Mom Fatigue Syndrome. It’s real, it’s pervasive, and it creeps into every facet of a mom’s life leading to overwhelm, exhaustion, anxiety, and feeling like you’re stuck in a big, fat fog—a Mom Fog.
But in trying to get unstuck, moms frequently use methods and techniques that don’t work with the way their brain is wired. They begin to blame themselves, perpetuating the problem, and end up with no energy, no joy, and no motivation to make things better.
So today, author Hannah Keeley will unpack what Mom Fog is, how the mom brain is different, and how moms can move from low energy to high hope. And surprisingly, the key to making things better starts with giving up on changing your circumstances.
Moms are often told to figure it out and fix it! But Hannah explains why it’s best to not try to change your circumstances. And when you let go of the pressure to do something about it, you’ll see the mom fog finally begin to lift.
Sounds good, right?
Well, if you’ve already listened to the podcast, be sure to jot down this quote from John Stott:
Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.
Hannah Keeley is a Parenting Expert, a Forbes Coaches Council member, and a Master Life Coach who combines faith and psychology to help moms create radical transformation in their lives! Hannah currently lives near Richmond, Virginia with her husband Blair and is a mom to Kelsey, Katie, Kyler, Karis, Korben, Klara, and Kenna.
The Truth Challenge
After listening to the podcast, I encourage you to take The Truth Challenge: 5 Days to Healthier Self-Talk! It’s a FREE resource to help you say goodbye to the lies that fill your mind and replace them with healthier self-talk rooted in biblical truth.
[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]
Books & Bible Studies by Jennifer Rothschild
- Invisible: How You Feel is Not Who You Are
- Invisible for Young Women: How You Feel is Not Who You Are
More from Hannah Keeley
- Visit Hannah’s website
- Mom Fog: 8 Steps to Overcoming Mom Fatigue Syndrome
- The Mom Fog Challenge
- Follow Hannah on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Related Blog Posts
- Can I Stop Being a Control Freak Mom? With Crystal Paine [Episode 150]
- Can I Choose Community Over Self Reliance? With Heather MacFadyen [Episode 191]
- Can I Give Up on Perfect? With Scarlet Hiltibidal [Episode 212]
- Can I Develop the Mind of Christ? With Denise Pass [Episode 237]
- Can I Get Unstuck From Old Thinking Patterns? With Allison Fallon [Episode 144]
- Can I Get a Handle on My Negative Self-Talk? [Episode 3]
- Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to the 4:13 Podcast here.
- Were you encouraged by this podcast? Reviews help the 4:13 Podcast reach more women with the “I can” message. Click here to leave a review on iTunes.
4:13 Podcast: Can I Overcome Mom Fatigue? With Hannah Keeley [Episode 258]
Hannah Keeley: Mom Fog is that feeling that you have of overwhelm, lack of focus. Walk into a room, you can't remember why you were there. You feel like you can't pay attention. You start things, you can't finish it. But here's the crazy thing, is that we think there's something wrong with us, Jennifer. And the whole time we don't really understand that it's just how our brain has evolved as a mom.
Jennifer Rothschild: Mom Fatigue Syndrome, it is real, it is pervasive, and it creeps into every facet of a mom's life, which leads to overwhelm and exhaustion, fatigue, and feeling like you're stuck in a big, fat Mom Fog. A Mom Fog. Today, author Hannah Keeley is going to unpack what that actually is and how the Mom Brain is different and how moms can move from low energy to high hope. It is going to be so good. Whether you're a mom or not, you're going to love this conversation. It is time to clear the fog and get some biblical wisdom and practical encouragement. So here we go.
K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast -- we're so glad you're here -- where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
Now, welcome your host, Jennifer Rothschild.
Jennifer Rothschild: Hello. Or shall I say Ciao, my people. I have been in Italy. This is Jennifer, here to help you be and do more than you feel capable as you live the "I Can" life. And I'm telling you, Scripture does that for us. The Holy Spirit empowers us, Christ in us helps us.
K.C. Wright: Yes.
Jennifer Rothschild: You know what else helps us? Going to Italy. Just kidding. Y'all, I have missed you, K.C., I have missed you, but I had a wonderful time. I got to be with two of our 4:13ers on this trip, actually.
K.C. Wright: What?
Jennifer Rothschild: Yes. Angela and Christy. They're listening right now. Ciao. And they have been my friends forever, but they actually listen to The 4:13 also. Angela had been my assistant for many years before she moved, and she was wonderful, and we're still friends. And Christy had done some road management for another artist and then helped me a lot --
K.C. Wright: Wow.
Jennifer Rothschild: -- on some of my travels. And, of course, she's my friend also. So we just had a divine time and drank lots of cappuccinos.
K.C. Wright: Yeah. Come on.
Jennifer Rothschild: It was so wonderful. I was like, "I want to bring back some olive oil." And they're both single. They're like, "I want to bring back an Italian man." Anyway, I came home with olive oil. I'm not going to disclose whether they came home with men. They didn't.
K.C. Wright: Because you got Dr. Phil.
Jennifer Rothschild: I got my own man.
K.C. Wright: That's right.
Jennifer Rothschild: I got my own Casanova.
K.C. Wright: Yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: But I did take some audio pictures. So once I get completely unpacked and back in this time zone, I will put some of those together and post them, because I want you to be able to be part of this trip with me. This conversation, though -- I'm just going to say, I know a little bit about fatigue because of jet lag.
K.C. Wright: Yeah, yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: But I have a daughter-in-law who is incredible with her three little -- well, actually, just recently, four little people, and I see this mom fatigue thing, this Mom Brain. So I'm glad we're having this conversation. So make sure if you've got someone in your life who you know is in the thick of this, make sure she gets to hear this episode, because Hannah Keeley is a behavioral therapist. That was her original training.
K.C. Wright: Wow.
Jennifer Rothschild: She's applied it specifically to a mom's life and a mom's brain. Super practical. So let's introduce Hannah and then get to this conversation.
K.C. Wright: Hannah Keeley is a parenting expert, a Forbes Coaches Council member, and a Master Life Coach who combines faith and psychology to help moms just like you create radical transformation in their lives. Hannah currently lives near Richmond, Virginia, with her husband, Blair, and is a mom to Kelsey, Katie, Kyler, and -- Karis? --
Jennifer Rothschild: Karis.
K.C. Wright: -- Korben --
Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, my goodness.
K.C. Wright: -- Klara, and Kenna. That was such a mouthful and so adorable at the same time.
Jennifer Rothschild: It was. I'm exhausted.
K.C. Wright: I know. That's so cute. That was a mouthful. Man, now I have mom fatigue. Good thing I'm listening to this podcast. I'm exhausted from just talking about her kids.
Jennifer Rothschild: Hannah, we're just going to cut right to it. Okay? We're going to start with this. Moms feel it, but they may not always be able to name what they're feeling and experiencing. I think you might call it Mom Fog. So let's start right there. Tell us what that is.
Hannah Keeley: Oh, my goodness. I know that probably every mom out there to some extent can identify with this. But Mom Fog is that feeling that you have of overwhelm; lack of focus; walk in a room, you can't remember why you were there; you feel like you can't pay attention; you start things, you can't finish it. But here's the crazy thing, is that we think there's something wrong with us, Jennifer, and the whole time we don't really understand that it's just how our brain has evolved as a mom. And we hate the things that are actually -- that God has put in our heads to really help us make a difference as a mom. If we knew more about how our brains operated as moms, I think it would give us so much freedom, and no condemnation of ourselves, and it would really give us our power back as moms.
Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, I'm loving this. And I want to ask you in a minute very specifically about that, like, how our brains work differently as moms. Okay? But before we get there, I want to know about you personally. Because you've got, like, how many kids? Seven? Is that right?
Hannah Keeley: At last count -- no, I'm just joking. Yes, seven. And I have four grandkids, so -- I mean, I've been doing this for decades, I have been coaching moms for decades, I've discovered these principles that work with the Mom Brain. So, yeah, I kind of had to go through the whole baptism by fire as well.
Jennifer Rothschild: That's what I was wondering. So did you learn all this the hard way?
Hannah Keeley: Well, the thing is when I started becoming a mom, I actually quit -- I was a behavior therapist, and I quit that to stay home with my kids. But the crazy thing is I felt like I was losing my mind. Like, we were drowning in debt, the house was cluttered. I was depressed, I had anxiety. It was so bad and I'm thinking, what in the world is wrong with me? Like, I was a behavior therapist. I know this stuff. Why isn't it working for me? Why can't -- I can help clients, but I can't help myself.
And so that's what really led me on this journey of understanding what happened when I became a mom with my head, like, what actually happened in my brain, so that I could have a little more mercy with myself and also develop strategies that worked with my brain as a mom. And then discovering these strategies, that's how I've been able to help other moms. It's like, there's nothing wrong with you. You're not broken. It's just what happened.
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and so what I'm loving about that is you just set it up, girl, because not only do you have the real-life experience of seeing how this feels and knowing how this feels, but you've had some professional training and expertise, and I think that is a beautiful combination. So let's move there and let's just talk about a mom's brain. Okay? I know you talk about, in your book, Mom Fatigue Syndrome and Mom Brain. So give us a little bit of education here.
Hannah Keeley: Oh, totally. And I will do this as fast as I can, because I know moms have an attention span the size of a ladybug. So I'm going to -- let me get in and out.
So what happens is when we become -- when we go through pregnancy, our brain actually changes anatomically. So now we have a loss of gray matter, which -- it's like, okay, why would God make me lose my brain when I need it most -- right? --
Jennifer Rothschild: Right.
Hannah Keeley: -- when I become a mom? But what happens is we have an expanded cognitive field. So when we become a mom, our brain changes so that we're able to pick up on more potential dangers surrounding us. Because now we're not just responsible for our life, we're responsible for others' lives, like our kids. And our brain is designed for our safety, not for our success. It's designed to keep us alive. So it's always looking for potential threats and risks out there.
Now, when you have a baby, your brain just opened up to, like, the quantum level. Like, now I can see all potential dangers around me. Which is why I leave my cup of coffee on the roof of the car when I drive away, or which is why I walk in a room and I can't remember, or I start a project and I leave it. It's not like ADHD or I can't focus or I have no willpower, it's all because our brain has changed and now I am picking up on all the signals all around me all the time for potential threats. Like, you might recognize this as a mom if, like, you -- they call it mother's intuition, where it's like, no, I kind of think something's wrong. Like, no, she came home from school and -- no one else sees it, but we're like, no, something happened. And we talk and she, you know, got bullied that day or something. Or maybe we grab our kid's arm right before this truck comes speeding through the parking lot. Things like this is because our brain has now evolved to pick up on more signals in our environment for threats that could hurt our children, which comes at a sacrifice.
Jennifer Rothschild: Right.
Hannah Keeley: So now we can't focus the way we used to, we can't do the things we used to do. We will start a diet and by 4 PM, we blew it. Like, we don't have the same type of processing ability. And the worst thing a mom can do is think there's something wrong with her, because we -- I mean, God allowed us to develop a brain so that we can keep our children safe. It does come at a cost. But if we know how to work with our brain, then we can start to change how we make progress, change how we do things around the house, change how we manage our tasks, and we can actually get so much more done if we know how to operate with the way our brain is working.
Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. So one of the things you said, that I think might be revolutionary for a lot of moms hearing right now, is that God is rewiring our brain in motherhood for safety, not success. Yet we live in a success-driven society. We want to succeed. We would love to be able to fold our laundry and put it away. You know what I'm saying?
Hannah Keeley: Yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: So here's what you've done. You've created the Mom Mastery Method. And my understanding is it has eight steps. So can you just give us kind of like a brief understanding of what they are. You know, just an overview. Because your book is where we want to direct women, because that's going to really teach us. But give us an idea of what these eight steps are.
Hannah Keeley: I absolutely can. Before I do that, though, let me tell you what moms typically do. And I think this is going to be another, like, oh, my gosh, what? As you said, we live in a very success-driven world. Right? So when a mom comes across a problem, like, well, I can't keep up with my laundry anymore. My house is a wreck, we're always in overdraft. I am screaming at the kids. I have anxiety, I have depression. When we start to experience those things as a result of our new way of thinking, what do we do? We go to Google. We search things. We search decluttering programs, we search diets, we search budgeting software, we search relationship help. And 99% of these programs are created by someone who does not have Mom Brain. So now we try the same diets -- and it's got a ton of testimonials. "I lost 48 pounds in three minutes," or, you know, "I got out of debt within a month." And we're like -- we try it and it's like, wait, why is this not working for me?
And this is what I need your mom listeners to know right now. Like, if you've gotten distracted -- which you have because you're a mom -- listen just to what I'm about to tell you. Solutions for non-moms are often problems for moms. So the very thing you're doing to try to change your life, your attention span, your body, your emotions could actually come back and hurt you because it's setting you up for failure. It's not designed to work with your Mom Brain. And now at the end of it you're going to feel like a failure because the program failed you -- you didn't fail the program -- but you feel like a failure, and now that sets you up for this condition called learned helplessness. And, now, in moms it's called Mom Fatigue Syndrome. And it sounds like this: Why even try? What's the point?
Jennifer Rothschild: And I see that. I see that. I have felt that. I get it. And so if you see this weight loss program or this decluttering program, and everyone seems successful and you can't pull it off as a mom, then what is the solution? Because we are not helpless. We may have learned helplessness, but we are not helpless. So what do we do?
Hannah Keeley: So one of the number one precepts that really the Mom Mastery Method is built upon is -- and I know this sounds crazy, Jennifer, so I hope you're sitting down -- is to stop trying to change the circumstances. Now, this seems like, wait, are you saying, like, to stop trying to get organized? Are you saying to stop trying to lose weight? Are you saying to stop trying to work on having more patience with my kids? Absolutely. 100% that's what I'm saying, is stop trying to change what has already been manifested in your life and release yourself of that.
And now we're going to go to the thought. And this is what's so crazy. Because we are so trained to do, right? We make To-Do lists. Which for a mom never gets to done, right? We're making To-Do lists. And immediately if you have a problem, what do we think, Jennifer? What's the first thing that comes up in our head when we have a problem? What am I going --
Jennifer Rothschild: To do. I got to solve this.
Hannah Keeley: To do, yes.
Jennifer Rothschild: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Hannah Keeley: And so we think, I've got to do something, I've got to do something. And so the number one thing I help moms with is releasing yourself of that feeling like you have to do something about it. You're not going to. Like, that's the craziest thing. When clients first come in to do sessions with me, or when a mom first gets into Mom Mastery University, they're like, Wait. I don't do anything? It's like, No, no. We're going to not do anything right now. We're just going to think. We're just going to be. We're just going to work on those thoughts that are actually driving the clutter and the weight gain and the depression and the anxiety and the yelling, all that kind of stuff. We're going to work on the thoughts.
And so this is what's so weird. When someone goes through Mom Fog -- like, let's say they pick up a copy of the book and they start going through these steps, and they're like, Well, shouldn't I be doing something? No. You should just be practicing this Mom Mastery Method. Let's just do this, and just -- it's almost like -- you know when God says, Test me in this and see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out so much that you can't even hold it all, right? I almost feel like, just test it, just test it. You've tried everything. You tried the diets.
Jennifer Rothschild: You got nothing to lose. Yeah, got nothing to lose.
Hannah Keeley: You got nothing to lose. Just try it.
And so the first thing we work on is taking massive action to release ourselves of that and work on the thoughts. We get the coaching around the thoughts, around who we are, our bodies, our time, our emotions. We get the thoughts down. And as soon as you can get the thoughts wired in a way that lines up with God's Word and what God says about you, then everything kind of just takes over from there.
I remember a mom writing in a few months ago, and she's like, "I got into Mom Mastery University so I could get my house organized." And she's like, "For some reason, the first month I was in, I lost 15 pounds and my marriage got better." Like, how did that happen? Because we're working on the core beliefs that are pushing the behavior forward. And so as you get that coaching, all of a sudden it starts to change how your brain is processing information, and now you're able to do those things like stay organized, like eat healthy, like have more patience with your kids, without intentionally even making that a task.
Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. So that reminds me -- and I know as a behavior therapist, this just sounds like exactly where you would go with this, which I appreciate. Because it reminds me of a John Scott quote. He said, "If you sow a thought, you will reap an action. You sow an action, you will reap a habit. You sow habit, you reap character. You sow character, you reap destiny." So what you're saying is, forget the To-Do list. Let's go with the thoughts first, because that is from where the action, habits, character, and destiny springs.
Hannah Keeley: Absolutely.
Jennifer Rothschild: I love it, but it's hard, Hannah.
Hannah Keeley: But, see, that's where we go -- in the Word of God it says, "Labor to enter into that secret place." Right? To labor to enter into the rest. And if we can do -- I call it the easiest hardest work. Like, we're always trained to get up and hustle and grind and accomplish something. But the easiest hardest place to be is can I allow myself to do the hardest work, which is around my thoughts, which will actually give me a greater return on my investment. Like, for a mom, time is so valuable. I believe time is the most valuable resource for a mom. So if I can give her -- like, if I can give her eight hours back in her day, imagine what a blessing that would be, right?
Jennifer Rothschild: Right.
Hannah Keeley: So I'm going to show her how to wire her thoughts in such a way that she feels like she gets eight hours back. That she is ten times more productive, that she is ten times more joyful. That she overcomes depression and anxiety. That she's able to have, like, wonderful, uplifting conversations. This gives her her life back. So although it has the greatest return, it's extraordinarily counterintuitive. Because a mom is designed, I got to do something. So instead of, like -- you know, we're taught, like, don't just sit there; do something. But I come in and I say, Don't just do something; sit there. And if we can work with our thoughts, then the doing just takes over naturally. It's almost like just an effect, just like one of those benefits that we have with working on our thoughts.
Jennifer Rothschild: So, Hannah, does that mean that -- so if you have eight steps to this system, if the first is managing your thoughts, rewiring your thoughts, does that mean that the following steps are unique to each mom, or are they standardized?
Hannah Keeley: No, these are standard steps. So actually, the first four steps is all doing the intrinsic work, doing that work of here's how to take action toward thought. Here's how to start changing what you're visualizing. Here's how to change the internal dialog. This is all helping you with your thoughts.
Now, as soon as we get that done, the last four steps are, okay, so now how do we turn these actions into habits? How do we turn these into things that will bless areas of our life? But we have to do the thought work before we can do the action work. And I could go through every step, but it wouldn't make sense if I didn't first help you understand that the thoughts have to come before the feelings, the feelings come before the actions, and the actions are what create your circumstance.
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, you know, and here's the thing, let's be honest. A lot of moms listening right now. If you gave the steps, they would just bypass quickly the thoughts, the feelings --
Hannah Keeley: Absolutely.
Jennifer Rothschild: -- the core beliefs.
Hannah Keeley: They would. They would.
Jennifer Rothschild: It would become a To-Do list. And that is, I think, the brilliance of what you're offering, is this opportunity to just chill and let's start from the very beginning. Because as a woman -- as a mom thinks, so is she. And so that will be the blossoming fruit of her life.
So what I appreciate about your perspective and your book, your resource -- I'm going to call it a resource -- is that it is a companion for the mom who's feeling a little bit confused. So I think what kind of might be happening for a listener is a mom is feeling this weird tension angst of hope. Oh, my gosh, Hannah gets me and she's got a way to help me, and, Oh, crud. I'm sitting in the middle of my life and look at it. When do I have time? When can I do anything about this? So that's going to lead me to this last question, Hannah. If a mom right now is listening, and she is completely exhausted and she is completely overwhelmed, what is the first thing that she can do when this podcast ends?
Hannah Keeley: I would definitely get someone on my side. So here's the thing. The enemy always wants to isolate us. He always wants us to feel like no one else has it as hard as we have. I'm in it alone, no one understands me. So getting plugged in to other moms that are doing this is going to be so extraordinarily helpful for you. And I would go to momfog.com. Just a way to get started. Like, at least get that book in your hand. Like, be plugged in to a Facebook group that is helping you and encouraging you. All of this is accessible for you, but you may just not know what the first step is. The first step is get -- I feel like in the Bible it says, how do we get wisdom? We get wisdom. So how do we do this? We just get plugged in. Like, that is the first step, is get a resource that's designed to work with your Mom Brain and not against it.
Jennifer Rothschild: You heard Hannah. The enemy wants to isolate us so that we think that we are the only ones who are feeling what we're feeling or experiencing what we're experiencing, and it is a lie. So get plugged in with other moms. Well, you don't even just have to be a mom. Like I said, get involved and plugged in with other people who are in the same life space that you are in.
K.C. Wright: Yes. And that applies to all of us --
Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, it does.
K.C. Wright: -- not just moms.
Jennifer Rothschild: That's right.
K.C. Wright: We need each other.
But Hannah's book is such a great resource for moms. So if you know someone who's just in the thick of it right now, of motherhood, what a wonderful gift for her. But just don't give her the book. Put some chocolate in there.
Jennifer Rothschild: A to the men.
K.C. Wright: And all the moms said Amen.
Jennifer Rothschild: Amen.
K.C. Wright: So go to the Show Notes now at 413podcast.com/258 to get connected to all Hannah's resources, including the challenge she mentioned and the book.
We are so happy you took the time to hang out with us today. And we don't mind your messy house --
Jennifer Rothschild: No.
K.C. Wright: -- or your unfolded laundry.
Jennifer Rothschild: No, we don't mind at all.
K.C. Wright: We love you exactly like you are. So get connected with what you need, people. All right? You can, because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.
Jennifer Rothschild: And I can.
K.C. Wright: And you can.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, absolutely you can.
K.C. Wright: So the other day Ellie's off to school and I am left. I turn around and I look at my home, and it's like an earthquake hit her bedroom. I've never seen more of a disaster. And there's all this laundry. You know, and this podcast speaks to single dads, like myself, as well. But I was having single dad fatigue.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, I bet you were.
K.C. Wright: Anyway, I got on Facebook -- because that's what we do when we're overwhelmed -- and I started scrolling. And this person had posted that --she was an empty-nester, and she said, "Fall in love with the loads of laundry, fall in love with the toys scattered on the floor, because it will be gone one day." And I went, "Oh, my gosh [crying sound]." But talk about changing your mindset, it was just like --
Jennifer Rothschild: Right. Change your perspective.
K.C. Wright: Yeah, it was a paradigm shift. And I just -- I don't know, I did the laundry a little bit different that day.
Jennifer Rothschild: That's good.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.