The Three Words No Mother Wants To Hear

Three Words No Mother Wants to Hear

I’m sure that almost every single mother out there has heard the following three words at least a few times in their lives.

You look tired…

Consider yourself lucky if you haven’t. Also, can you tell me your secret?

Just last week, two people said this to me. And even after all these years of being a mother, which means being tired and looking tired, I’m never sure how to respond. Well, actually, I know how I would like to answer, which is something along the lines of, ‘Of course I look tired. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in more than 14 years!’

Seriously, has any mother ever responded to being told they look tired with, ‘I really appreciate you telling me I took tired. I had no idea! Thank you ever so much.’

The problem is that it’s not a compliment and it’s not exactly an insult either, although it feels that way. People could say way worse things than you look tired. Yet I can’t help but take it as an insult, and want to immediately hire a personal makeup artist who will be at my beck and call whenever I leave the house. I would love to say, ‘So what you’re really saying is that I look like s**t?’ Because, yes, that’s what people are telling you. That you don’t look refreshed and that pretty much all they can see on your face are the dark circles that never go away and under-eye bags almost as large as your actual hand bag.

The worst? When you’re actually NOT tired, and people still say, ‘You look tired.’ When the second person in one week told me that I looked tired, I really took it to heart. Why? Because, for the first time in months and months, I actually had a solid night’s sleep and was feeling like a peppy cheerleader. The night before, I was so tired that I fell asleep at 7:30 p.m., which gave me ten hours of sleep. Even for me, that’s a lot of sleep. So when this person told me I looked tired the following day, after a glorious ten hour sleep, I was really at a loss for words.

I had to ask myself, ‘Am I always going to look tired, no matter how much sleep I get?’

I don’t know about you, but it feels like once you become a mother, you’re always sleeping with one ear open, which means you never get a perfectly solid night’s sleep. As a mother, you never fully allow yourself to fall into that coma-type sleep, just in case one of your kids cries out and needs you. Once you become a mother, you will never sleep well again, unless you take a child-free vacation, or can ship the kids off to a sleepover. And then, it’s only a bandaid, because once you get back home, you will immediately look and (probably) feel tired again. Which is why so many mommies need a vacation after a vacation.

So, yes, I’ve been tired for 14 years, ever since the day my daughter was born. In fact, I’ve been tired for more than 14 years, because I was the size of a whale when I was pregnant and couldn’t find a comfortable position to sleep in.

Even when I’m away on a solo vacation and my children are at home being taken care of by family members, I still can’t help but worry and miss them and wonder what they’re up to. It’s kind of in a mother’s job description to make sure everyone is safe and happy. So even if I’m alone in a hotel room bed by myself I’m still anxious enough to not be guaranteed a solid night’s sleep. Or stupidly, I’ll decide that NOW’S MY CHANCE TO BINGE WATCH RIVERDALE ON NETFLIX! (Sometimes this mommy can only blame herself for her ‘tired’ face.)

Another problem with the phrase is that, while the sentence itself isn’t sexist, it does seem that telling women they look tired is a bit sexist, in the sense that I have never once told a man that he looks tired. Have you? Do men tell each other they look tired? I’m thinking not.

In the past, if I’ve noticed a friend looks tired, I’ve said something like, ‘Did you have to get up super early today?’ And  I always follow that up with, ‘Are you feeling okay?’ Or, ‘Is everything alright?’ But when it’s someone who is only an acquaintance, or a colleague, or a stranger, they should only say ‘You look tired,’ if they’re going to follow that up with, ‘Can I take your children for a couple nights?’ Or, ‘Hey, you look tired. Let me do your laundry and cook your family dinner tonight, and I’ll also take care of carpool this week.’

In fact, maybe next time I’ll respond with, ‘Yes, you’re right. I look tired because I am so tired and thank you for noticing. Since you seem concerned, do you want to help me out with my to-do list? You do one to five and I’ll take care of six through 10?’

Let’s just agree that almost every mother is tired. We don’t need people pointing it out. Especially since this is just my face and I’m not sure that’s ever going to go away. So…yeah.

What’s your biggest pet peeve when it comes to others pointing out something oh-so-obvious?

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