When I was pregnant with my first child, experienced mothers often offered helpful tips and anecdotes from their lives. I was inundated with book and podcast recommendations, as well as personal stories about childbirth, breastfeeding and more.
"Just wait," those women would say with a knowing smile. "Your whole life is about to change. You don't know it, but it will."
I tried to soak up all their advice and wisdom, hoping it would prepare me for motherhood. Between the experience of my friends and family and all the books, blogs and YouTube videos I consumed, I readied myself as much as a first-time mom could.
There was one aspect of motherhood that took me wholly and completely by surprise, though. It wasn't in any of my books. It wasn't joked about or mentioned in my friends' stories.
I'm talking about being touched out.
If you haven't welcomed a child yet, you might not understand that phrase. If you're already a mother, you're probably nodding along vigorously right now.
When someone says they're touched out, it means they've spent so much time—too much time!—in physical contact with someone else. It means they simply can't take another minute of being another person's physical jungle gym. It means they crave time alone, without another person hanging on their arms or back or legs.
It's especially common among mothers with newborns, who either need to be bottle-fed or nursed around the clock.
The phrase is easy enough to understand, even if you haven't yet lived it. What's surprising is how quickly you can experience a huge surge of emotions, telling you that you need space that very moment.
It can hit like a tidal wave—an urgent message telling you to step away from those tiny humans you created. The ones you love more than life itself, but the ones whose small hands have been grabbing and pulling and smacking at you all day.
It can come with an enormous side of guilt, too. What kind of mother feels this way? you might think as you put your baby down for the first time all day, only to hear her scream.
Let me answer that for you: Every mother.
The sloppy kisses and sticky hands are wonderful. The sleepy yawns and warm hugs are amazing. But it is entirely, perfectly, 100% normal to physically crave distance, too.
If you're a mama who's feeling touched out, I see you. I know you. I am you.
Here's what I want you to know:
It is completely normal. I promise.
You're not a bad mom. You're a wonderful mother who needs some personal space, so take it. Take the space, take the time, and come back when you're ready.
You're not a bad partner if you shrug off your loved one's kiss or hug at the end of the day. Being touched out is not confined to touches from your kids. If you can't stand the thought of cuddling your partner, tell them. Tell them you poured everything you had that day into caring for your kids and you need some space. Tell them you love them.
You're allowed to ask for help. Please do, mama.
It doesn't last forever. One day, your little one won't be quite so little. They won't need so much of you. I'm not trying to guilt you into enjoying their touch—far from it. Just offering a reminder for when you're feeling alone and desperate: this won't last forever. You'll get through it.
You're tougher than you give yourself credit for. You brought a human into this world. You're raising a human in this world. You're a rock star already.
Give yourself credit. Give yourself grace. And don't forget to give yourself space.