I recently found myself standing in Target, unable to move. I stared intently at the boxes of pasta, trying to appear deep in thought on the relative merits of angel hair vs. rotini and hoping nobody noticed that I was no longer sure how to put one foot in front of the other. Exhaustion had spread into the very core of my being, and I could no longer power through—I am a burned-out mother. I glanced at my shopping list and wondered when I’d learned to write in a foreign language because I couldn’t make sense of the words. I had simply forgotten how shopping works.
I have also forgotten how to be motivated to do the things that normally come easily to me. I understand that there are tasks that need to be done, and I can rally enough to get through the ones necessary for survival. Outside of that, I find myself eating ice cream at 9:30 in the morning, or going to bed while there is still light in the sky because I’m tapped out. The to-do list has grown crushing and loud, and I choose to duck and cover to shelter myself, rather than face it head on.
Imagine being stuck in the middle of a marching band parade where everybody is playing a different song, terribly and off-key. You’re getting trampled, and you can’t breathe or escape. You can’t think straight about how to get out of it because all you can hear is terrible, loud music drowning out everything else.
Every single thing that happens in my life feels like someone has added another poorly tuned instrument. Child melts down—here’s another tuba. Baby gets a fever—have a bass drum. Something breaks and needs cash—crash cymbal. I want to make a “more cowbell” joke right here, but I’m just too tired.
I have arrived at burnout, and nobody has even given me a stupid t-shirt. I watch the kids make messes that I both don’t have the will to stop or the energy to deal with. I feel like the part of my brain that makes me me has retreated into the recesses of my skull, and that I am watching my life as a spectator. The mail arrives and I just set it down and back away. My phone rings and I don’t answer. I have to really concentrate to force myself to get up and go pee.
I am currently seeking a personal assistant to run my life. The ideal candidate will have experience in kindergarten homework, deciphering what my kids are crying about now, and the popular games Find the Other Shoe and Is That Contagious? You will be expected to organize mountains of paperwork, as well as a stack of identical mermaid drawings that my daughter considers very important. A high tolerance for sleep deprivation is a plus.
This is an unpaid internship, but don’t worry, it’ll be great for your resume! A small cookie stipend is available (after you bake them). You’ll also have to do the dishes, because I just can’t.