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How to Enjoy the Often Exhausting Role of Parenthood

What if we felt a deep sense of satisfaction from our fatigue, rather than viewing it as yet another sign of our inherent inadequacy? I want to feel proud of the effort I make each day with my work, my family and my home, rather than believing there's something wrong with me if I'm exhausted.
07/16/2015 12:32pm ET | Updated July 16, 2016
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Have you ever exerted yourself physically to the point where you felt absolutely exhausted afterwards? Maybe you were training for a race, or you pushed your body in some other way, and that night when you finally rested, you felt bone deep tired. And it felt good.

There is a deep sense of satisfaction that can come from having pushed oneself physically and been exhausted as a result of it.

Why is it that we never feel that type of satisfied exhaustion with our children? We just feel... exhausted.

I recently noticed that while I can think of many times when I've felt satisfied from pushing my body physically, I have never ONCE felt satisfied when I'm exhausted after taking care of my daughter.

I've never said, "Wow, I gave it my all today with her. I'm so satisfied with how tired I feel right now because it means I didn't leave anything on the table. I loved my daughter and mothered her to the brink today."

Instead, my mind is filled with judgment, shame and self-criticism thinking, "Maybe I don't like being a mother the way other women do? Maybe I'm tired because I'm not naturally a caregiver type and that's a problem. Maybe I should get more help. Maybe there's something wrong with me. Maybe I'm too involved and I should teach her to be more independent." And on and on my monkey mind goes.

Underneath it all, there is a fundamental belief that there is something wrong if I feel tired.

Whereas with athletic pursuits, I'm proud of how tired my body feels afterwards. I take it as a sign that I pushed myself in a good way, with healthy striving.

I'm not advocating that we should all strive to feel exhausted when we're with our children and wear that as a badge of honor.

There is a difference between healthy striving and perfectionism. Many women I support who feel exhausted and overwhelmed first need to address the perfectionism and allow themselves to relax, let go of guilt, find "me" time, and make choices aligned with what really matters.

Pretty much every woman I know, myself included, needs to learn to give herself permission to do less. A lot less.

That being said, even if you do less and practice healthy striving instead of perfectionism, there are going to be times when you're just tired at the end of the day.

In these moments, I've noticed there is a mindset shift around exhaustion that is game changing.

This new mindset involves embracing our exhaustion as a sign that we're living a life worth living. We're giving it our all.

Like an athlete who comes off the field with mud, blood and grass stains all over her arms, legs and clothes, we, too, are coming off the field of life every day. We work, whether in the home or outside of the home, we want to make a difference, we have good intentions, we love with our whole hearts and we put it all out there. We leave everything on the field of life.

And this is something to be proud of.

What if we felt a deep sense of satisfaction from our fatigue, rather than viewing it as yet another sign of our inherent inadequacy?

I want to feel proud of the effort I make each day with my work, my family and my home, rather than believing there's something wrong with me if I'm exhausted.

So the next time I notice myself collapsing on the couch at the end of the day, instead of feeling like a victim, I'm going to turn to my husband and say, "wow, I was amazing today. Look how tired I am, I really lived my life to the fullest this day. Yay me!"

Vanessa Loder is an entrepreneur, speaker and writer whose mission is to inspire and empower millions of women by showing them their true power lies within.

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Vanessa received her MBA from Stanford University and is the Co-Founder of Mindfulness Based Achievement, the New MBA, which teaches high potential women leaders how to lean in without burning out. In her previous life, Loder was a successful private equity investor who advised fast growing companies. She is a self described over-achiever whose endless quest for perfectionism and unfulfilling experience of continual career climbing left her burned out, exhausted and eager to find another way.

You can read more at Vanessa's blog, Akoya Power or find her on twitter @vanessaloder.

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