To Mothers with Toddlers: When You’re Too Tired to Seize the Day

When You are Too Tired to Seize the Day as a Mom

I cannot count the times.

It happened again in the middle of my grandmother’s yard, relatives and friends gathered for a picnic and my boys the only children there. They were running around screaming, of course, as two and three-year-old boys do, with blueberry pie lips and I was trying to wipe their mouths and they hadn’t slept the night before. At all.

And everyone was laughing at how charming my sons were. “Don’t take these days for granted,” they told me, “because before you know it, they’ll be gone.

I wanted to turn and yell, “Really? When will they be gone? Because then maybe I’ll get some rest!”

But instead I smiled politely and said, “I know, you’re right, they’re such a gift,” even as my youngest son stained my beige pants with his blueberry lips.

And isn’t this all of us with preschoolers? Aren’t we all just counting the hours until nap-time and then bedtime and living off cold coffee and prayer? We’re trying to carpe diem, we’re really trying, but the days are so long and so repetitious: the same story, over and over, the same movie, the same questions: “Why Mommy, why?” until we begin hallucinating about empty hotel rooms and wine bottles.

We’re broken people trying to raise broken children and where’s the redemption? How do we let in the light, especially as summer fades and the leaves turn and the night takes over? How do we become bigger than the pile of laundry, the stack of dishes, the noses that need wiping and the bickering between siblings? How does God fit into all of this?

And is it possible to seize the very ordinary, ever-so-plain day with an air of expectancy, and even joy?

Here are some tips on how to make space and time for joy.

TV IS NOT THE ENEMY. You can use it, just don’t abuse it. It’s okay to pop in a movie or put on a show like Boz the Bear, or Super Why, or Little Einstein. Use that time to do something restful: to read your Bible. To pray. To sit on the deck and whisper to your heavenly father. To drink a mug of hot coffee.

DANCE. My boys and I have a worship CD we turn on. It’s loud and we rock it on the dance floor of our living room, and it always turns into laughter.

• BUY A NEW SHIRT. There’s something to be said about buying something new once in a while. One woman I know likes to buy herself mitts. Whatever it is, it makes you feel special. Treat yourself. You’re worth it.

GIVE YOURSELF A TIMEOUT. When your husband comes home at five o’clock, and you’ve had a bad day, tell him you’re giving yourself a timeout. Go for a walk. Exit your world, and enter God’s.

SPEAK POSITIVE. While you’re doing that aerobics video, thank God for the use of your arms and legs and let your children hear you uttering thanks, too. Don’t comment on your flabby arms or floppy stomach. The more we praise, the more we raise, both our spirit and theirs.

Friend? Before you were a mother, and even after, you are a woman. And you matter.

So seize the day. Before the day seizes you.






Emily T. Wierenga is a wife, mother, artist and the author of Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, and Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy. For more info, please visit Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

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  • Beth

    Haha yes!! Love this.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Thanks Beth :) Love to you. e.

  • JViola79

    Emily –

    So very true that we can forget to take care of ourselves. Yet in caring for ourselves, we have the best “us” to offer them. Great post! Thank you for this reminder. I think I will go to dinner with a friend tonight without guilt :)

    • Emily Wierenga

      YES friend! So glad you’re going out for dinner with a friend. That will revive your soul and make you a BETTER mom!

  • Caroline Starr Rose

    My two boys are older now, but this is still very relevant!

    • Emily Wierenga

      I’m so glad, Caroline… only I had been hoping that it would get easier :) It’s all good, isn’t it? Just with small hiccups along the way. Bless you friend.

  • Pamela

    Excellent, Emily. When my children were young my husband could walk in the door and tell if I was overwhelmed. He lift the baby from my arms and send me to take a bath. Soaking in the hot bubbly water would return my joy. I’m not telling how long some of those mini-vacations were!

    • Emily Wierenga

      oh Pamela, what an amazing husband you have! A true treasure…

  • Shelly Miller

    Great advice and wisdom Emily. I think mothers often sacrifice their own needs and desires for their children which is honorable but it is hard to pour out love and what is needful when you are an empty vessel. Taking five minutes of uninterrupted quiet can feel like a few hours of bliss when it is a focused surrender.

    • Emily Wierenga

      I am learning it slowly, to take care of myself AND my littles. Love you so much Shelly. XO

  • rachel lee

    absolutely wonderful, Emily. as a young mom, I’m often told that television is the enemy, that I should never let my child sit to watch a program. all I can think is, how then would you like me to shower?

    thank you for speaking life into motherhood today. I needed that.

    • Emily Wierenga

      oh girl, yes! turn on that show and have a nice long shower! bless you friend… XOXO

  • Kim Hyland

    Emily, this is so good! And this lesson of “self-care” is best learned with littles. As your children get older the physical fatigue eases up just about the time the emotional fatigue sets in. Learning to live in God’s tender love and be gracious with ourselves is the BEST preparation for the years when we need to share the grace we’ve come to know and live in with our teens.

    • Emily Wierenga

      oh, I’m dreading that emotional fatigue :) this parenting is hard, isn’t it? and yet, we have the ultimate Parent leading us… bless you dear Kim.

  • Julie @ Logger’s Wife

    In the middle of my 19month old trying to climb in my chair, empty her snack bowl into the trash, and potty training…..I needed to read this. Thank you.

    And seriously, God bless the creators of Curious George. :)

    • Emily Wierenga

      oh Julie, I’m with you there girl! You are not alone! And yes–I love Curious George. :) XO

  • Steffany @ Spit and Sparkles

    Great post! I’ve been feeling the same way with my twins lately. This verse really helped me- 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

    I just wrote a blog post about doing the best that I can after a rude stranger really hurt my feelings with a comment. I hope it can be encouraging to others, just as this post was encouraging to me.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Thank you so much for sharing Steffany! I LOVE that verse… yes, it literally feels as though we are wasting away some days doesn’t it? Yet inwardly God is doing something remarkable. Bless you, e.

  • Stefanie

    Boy, that is exactly how I feel many days (with 3 kids, 3 1/2 and under!). It’s just nice to know I’m not the only one who has those feelings! People don’t seem to talk about it very much (and the older people seem to have forgotten…even my parents!). I have been praying for more joy in the day-to-day and this was a breath of fresh air. Thank you!

    • Emily Wierenga

      oh Stefanie, I’m so glad it encouraged you. You are NOT alone… may you know joy and hope and REST. Bless you, e.

  • Amy Hunt

    The truth-telling — YOUR truth-telling — is what strikes me most in all of this. That is the most beautiful worship, sweet friend.

    • Emily Wierenga

      I’m so glad it spoke truth to you dear Amy. Love you girl. e.

  • chambanachik

    This is wonderful. Thank you!

    • Emily Wierenga

      Thank you so much friend!

  • Cristal Alderliesten

    Well said, Emily. I needed a little reminding today.

    • Emily Wierenga

      So glad it spoke to you Cristal. May the Lord strength and encourage you. e.

  • Kay

    This applies to moms with kids of all ages, to be sure. “Cold coffee and prayer” would make a great motto on a t-shirt; stain resistant, of course.

    • Emily Wierenga

      I LOVE that idea Kay :)

  • Melanie

    Love love loved your honesty in this! I could so identify with this today. Beginning to feel like I will never have an uninterupted night’s sleep, and just trying to function is tough. Add two very active 3 1/2 and 21 mo old boys to the mix and some days I feel kinda crazy! ha I am a book-lover and so many times when I have a free minute I get out the kindle. Lately though, I have been trying to get out my bible instead and feed my soul – I always feel so much better after, even if I would really have rather done something else in the beginning. Thankful that God is our “El Roi” , the God who sees us, and He knows what we do and are going through. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Melanie, I LOVE what you said about God being our El Roi. So true. He sees all, and he is good. Bless you friend as you hold onto sanity and love on your family. XO

  • Sus

    I so needed to read this RIGHT NOW. I’m drinking a reheated cup of coffee, clutching it, while letting my daughter watch another show, oh yes, 2, so I can get a few things done before her little brother wakes up and her older sister comes home. And I have big dreams for glorious days baking together and reading stories and taking walks and I feel like as soon as I get done with the bare minimums, time’s up and it’s a new day. The cold cup of coffee and a prayer bit brought me to tears. Thanks for posting this.

    • Emily Wierenga

      Oh Sus, you are not alone! I’m there with you, friend, drinking that re-heated cup of coffee and trying to be grateful while just desperately needing sleep. So much grace to you sister. e.

  • Amy

    A-men. I remember feeling this way with toddlers. Even though my children are now teens, I cringe when those further along the road remind me of the beauty when I feel bewildered. So perfectly said, Emily~ thank you.

    • Emily Wierenga

      I’m grateful it spoke to you Amy. Bless you friend.

  • Kalonda

    Well said! I was sitting here exhausted, trying to find the energy to complete the blog idea the Lord gave me while I was up nursing my son in the middle of the night, dreading the moment when I would hear my daughter start squirming in her bed when I stumbled across this post and I literally laughed out loud. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. Motherhood is wonderful and wonderfully exhausting.