Mentally Tired with a Toddler

Last year when my husband and I made the decision to try for a second child, as a mom of a toddler, I had some…

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Last year when my husband and I made the decision to try for a second child, as a mom of a
toddler, I had some idea of what I was getting myself into. Flashbacks of exhaustion-filled
nights, operating on two hours of sleep or less, while inhabiting a new body that seemed
foreign to me with physical pain from the chest down was not something I was eager to jump
back into. My husband and I had vivid memories of the challenges of navigating breast-feeding,
being constantly wet (whether from leaky breasts, spit-up, being peed or pooped on, or some
combination of them all), and struggling to maintain a balance of home responsibilities within
the minimum amount of time between feedings. We knew it was going to be tough walking
freely into all of that chaos again. But we also knew the amazing reward that comes with a new
baby. We loved becoming parents to our first son, and we were ready to make the sacrifices to
relive the difficult times, if it meant having the opportunity to fall in love all over again with a
new baby.
I thought I had a good grasp of what I could anticipate, but life has a way of throwing you
curveballs.
I can honestly say, now with a 3 week old newborn, I am actually less physically exhausted than
I anticipated I would be. Somehow over the course of the last 3 years with my first son, I think
my body has gradually adjusted to operating on less sleep. Where I once needed 8-9 hours to
feel fully refreshed, I can now function quite normally on 5-6 hours with a short mid-day nap.
The birth of my second child also had the benefit of being a VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section)
vs. the C-section birth of my first. While a vaginal birth is more physically taxing in the moment,
I can say from my own experience that a C-section recovery is more physically taxing over time.
Having freedom of movement from the waist down within a few days -vs a few weeks or even
months –( as experienced with a C-section recovery) has made a huge difference in my ability to
physically care for a newborn.
While I’m happy to report my physical recovery is much smoother this go-around, what I
grossly under-calculated was the mental fatigue and stamina that would be required with
two in tow.
With a new baby at home, somehow it is still my first-born that is requiring the majority of
my energy, only this time it’s the mental, not the physical stamina that I’m lacking.
Suddenly newborn babies seem so simple, they are on a rotating schedule of eat, sleep, poop
repeat – and while it’s round-the-clock – it’s also routinely predictable. My three year old on
the other hand, is a tsunami of unknowns.
With the looming threat of COVID-19 to our newborn, we made the decision to take our toddler
out of school back in March. With both parents working from home, the structured activities
have fallen to the wayside and it’s been difficult to maintain a routine schedule that doesn’t

somehow get interrupted by conference calls, tantrums, and now the immediate needs of a
newborn. The absence of a school-day routine and caregiver has forced our eldest to become
more reliant on mom and dad for mental stimulation throughout the day. This results in the
need for a parent to constantly be researching, creating, or inventing new activities to keep
our child stimulated and engaged for the 15-30 minute intervals that his attention-span will
sustain. The result is total mental exhaustion.
There seems to be a constant barrage of questions that come on repeat, despite your
persistence to continue delivering the same answer. I mean really, how many times can my
toddler ask if he can turn the ‘Robot’ (our Roomba vacuum) on? The answer is too many to
count. And is the definition of insanity watching Cars 3 for the thousandth time this week? It’s
utterly exhausting repeating yourself over and over again on what seems like deaf ears. “Brush
your teeth, wash your hands, pull up your pants…” narrating a toddler’s every movement to
reinforce routine can drive you mad. Not to mention the endless poop jokes.
As my soon-to-be preschooler’s vocabulary is budding, where I once delighted at his ability to
learn new words and phrases, I now long for the days of quiet mornings we spent with our first-
born as he slept in the baby swing between feedings. With one child, the silence of a baby is
only broken with cries for feedings or diaper changes. With two children, there is very rarely a
moment of quiet. Now those quiet daytime feedings with my second baby are filled with
constant questions, demands, and playful banter from my toddler. It brings me joy to see my
first-born’s excitement and curiosity about his new brother, but it’s also tiring in a completely
new way.
Today our days are full of repeat question-and-answer exercises mixed in with the occasional
power struggle – only to resume the following day as if they never took place to begin with. It’s
totally normal for preschool aged kids to rear their curiosity, repeat phrases, and reenact
events but for parents it can be extremely taxing mentally.
Even as I write this my brain is in a fog, listening with one ear for the cries of the baby, while
voicing an airplane as I play with my son and the TV blares in the background. While my love
for my babies remains strong, I mourn the loss of the quiet.

So parents, as this school year resumes with its own unique set of challenges, remember to
brace yourselves, not only for the physical exhaustion, but for the mental fatigue as well. While
I wish I could offer a simple solution for dealing with the mounting mental noise, I don’t claim
to have all the answers and I’m still trying to navigate this new challenge myself. But if you’re
busy doing some back-to-school shopping, go ahead and add a pair of noise-cancelling
headphones to the list for yourself, you’ll thank me later 😉 Here’s a pair I swear by:

https://amzn.to/2DgOCgm

About Kristin Merron
Kristin Merron is a boy-mom of two, William (3) and Benjamin (newborn), who resides in Carrollton, TX with her husband Matt. Originally from Chicago, IL she moved to Dallas, TX in 2011. She has a professional background in Communications and has worked as a full-time mom, a part-time mom, a work-from-home mom, and is now navigating life as a stay-at-home mom. She joined CECPTA in November 2019 and is part of the PURPLE and RED playgroups. When not quarantining from a global pandemic she enjoys travel, exploring new places in and around DFW with her kids, having date-night with her husband at the movies, playing board games with friends, and seeking out the best burger and queso at any number of area restaurants.