Mom’s Post on Living in “Survival Mode” Captures What Raising Small Kids Is Really Like

Image source: Liz Petrone

January marks that wonderful time of year where most of start making lofty resolutions as to how we’ll better ourselves in the year ahead. A nice concept in theory, but let’s be real — what about those of us who are literally just trying to get through the day in one piece? The ones who are operating in more of a survival mode than anything else?

Sometimes, life is simply about putting one foot in front of the other — especially when it comes to parenting. And that’s precisely why one mom’s recent post about parenting in “survival mode” is striking such a chord. In it, writer Liz Petrone gets to the heart of why some of us struggle a little more this time of year, when resolutions feel damn near impossible and just getting to bedtime feels daunting.

Petrone begins with a raw and honest declaration: “No one told me how much of life was just survival mode.”

Oh, how true those words really are. It’s something we don’t often talk about, but many feel deeply.

Petrone writes that while some told her life would be amazing (and at times, it is) and that it would be hard (also very true), no one really told it like it was. “No one told me how a lot of the time you just have to hold on,” she writes, “a white knuckled death grip the only thing standing between being here and drifting off like an untethered balloon towards madness or the heavens, same diff.”

This hit me on a personal level. Like most people, I have good days and bad. I also struggle with depression. On a bad day, I find myself overwhelmed by a pervasive feeling of just not wanting to do it all anymore. It’s not that I want my life to end, or that I don’t want to be a mother anymore. It’s more of a mental exhaustion that permeates my entire being. It’s a feeling of depletion, as well as hopelessness. And Petrone gets it.

Parenting young children is the ultimate juxtaposition. It consists of equal parts complete and utter exhaustion mixed with moments of sheer wonder and boundless love. It is days filled with wonderment, and days where time seems to stand still with monotony and challenges.

We can often enter this survival mode due to “depression or loss or the good ol’ flu,” writes Petrone. “Sometimes we’re all jacked up for no good reason at all and that counts too,” she continues, “because it’s still a thing that needs to be slogged through, one breath in, one breath out.”

And that is what it all comes back to, doesn’t it? Sometimes it’s enough just to survive.

Petrone writes that it was actually her mother who gave her the advice that when things get tough, you have to take it one day at a time, one hour at a time, or even one minute at a time.

“Maybe I’m weaker than her, but I’ve amended it to one breath at a time,” she goes on to say, adding “I used that to move through whole piles of days on end where it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t elegant but it was one foot in front of the other and breathe in, breathe out, keep going.”

Petrone tells Babble that the idea for her post was sparked by the mounting pressures so many of us feel “to become better versions of ourselves this time of year.”

If all you did in 2017 was survive, that’s enough.
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“There are so many things I would love to do,” she continues. “Exercise more, eat better, make time for meditation and yoga and ladies nights and dates with my husband and go to bed on time and clean and organize my life … but so often between working full-time and raising four kids I feel like I am just barely hanging on by the skin of my teeth, and I hear that a lot from my friends too.”


At the end of her post, Petrone admits that there’s nothing inherently wrong with making New Year’s resolutions. In fact, the motivation people are feeling right now is actually pretty awesome. But she does offer up some council for some of her readers, who might be focusing on just getting through, or bummed by the end of the month when their resolutions inevitably fall by the wayside.

Image source: Liz Petrone

“I know today is day one for a lot of us and there are a lot of lofty proclamations being made and goals being set and that’s awesome,” she writes. “Aim high, my friends. Rock on. But I want to say one thing before we move any further into the golden light of 2018: If all you did in 2017 was survive, that’s enough.”

Amen, sister!

Depression has caused me to have many days where all I could do is survive. I also have days where I feel energetic and excited about life — where I feel like I can accomplish anything. The point is, those days where I’m in survival mode don’t make me a bad person, or a bad mother. They simply make me a human being who is doing my best every day — whatever that may look like.

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