I’ve been wracking my brain in an effort to pinpoint the reason for my over-the-top fatiguemental and physical.

I’m a mom of three small children and the manager of all things that must be in order for this family to function. It’s a tall order with LOTS to do and to keep top of mind.

It’s a role I stepped into with a gracious heart because it meant being home, which, despite all my hard work obtaining a master’s degree and eagerness to climb the leadership ladder, has always been my real dream.

My husband committed to working hard to provide for our every financial need while helping with the home and kids at every opportunity, and I committed to managing the family.

Meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, ensuring safety, engaging kids in educational and stimulating activities, appointments, constant follow-up with medical providers as we navigate unique health issues, shuttling children here and there, keeping track of and ensuring every detail of school-related stuff is covered.

RELATED: I’m a Mom Who’s Running On Empty

Did I mention all three of my children have different issues with sleep? Two fight going to sleep as though it is a matter of life or death, their fear of missing out running high. One of these two has a tendency to sleep-walk, become confused, and then launch into a panic. The other gets up four to five times through the night to “go to the bathroom.” My third, the toddler, has insomnia.

Then we piled on the stress of a pandemic.

Quarantine, navigating in and out of e-learning, trying to tease out every symptom of any illness that could be COVID or not. Can we get toilet paper? How about the groceries? A whole new host of decisions to be made, the weight heavy, implications of our choices saddled with possible long-term effects should we choose wrong.

Social isolation and decision fatigue leading to spikes in anxiety and depression for children and adults alike. 

Typical parental worry amplified.

All of these are sufficient reasons for over-the-top, chronic fatigue, but as I pondered, these things didn’t seem to be it . . . neither alone nor collectively.

So then I examined my diet, water intake, daily doses of fresh air and sunshine, getting enough physical activity as well as mental breaks (regardless of how short) throughout the day.

Nope. 

I have an autoimmune disease that brings with it chronic fatigue and brain fog.

Nope, not that either.

None of these things help an overtired situation, and they most definitely contribute in significant ways, but, again, my searching brain knew there was something else.

Finally, it hit me!

The final detail that is the most likely culprit for tipping my scales to a state of tiredness for which there isn’t yet a term is that in addition to everything else, I am the gap filler.

I am the parent who has to stand in quiet anticipation for any and every detail falling through. Standing in this anticipation means my brain always has to be at work on the what-if, the plan B. 

RELATED: A Mother’s Mind Never Rests, Because We Carry The Mental Load

Sick children, snow days, transition to e-learning, an unavailable babysitter, my husband’s job that renders him unavailable on short noticethe list goes on and on.

Never do I ever get to completely shut down, trust the few supports we have in place, and just let my brain rest.

I am both the main support and the gap filler which means being at the readyphysically and mentallyfor any gap that might present itself in our lives, with or without notice.

Standing at the ready means a brain on constant over-drive and an inability to ever fully exhale. 

It’s no wonder I’ve crossed over into an area of fatigue that’s simply off the charts.

It doesn’t matter how tired I might be, or how overwhelmed and burned out, or what else I might have on my plate for the day, the show with three little people simply doesn’t go on without me.

Mama. Family Manager. Main Support. Gap Filler.

Hilary Doyle

Hilary is a wife and mother of three living in Colorado. She enjoys projects (especially with her young kiddos), gardening, writing, reading and swinging a club on the golf course. Her education and work experience fall in the category of mental health but her heart is in her home - just as God intended. Follow her at SimplyWriteous.com.