'Mums don't own being tired. There, I said it.'

Hey mums, I know you're tired, but I'm tired too.

Before you accuse me of being a total a**hole who ‘doesn’t get it’... you’re right – I don’t get it.

Because I don’t actually have kids.

(*Covers eyes and hopes not to get pelted with rotten tomatoes.*)

I’m just a single, child-free gal, working my full-time job, side-hustling like a mofo in my spare (lol) time, trying to keep my s**t together and my dog fed.

And It Is Tiring.

Listen: The hosts of The Spill talk about Abbie Chatfield's honest mental health reveal. Post continues below.

I have a lot of respect for the mamas out there. I have many mum friends (actually, most of my girlfriends are mothers at this point – I’m in the minority over here), and it must be said, not a single one of them has ever personally invalidated my non-child-related tiredness.

But the general sentiment from wider society seems to be:

“You don’t know what it means to be tired until you’ve had kids.”

And gosh, that’s a line I am tired (no pun intended) of hearing.

It’s a throwaway comment that’s usually said with a laugh and a knowing look, but the impact it has can be bigger than you might expect.

In the face of those comments, us non-mums can end up feeling like our own struggles and stress don’t matter; that they aren’t as important, or worthy of recognition or heck, even speaking up about.

It’s why, when Abbie Chatfield posted about her own overwhelm and exhaustion on Instagram recently, I felt a nice warm ‘seen’ feeling in my belly (as well as feeling for her because girl, I get it). It was – dare I say it – refreshing to see a single, child-free gal like myself, admit that all the other life stuff was piling on and s**t is hard, even when you’re not trying to keep a small person or two (or three…) alive at the same time.


As Laura Brodnik, who co-hosts Mamamia’s The Spill podcast, said, “I found it really refreshing that a woman who isn’t married or doesn’t have children was able to talk about being very busy and overwhelmed. Personally, because I didn’t have kids and I’m single, I feel like I can never say, ‘I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, I’m stressed,’ because people who have kids respond with, ‘Oh, God. You don’t know what tired is’, or, ‘Wait til you have kids’, or ‘You don’t know what stress is.’”


Don’t get me wrong, just by looking at #mumife I can see that parenting brings with it a whole new level of exhaustion, worry and stress that is wildly different to anything many of us non-parents have ever felt. I don’t envy that. That shit seems HARD.

And to the mums reading this, tutting, shaking your heads, deciding I’m public enemy no. 1 – I think you’re amazing (even if you don’t think I am for bringing this up). No, really – I am in genuine awe of what mums do. 

I am 99.8 per cent certain I would simply fall down and die if I had to live my own hectic life while trying to sustain another small one at the same time.

But you know what else is tiring? Or, I guess I should say, tiresome?

Having my own experience of life invalidated because I happen to be on a different path.

Being made to feel like I don't deserve to be tired.

That I should be able to handle all that’s thrown at me because one of those things isn’t a child.

That I don’t actually do enough to warrant feeling totally worn out sometimes.

Watch: Holly Wainwright and Mia Freedman talk about becoming your mother on Out Loud. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

I know that so many mums feel unseen because they do so much work that doesn’t get recognised – and yet, from the POV of a woman on the other side, it can feel like nothing I do is ever going to be worthy enough when I’m being held up again the incredible people who are out there ‘doing it ALL’.

I’m not resentful of mums. God, no! Overwhelmingly, what I feel is guilt – that I do not have the right to complain, to be struggling under the weight of an intensely busy life, because one of the things stressing me out isn’t a mini-me (arguably the biggest job of all).

It’s not even a thing that the mums in my life make me feel, either. My friends with kids all know that hectic lifestyles can exist outside of having a family! In fact, it actually isn’t even really a ‘mum’ thing at all. It's a society thing; a general ‘vibe’ that whispers that my burnout isn’t burned-out enough.

I do make a conscious effort not to complain to my mum friends when I’m burnt out or beyond exhausted, because I truly don’t want to be a d**k, and I know they have a s**t-ton on their plates. And if I do let slip that I am s-t-r-u-g-g-l-i-n-g some days, I’m very quick to apologise.

Not that my mum mates find that necessary. A good friend at work was… horrified when I fell into a pile of apologies after having a whinge that I was bloody exhausted one day.

“Why are you sorry?!” she cried. “You’re allowed to be tired!”

But that’s not really what society tells us non-mums, is it?

“I feel bad complaining,” I told her. “I mean, I can’t even imagine how tired you must be…”


She waved me away. Ridiculous! Of course you can be tired! Everyone can be tired! We all have the right to be tired! 

Let them eat cake be tired!

Funnily, when I was tossing these thoughts (very tentatively – it’s a scary and uncomfortable thing to say anything that might be misconstrued as anti-mum) around the Mamamia office, not only was there unbridled support from mamas and child-free folks alike, but one of my workmates chimed in that she’s actually less tired now that she has kids.

“I am an extrovert and used to pack my social calendar so full, I was constantly on the go,” she told me. 

“Now I have kids, I say no more much more, because I’m busy with school pickups, getting ready for bedtime… I know that’s not everyone’s experience, but I am more rested as a mum!”

So, yes. I am making the declaration: I am tired.

I’m tired of feeling like my tiredness isn't enough because I don’t have children. 

But most of all I’m tired of this silent war between women; the competition for who’s got it worse, for who’s the most exhausted, the most burnt out, the closest to the edge.

Mums, I hear you. You’re tired. I am too – and I hope you can find it in your hearts to see that my overwhelm, stress and busyness are just as valid as your own.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Alix Nicholson is Mamamia's Managing Editor. Want to catch more of her adventures in travel, beauty, lifestyle and #dogmum life? Head on over to her Instagram

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