The Shame of Being Tired As a Non-Mom

I usually enjoy a full schedule. Starting near the beginning of 2016, though, I felt too tired to keep up – and I was embarrassed about it. There’s a running joke that non-moms don’t understand what it’s like to be tired. Mothering is famously the hardest, most unrelenting job on the planet, so their claim to tiredness is understandable.

But as a non-mom, my exhaustion brought with it shame and embarrassment. I didn’t have kids yet. I didn’t have the right to be tired.

Dishes piled up, laundry piled up, lists of people wanting to get together piled up. I could probably rally for a special event, but otherwise, very little outside of what had to get done got done.

The Shame of Tiredness

My world shrank with my energy, and I became increasingly embarrassed about my diminishing capacity. I dreaded Mondays, because that meant grocery shopping, and grocery shopping was exhausting. Sometimes I would skip it. I regularly cancelled plans I because I wasn’t up to interacting with people or else didn’t think I would be sufficiently alert to drive home.

Parents sometimes seem to have the only legitimate excuse to be tired. . . but I don't think that's the case!

Trimming back on my long-term commitments was humiliating. I didn’t feel like I had a real reason for going back on what I said I’d do, because despite how I actually felt, non-moms apparently weren’t really tired.

I remember when I stopped serving in the nursery at church. I said that it was because I had too much on my plate (true!), but out of embarrassment, I omitted that I had pathetically little on my plate.

Combatting Tiredness

Still, I wasn’t waving the white flag.

People say “capacity is a state of mind”, so I tried to mentally expand my capacity. I read books like I Know How She Does It and The Compound Effect, but no amount of mental stretching actually stretched my physical capacity.

So I started running again, thinking being stationary was making me sluggish. After the endorphins spike, my exhaustion settled in again like fog. I changed my diet repeatedly, too, eating more of this and less of that.

Parents have definitely earned their right to be tired! But a lot of other people are tired too. . . what about them?

I became more consistent with studying my bible, thinking that if I could fill myself up spiritually, I would be filled up with energy, too. While I felt more emotionally stable, I was still physically drained.

I also sought professional help – both mainstream and alternative. A holistic medicine practitioner suspected parasites, but couldn’t confirm. One doctor attempted insurance fraud. Another insisted I was depressed. Yet another doctor scoffed at me when I asked to be tested for parasites, saying that there are thousands of parasites and she wasn’t going to run thousands of tests (I learned later that’s not how it works at all).

The string of useless or condescending “professionals” was exhausting, both physically and emotionally.

Not only was it another thing in my schedule, but every time they asked why I was there, I felt so embarrassed to say, “Umm. . . because I’m tired.”

I didn’t have any right to be tired. Not without kids.

The Problem

Eventually, I found a doctor that was amazing. She did some tests and quickly found the problem: My vitamin D was a whopping 12.8 (should be 50-70, I think).

Vitamin D affects both your energy and your mood; it made sense! I’m extremely light skinned, so sun means sunblock – which inhibits Vitamin D absorption.

After a conversation with my doctor and a Vitamin D supplement recommendation, I was on my way!

I wasn’t crazy, weak, inadequate, or pathetic. I was Vitamin D deficient! Praise the Lord!

My Vitamin D deficiency was the physical problem.

But I think the real problem is that the road to this knowledge was way longer and way harder than it should have been. I treated my tiredness as an inverse measure of my worth. Instead, I should have seen it for what it is: a symptom.

Types of Tiredness

Tiredness can be a symptom of life stages like motherhood, work deadlines, or a performance-week in theater. In these cases, there’s often something to point to that makes it “worth it.” My cousin has month-old twins, and she would never say that tiredness is too high a cost for her little ones – they’re worth it!

Tiredness can also be a symptom of a mismanaged life: too much work, not enough exercise, a poor diet, all work and no play, etc. I learned a lot about these while looking for solutions. Personally, I think this is a great category to be in; even if the tiredness doesn’t seem worth it, it is within your control to change! (My top resource recommendation is the Compound Effect).

Then finally, tiredness can be a symptom of something unknown or yet unfixable. I think this last category is emotionally the hardest. When I was in it, there was nothing making the tiredness worth it, nothing I did helped, and I was self-conscious about what other people thought about my abilities and capacity. I was in this category for a year and a half, then I received a solution (praise God!), but a lot of other people don’t get an answer or solution so quickly.

From Shame to Symptom

I’m close to someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is a ridiculously understated name for the physical havoc it wreaks. He hesitated for a long time to share publicly what was going on with him, because people sometimes mistakenly equate his tiredness with laziness or wimpiness. This is a man who just prior to getting sick was working 64 hours/week as a fire fighter – full time with Cal Fire and paid call with a local station. I promise you, he doesn’t have a lazy or wimpy bone in his body.

While anyone who knows him should know he’s not a wimp, I completely understand his hesitancy to share! Because, even after going through something much smaller, I felt it too! I was hesitant to tell my church that I was too tired to serve, and I even dreaded telling doctors why I was visiting their office. I was totally embarrassed about my capacity, scared that I just might not have “what it takes” to make it in this fast paced world, and self-conscious about what they might think of me.

The Shame of Being Tired as a Non-Mom. Sometimes it seems like moms have the only license to be tired, so others are left feeling embarrassed about their diminished capacity. However, if my symptoms were stomach ulcers or random bruising, I wouldn’t be embarrassed – I would seek out the help I needed! I would stand up for myself against doctors who said I was just depressed. I wouldn’t be ashamed to tell people that my physical state prevented me from participating in my former commitments.

But I was ashamed. I gave into the social media posts saying that mothers hold the only acceptable licenses to exhaustion. The posts in this blog, for example, are all ones that I saved as they came across my feeds organically – I didn’t search out any of them.

So many people are sick with tiredness, and yet we see so few causes as acceptable. That’s crazy! If someone sneezes, it could be a cold, allergies, or just some dust up their nose. We don’t say, “Unless you have allergies, you don’t have any right to sneeze.” That’s insane.

But we do it with tiredness.

There are a million reasons to be tired – life stages, life imbalances, and physical imbalances, etc. While some of these have a light at the end of the tunnel or a solution, others don’t (yet). People are still living with the symptom of tiredness.

It’s not fair that in addition to feeling like they’re living a fatigue-induced half-life, they also need to feel shame for it.

I know that I’m going to try and be a lot more sympathetic to anyone who is feeling overly tired – whether that means helping out a mom, or giving grace when someone isn’t up to following through on plans they made.

Tiredness can be a debilitating symptom, and it doesn’t need to be earned through motherhood.

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29 Comments on "The Shame of Being Tired As a Non-Mom"

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Patty
Guest
I totally agree with you! I think it’s way wrong that your first doctor didn’t do drug tests for Vitamin D. Yours was very low but I’m told a large percentage of women are low on the vitamin. I was a little off on vitamin d and felt tired. I think people are so judgmental and it’s not good for anyone. It’s easy to get caught up in judging others but I try not too. We have no way of knowing what that person is going through and I think those who like to make comments about people that are… Read more »
erussell1982
Guest

Beautiful post. I’m glad you found a reason for your tiredness and were able to fix it. It’s true that non-moms (I’m one too) feel like they don’t have the right to be tired…

Bianca
Guest

I’ve been tired since like 2007. LOL not a mom though, and I couldn’t imagine how much worst it gets when you have a kid crying at 2 AM because there is a monster in the hallway.

Kat
Guest

So interesting! I often think the same way – I’m tired but not a Mom. I have a crazy work schedule, a blog, and a husband to pay attention to! That easily fills each day. TV, movies, news, books, music, instagram, Facebook, exercising, seeing friends, calling my parents, etc – I realized I will never catch up on absolutely everything. It might be a deficiency but honestly life is just exhausting. I will be sure to make sure my Vitamin D levels are up though – great tip!

Amanda
Guest

I really liked this post. I struggled with tiredness for most of my teenage years and early 20s. As productive as I was I could also sleep 12-15 hrs at a time, and still be exhausted. Turns out I had a low thyroid. No one should ever criticize someone else, especially if you have not been in their shoes. I am glad you found out why!

gingylove
Guest

I get it! I’m a mom now but I did have to combat why I was so tired, even now I deal with it and my baby sleeps through the night 7pm-7am. It’s a way for our bodies to tell us it needs something.

Ophalyn
Guest

Tiredness is the worst thing, I just change my diet and try motivating myself and surround myself with happy and active people:) great post hun!

adventures
Guest

I am sharing this with my daughter who has the same complex. My grandson will be 13 soon and she is just as exhausted now as she was when he was a newborn! She tells me all the time how guilty she feels. Thank you so much for this.

Ciara
Guest

Interesting post. I was always tired in my 20s and now I’m a mum in my 30s and not even as tired! I’ve heard a magnesium supplement can help as u may be deficient. Cheers

Mjchristine
Guest

some good points here, if you are not really in your normal state, doing your normal habits and routine that would be a sign of something health problem so beware! Good read indeed!

Melissa Javan (@melissa_nel)
Guest

I enjoyed reading this. It’s amazing though how tired we are and we often still have or force the energy to attend to kids. Damn tiredness at work though is another thing, keeping your eyes open and your brain alive to think.

Glenna
Guest

I seriously love that you have shared this post! I always feel embarrassed for telling moms that I am tired. They do look at you like you have zero reason to be tired. Also I have never considered a vitamin D deficiency. I need to have a doctor run tests again, but like your experience I am just usually told nope your fine! Glad you are finally feeling motivated again!

Madeline Gillett
Guest

I have definitely felt exhausted and felt like I have no right to be. A change in my diet definitely helped!

Autumn
Guest

I have a thyroid issue which also brings my tiredness to unhealthy levels. I feel the pain girl! My husband also has low vitamin d. I also dropped by to say;
Congratulations! I nominated you for a Blogger Recognition Award! I love your blog and you deserve some love! Click the link to see how to proceed!
http://anywherewithautumn.com/2017/07/15/blogger-recognition-award/

Tara
Guest

There are so many emotions this post brings up for me, namely because I’ve been in your exact position. I hate that no matter the circumstance you weren’t “allowed” to be so exhausted simply because you didn’t have little humans making you that tired. We all cope and respond to the stresses of life differently whether we have a vitamin deficiency or depression or are just plain tired. I think a little more compassion towards each other is much needed! love love love this post!

Urvi Gupta
Guest

I generally end up being tired too. But it is mostly because of excessive work. I am trying to streamline my schedule a little so that I revive my energy levels. Your success story is admirable.

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