Pre-Order So God Made a Mother

People told me it would be harder. The been there done that empty nest mothers. They said, “Just wait until they’re older.” Lovely, I would think.

They would stop me in grocery stores (they were shopping alone—so jealous I was) and they would tell me how much I would miss these days—these days spent wiping butts, counters, faces, and toys with the same verve and enthusiasm a sloth shows at a marathon start line.

They told me to cherish every minute. Ha! Minutes. The only thing I was cherishing at that time was the amount of minutes I found myself catching at night. And I do mean minutes, because hours were not happening with enough frequency to even garner measurement.

Full of total crap I thought they were. Total. Crap.

There is no exhaustion greater than that of making your way through the bleary days of having a newborn.


I mean, there is no exhaustion greater than that of making your way through the bleary days of having a newborn and a toddler.

Hold up.

I mean, a newborn, a toddler, and a preschooler.

Hang on a sec. Retraction coming.

What I really mean is that there is no exhaustion greater than the bleary days of having a newborn, a toddler, a preschooler, and a school-aged kid. Yes. Now that’s really exhausting.

It’s the physicality of it all.

The up and down into cribs, changing tables, and high chairs. The permanent heaviness of chunky legs and solid middles wrapped around your body, sitting snuggly at your hip for hours on end of each day.

The bending over the crib to deposit a sleeping baby, the leaning over of the crib patting that same baby’s back for 30 minutes to induce deep sleep, and the changing of the pee-soaked crib sheets a few hours later—only to find yourself having to change them again the following morning.

It’s the strapping and unstrapping of 30 pound two-year-olds into five-point harnesses, the lugging of infant bucket seats into grocery carts and backseats, and the folding, unfolding, and pushing of strollers that has your tired back, triceps, and patience screaming for relief. Any relief. A nap. A hot bath. A good, long sit in a chair without someone sitting on your lap.

The years spent taking care of babies and toddlers is one long obstacle course of over touching, endurance busting, soul sucking selfless acts of love that drain you of your last ounce of energy.

You run a real, physical, bone numbing marathon daily when you have little kids, and of course you’re exhausted.

So how could it get more exhausting than that? Enter the teen years.

Because when you have teenagers, you run a metaphorical mental marathon daily, and let me be the first to add myself to the throngs of “been there done that moms” before me who once said, “Just wait until they’re older,” because they were right. I know this pill may be harder to swallow than that grainy, pink glucose concoction you had to knock back while pregnant to rule out gestational diabetes, but it’s a pill that inevitably everyone out there right now rocking a colicky baby to sleep and thinking, “This is as hard as it gets,” is going to have choke down one day.

Your three-year-old throws a fit, slams a door, stomps his feet, and yells at you because you forgot to cut the crust off his PB&J sandwich. Easy fix, you just take the sandwich back and cut off the crust. Problem solved.

Your teenager throws a fit, slams his door, stomps his feet, and is disrespectful to you simply because you exist. There is no easy fix for that, and thus begins the five-plus-years-long mentally exhaustive emotional gymnastics meet you are competing in until they go to college. (Or move out. Join the Army. Volunteer to teach across the planet—who cares, just go.)

The events at this kind of parenting mental meet go far beyond anything as easily solvable as the problems of bread crusts, skipped naps, 2 a.m. feedings, potty training accidents, and scribbles with black Sharpie on your newly painted walls. Those things—as frustrating and draining as they can be—are problems with consequences that are negligible. The problems you have (and the subsequent overthinking of them) while raising teenagers come with consequences that can bear lifelong implications. I would even dare say the level of panic, worry, and anxiety seems to increase tenfold with each year past age 13.

Handing the wrong color sippy cup to an overtired three-year-old will most certainly elicit a reaction that will wear on your short-term patience, but it will not keep your mind buzzing all night every night with worry. But you know what does? A 16-year-old out with your car until after midnight does. SAT scores, bombed calculus finals, and hormone fueled meltdowns also do. Social media infused girl drama, college application essays, and the dreaded FAFSA—all of those will keep you up at night. And then there are the worries about sexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol use, and the many long-and short-term romantic and friend-to-friend relationships that young people have to navigate.

Those worrisome issues don’t magically go away after the first few years of teen-dom. They last throughout the high school years and well into the college years—which incidentally brings with them an entirely differently menu of anxieties. What will they make of themselves? Will they choose the right majors? Will they move back home? Will they find life partners? Will they make the right career choices?

And the mental anxiety marathon in your head just keeps racing and racing, and the thought fatigue moves in and makes itself right at home in your mind’s living room of worry. And the exhaustion, though no longer physical, is truly unbearable.

There is however, a light at the end of the tunnel. Just like when there comes a point when your baby finally sleeps all night, there comes a point when your young adult begins to live his own life—which means you get to start living yours again.

The transition to empty nest can be the most rejuvenating and energetic time in your life, as it should be, because you’ve just spent the previous two decades sleepwalking through childrearing, and now it feels like you can actually take a break. You have long since forgotten the tiring 2 a.m. feedings, and standing weary by the front door at 2 a.m. waiting for you teen to pull in the driveway, so celebrate that! The only exhaustion you should be having after your kids move out should be coming from how much fun you’re having, because you’ve earned it.

(And somewhere during all that fun will be plenty of time to nap. I promise.)

You will also love:

This Stage of Life? It’s Hard Too

This Simply Strategy Change My Relationship With My Teens

Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here! 

So how could it get more exhausting than that? Enter the teen years.


So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer, adjunct librarian, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Awareness Ambassador. She writes at Her writing can be found all over the internet, but her work is mostly on the dinner table.

Dear Daughter, It’s Okay If You Hate Me Right Now

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Teen girl looking up at mother

Dear daughter: I’ve heard it from you a thousand times when you don’t get your way. You yell it when your force of will doesn’t bend mine, thinking it will convince me to give in. But I’m here to tell you once and for all: I don’t care if you hate me right now. Last night you hated me because I made you take a bath before bed. This morning, it was because I made you wear pants. I’m the worst mom ever because I told you to eat a vegetable, and the whole day is ruined because I won’t...

Keep Reading

You’re Learning Life by Watching Me

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child touching mother's face as they lie on a bed

Every morning my daughter and I go outside for some fresh air. She feeds her chickens and plays and explores and walks around with her dog while I follow her around and have a cup of coffee.  This morning, my girl grabbed one of her coffee cups from her toy kitchen and brought it outside with her while she walked with her dog and pretended to take sips out of it.  Guys. I stood there watching her with her toy coffee cup, walking around with her animals, and I cried giant baby tears.  RELATED: I Wasn’t Counting On You Growing...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Love Means Slowing Down

In: Friendship, Kids
Two boys on bicycles riding to park, shown from behind

Think of something faster than a 7-year-old boy on a two-wheel bike. Maybe a race car at the drop of the checkered flag? Perhaps a rocket ship blasting into space? Or how quickly a toddler mom books it out of the house after being told she can have a hands-free hour ALONE in Target. Yes, all of these things are seriously speedy, but I have still never seen anything quite as quick as a boy on a bike on a sunny day with endless open track ahead of him. Until today. Today, my 6-year-old son wanted to ride bikes with...

Keep Reading

3 Ways to Help Your Firstborn Embrace Becoming a Big Brother

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Pregnant woman holding toddler son, color photo

My oldest son turned four right after his first brother was born. Four years of alone time with his parents. Four years of extra mommy time during the week. Four years of having toys to himself, extra attention from family members, and more. I didn’t plan a four-year age gap; it took our family a lot longer and a lot more help than we expected to have our second son, but age gaps aren’t everything. When my second son was finally on the way, I heard a lot of opinions about how our oldest son would feel once he finally...

Keep Reading

I Am a Wrestling Mom

In: Kids, Motherhood
Three young boys with wrestling medals, color photo

As the sun is rising on a frigid winter morning, a brave and determined group of athletes are weighing in at a high school gym. They are physically and mentally preparing for a long day spent at a tournament where they will spend only minutes wrestling, despite the hours they sit and wait all day. Their sport uses offense, defense, and mental strength unlike any other sport. My sons and nephew are wrestlers. They are part of a special team of athletes who work together but compete as individuals.           Their youth team is run by all volunteer coaches with...

Keep Reading

Dear Busy Sports Mom: It’s Worth It

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mom watching soccer game, photo from behind

My daughter stands on the front porch every morning and waves goodbye to me as I pull out of the driveway to go to work.  She is 11, and recently eye-rolling, long sighs, and tears have become more commonplace in our daily interactions. But, there is also this: “Bye! Have a good day!” she calls to me in the quiet of early morning, neighbors not yet awake in their still dark houses. “You are AMAZING! You got this!” she continues in her little adult voice, sounding more like a soccer mom than a fifth grader.   Her hair is still a...

Keep Reading

Goodbye to the Baby Hangers

In: Kids, Motherhood
Shirt hanging from small hanger, color photo

You bought them when you first found out you were pregnant. It may have been one of the first items, actually, to hold all of the precious new clothes. The smallest ones in your household. Do you remember that first newborn onesie you bought? It was one of your favorites. You couldn’t fathom you would soon hold something so small that would fit into that onesie. You washed all of the new clothing in preparation and hung them up in your baby’s closet. You know the item. A miniature version of the ones in your closet. Baby hangers. “Do we...

Keep Reading

Take the Trip, You Won’t Regret It

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood

Two years ago, in the middle of a snowy, windy, Colorado March, my husband and I made the spontaneous decision to road trip to Arizona with our three very young kids.  Even though I was excited, the nerves were so very real. Over the next couple of weeks, I literally lost sleep worrying about the logistics of our trip. My late-night mindless scrolling was replaced by searches like “traveling with toddlers” and “keeping kids entertained on road trips”. We already had our hands full chasing kids at home in a familiar setting. Were we crazy to think we could just...

Keep Reading

They’ll Remember the Love Most of All

In: Kids, Motherhood
Woman with kids from above, pregnant mother with kids hands on belly

You lie in bed at the end of a long day, the events of the day flashing back through your mind. You do this a lot—recap your day as a mama. How did you do? Did you maintain your patience? Did you play enough? Did you limit screen time? Did you yell less today than you did yesterday? You saw a really neat toddler activity in the group you’re a part of on Facebook . . . you should have done that with the kids. They would have loved it. There wasn’t enough time though, and you didn’t have all...

Keep Reading

He’s Slowly Walking Away with Footprints As Big As Mine

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Teen boy walking along beach shore

The true measure of a mother’s love is her willingness to wake up before the sun on vacation. On a recent trip to the shore, my youngest son begged to walk the beach at dawn to look for shells. So, I set my alarm, tumbled out of a warm, king-sized bed with extra squishy pillows, glared at my dead-to-the-world husband, and gently woke my 11-year-old. Without so much as a drop of coffee, we headed out into the morning, the sun still below the ocean horizon. With each step, I shed my zombie-like state and took in the quiet, salt-kissed...

Keep Reading