a neat little blog post. Thank you for such a thoughtful post! btw, I found this on Pinterest! Thanks!

  12. says

    thank you so much for this, being a mama is very tough at times,but the little ones deserve some love everyday, and we need to try our best to give it.
    thanks again.

  13. says

    Really enjoyed reading this post and could totally connect with what you are saying!!! Pinned this as one of my “mom blogs” to refer back to often! Thanks!!

  14. says

    I love this post, there are so many little tips i can take away and use. I love the idea of hiring a mummy’s little helper. My mum did that when me and my twin sister were toddlers and she used to get her to fold the cloth nappies and play with us.

  15. says

    This is getting printed and going up on the fridge ASAP. My take-away: pay bills, do laundry, provide food…the rest can wait. I’m hoping that I can cut down on my yelling by keeping this in mind.

  16. says

    Humor is my most helpful friend and tool.
    I always found it funny to take my kids magic wand and keep it by my kitchen sink and on those way too busy a day I would pick it up and announce to my brood, “Today what you are about to see is sheer magic. This mama will be more places and do more things on one day then is humanly possible. This is going to be a magic wand day (as I wave it around mostly for my own amusement), as what you are about to see is sheer magic!

  17. Kisha says

    Thank you so much for this!! I just found your post on Pinterest and I am going through a bad mamma week myself. Sleep is a luxury for me and I haven’t had it for a while, and the housework is piling up. It is refreshing to know that other mom’s experience the same struggles from time to time. Being a full-time mom has a measure of guilt attached to it, and I am glad that I’m not the only one living on chocolate and coffee.

  18. says

    This is such a fantastic reminder! Thank you for taking the time to help a fellow Mama out when she needs it most :) now… To take a deep calming breath and exhale with a smile!

  19. Danielle says

    Yesterday my back was killing me & I had zero patience for my 3 year old. I snapped at him several times, & this morning I looked him in the eyes and apologized for my behavior. I just read your post & it made me remember to forgive myself…and breathe. :-) I love how the Internet has connected mothers all over the world & allows us to learn from each other. Thank you!

  20. Ebony says

    Thanks for re-sharing this article! Even though these are things we may know, as you say above, it definitely is worth repeating.

  21. Nadinestaaf says

    This is all excellent advice! Thank you so much for making a point of sharing useful information :)

  22. Jaxson's Mama says

    I can’t tell you how much I needed this recently. I am loving being a new mom, but it is not always easy and due to life circumstances, Jax and I live with my mom. Not the easiest thing either.

    JUST BREATHE, and like Dory says, just keep swimming. :)


  23. Jane says

    I wish I can just remember to breathe in and out and keep calm when my kids are driving me nuts. I just had another episode of ‘crazy’ this morning and despite reminding myself a million times to keep calm, I just blew my top off. I yelled at my kids and worse, I also yelled at the security guard at my apartment because he refused to open the boom gate for me (I forgot to bring my access card). My kids were right there watching me get all crazy! When I calmed down later, I apologized to my kids and told them that I should not have lost control of myself like that. But I think the damage has already been done…

  24. Becky says

    I am just so happy to hear that I’m not the only mom surviving on chocolate chips as my main source of food on bad days!

    • says

      Haha, I had to stop buying them except for special ‘We’re going to bake with these SOON.’ times because I find myself standing by the chocolate chip cupboard way too often when I’m tired, grumpy or otherwise out of sorts. Sometimes I kick myself for not having a secret stash though 😉

  25. Jacqui says

    WOW! That’s all I can say. God speaks to us in sneaky ways;) today is actually day 3 of my mommy madness. I didn’t even have the energy to yell anymore. I did do the laundry, however threw my body on top of the ” to be folded” pile and hysterically cried like a child. I begged god to help me with my patience and mental stability. As I lay here eating a bag of peanut butter m&ms I find this. Thank you for it. Really. Sometimes I feel so alone like I am not cut out for parenting and that I’m a horrible failure. Everyone else seems to have it all figured out…. It’s so reassuring to know I am not alone.

    • says

      Hugs, hugs and hugs again Jacqui. I, for one, do NOT have it all figured out and some days I too feel like I’m the only one, so I’m always glad to hear that I’m not alone. If there is anything parenting does teach me, over and over, it is about grace. Just when I think everything will totally collapse, something saves me. It is humbling and scary and vulnerable…but some of the most beautiful things come out of vulnerability. Wishing you all the best tonight.

  26. says

    Great set of tips, especially from my perspective as the dad of a 16 month old. It’s so true what you say about trying to focus on getting as much sleep as possible.

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