• Tue, Apr 15 - 11:00 am ET

Don’t Tell Any Mom She ‘Looks Tired’

exhausted momI’m pretty good with quick, snarky comebacks. But there is one sentence people say, especially to mothers, for which I do not have a good comeback. That sentence is, “You look exhausted.” Sigh.

I began looking “exhausted” 10 years ago, after my daughter was born. For a decade I’ve been looking for the perfect comeback when people say, “You look tired,” or, “You look exhausted,” or, “You look like you haven’t slept in days.” But I can’t come up with one that puts said person in their place while also sounding nice.

One of my friends, after I asked how should people respond to this statement on Facebook, wrote that the perfect answer is, “Fuck off!”

I entirely agree. I do want to tell people, who say to me, “You look tired,” to “Fuck off!”

“Fuck off!” may be how we tired moms and dads want to respond, but in the real world, you can’t just go around telling people to, “Fuck off,” because they said you “look exhausted.”

But nor do you want to answer, “Yes, I am tired. I had to get my child up at six a.m., drive her to swim practice, then get home to take my son to his play group, then fit in some work time, before picking up my son, then I worked a bit more, then I had to pick up my daughter and rush home to get her ready for her play practice and pick up a birthday present for a party she was invited to and now, god-dang, I have to race to the grocery store, because my kids want dinner every damn night. Why do they want dinner every night?”

So, yes, I am fucking tired, sometimes so tired that I wouldn’t be able to string above sentence together aloud.

Why do people need to point this out? Especially if you are a mother? Listen up peeps, if you have a child you more often than not, probably do look fucking exhausted. Why? Because you are fucking exhausted and don’t have your own personal make up artist living with you to hide those bags before leaving the house. We already know we probably look exhausted, so why the hell do you have to go and point it out for us?

When someone tells me I look exhausted, all I hear is that I look like shit. I want the comeback of all comebacks, because, really when you are talking to a mother, especially of a newborn, isn’t it fucking obvious that she, more likely than not, looks “tired?”

You can reach this post's author, Rebecca Eckler, on twitter.
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  • Robotic Socks

    You troll noob. You can’t say “F off” in front of your kids.

    I would go with something more PG-13 like “You look bloated” or “You look like you just had an affair with a married man”

    • Robotic Socks

      :( Someone downvoted me

    • Megan Zander

      It’s ok Socks, I’m sure whoever did it looks really tired.

    • Robotic Socks

      You look sympathetic

      :D

    • Valerie

      How can you tell? I thought it was all hidden.

    • Robotic Socks

      I have 4 upvotes, your comment above has 2. When you sort comments “by Best” you can tell by the ordering

      /internet troll nerd

    • Kendra

      I fail to understand the purpose of a downvote if nobody knows that you did it. You may as well just whisper “I hate you” to your computer. Equally as effective.

    • Robotic Socks

      It’s pretty useless. Disqus is clearly run by idiots, who probably also run our government.

    • brebay

      Seriously. The touchy-feely-gold-star-hug-yourself police got ahold of Disqus. I can’t imagine why they’d take that away. We’re all adults here.

    • Valerie

      Thanks for the lesson. My Femputer™ is less necessary every day.

  • Valerie

    Just like no one ever said dumb shit while I was pregnant, no one has ever said this to me. Again, could be my Bitchy Resting Face. Or could be I associate with freakishly polite people. Because I have seen photos of myself when my kids were teeny and I truly was not sleeping much and I def do look very tired.

    • Megan Zander

      Says the girl with freakishly shiny hair.

    • Valerie

      Hahahaha. I don’t think anything on me shined until my son was well past a year old. I was a hawt mess, truly.

    • Kendra

      I am still rocking the hawt mess stage, thank you very much!

    • Robotic Socks

      Time for selfies!!!

    • rrlo

      Agreed. You probably just don’t look tired Valerie.

    • Valerie

      You are sweet. But totally wrong. Lol. I see pics of myself from when my son was a baby and I have an urge to burn them. :-)

    • Kendra

      I haven’t ever gotten this one either. The worst I get is when I’m sick with a cold or something like that, everyone says “you don’t look like you’re feeling very well”, which is always true so I don’t really care. It is usually followed by an “at least I’m here”.

    • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

      I once had my favourite teacher tell me “you look really white today”, meaning I looked paler than normal and kind of sickly. My sarcasm kicked in, though, and I told him, “but, Sir, I’m really white EVERY day”.

  • Megan Zander

    My go to response when someone tells me I look tired is to say ” So do you” as sympathetically as possible. I’ve always wanted so say ” yes, well, my husband kept me up late last night, wink wink” but I’m not that cheeky.

    • Robotic Socks

      I would go with “aaawww, and you look haggard”

    • Woof©

      Wassup Fuzz? You hanging out with Professional mommies?

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      We’re irresistibly snarky bitches.

    • JLH1986

      Epic response. I’m totally using that.

    • ThroesSpins  

      You look exhausted, is apt, considering looking after kids is exhausting…

      But then add something like a child with disabilities and then it’s brutally tough and draining as well.

    • Larkin

      I was just thinking that the best response would be something along the lines of your second response. Hahaha. “Oh, well, my husband picked up a copy of the Kama Sutra last week and you know how THAT goes…”

      I’ll be THAT would keep ‘em from ever commenting on your tiredness again. ;-)

  • Tina

    I don’t really feel like this is a mom specific thing actually, no one likes being told they look like crap because they look exhausted, regardless if they have kids or not. Also, most people point out someone looking tired out of concern, why would you need to “put someone in their place” for that?

    • JLH1986

      Yep. I work 16 hours a day and then have a couple more hours of homework. I think it’s rude in general to tell someone they look tired, unless like Rebecca pointed out it’s followed by “everything ok, can I help?” My general response when people say that to me is “Because pointing that out helps me how, exactly?” they generally apologize and walk away shame faced.

    • Larkin

      Yeah, I’ve had people comment on it at work before… and I’ve often responded with a bright, sarcastic smile, and a, “Gee, thanks!” Often, that’s enough to make them realize they kind of sound like a dick.

    • http://nessyhart.wordpress.com/ pixie

      Yeah, I don’t like the rhetoric that only parents (moms in particular) are allowed to be tired or be allowed to not like it pointed out that they look tired. Right now I’m a graduate student which means I spend a hell of a lot of time on my school work, plus being a research assistant. Last summer I worked 3 jobs and was up from about 6am to after midnight almost every day. This summer I’m working full time plus starting to write my thesis. No I don’t have a small human to look after, but I still have responsibilities and obligations that need to get done and I sure as hell don’t get nearly enough sleep. When people comment on me looking tired, I know they’re worried about me, so I just laugh it off and tell them I’ve been busy with school/work/whatever.

    • Tina

      Yes! Exactly this. I’ve been just as busy as you just described for extensive periods in my life and sometimes I would end up extremely burnt out. I hated when people would still say something about how “haha you don’t know anything about being exhausted yet, just wait till you have a kid”. Of course parenting is tough and tiring, but others are just as allowed to have these feelings too. To me this was more frustrating than those people who simply pointed out that I looked tired.

    • Harriet Meadow

      I’m a Ph.D student and a new mom, and I can honestly tell you that those things are equally tiring.

    • TwentiSomething Mom

      The thing is, if I look tired its because I am tired and if I am tired I don’t want someone reminding me I look like shit.

    • Woof©

      Smack ‘em in the head with a bottle of 5-hour energy drink.

  • Kay_Sue

    The only person that has said this to me is my mom, and she’s pretty sincere. I know it is probably frustrating, but I kind of think it is one of those situations where you just smile and walk away.

    • Robotic Socks
    • val97

      Ugh, one year I drove 12 hours with the kids, when the youngest was a toddler, to visit my mom for Christmas. The next morning I woke up early and started cooking. My mom came in and said, “you’re looking rough.” I almost slapped her!

    • TwentiSomething Mom

      The janitor at my company has a tendency of saying “You look tired!” the second I walk through the door. I sometimes respond with “yea, so do you!”

  • Colleen

    Yeah, I’d go with the snark. Like, “Yes, I AM tired. What the hell am I doing here? Watch the kids for a while; I’m going for a nap.” And walk out of the room, find a bed, and seriously nap it out.

  • Alex Lee

    “Still awake enough for homicide!” *insert maniacal cackle*
    “It takes a lot of work to look this meth-y”
    “I’m bringin’ paleo back!”

    you look marvelous.

    • Larkin

      Hahahahahahahaha. Oh man… I need to remember that first one…

  • Guets

    My MIL always says this to me and I’m not a mother. I feel like it is a cop out when they don’t know what else to say. Perhaps they think it should make me feel better like they know I’m so busy that obviously I’d be tired? No, I’m not tired, I just have resting bitch face and/or you are boring me.

    • JLH1986

      High five on the RBF! I have it too! I kinda love it though.

  • Lee

    When someone says that to me I like to educate them on exactly why I am so tired. I list ALL the reasons why I am tired. If that doesn’t take up enough of their time I make shit up. People usually think twice about saying that to me a second time.

  • EX

    I think a lot of people just lack a filter and say what they’re thinking when maybe they shouldn’t. I actually did pretty much exactly that to someone yesterday. The funny part is I’m seriously sleep deprived myself (back at work full time with a 2 month old at home). I think my exhaustion is affecting my social skills because I totally told someone she looked tired. I did realize how awful it was after I said it and I apologized but it was already out there.

  • rrlo

    Yeah, there isn’t a good comeback. It’s worse when you actually make an effort to not look tired. Then someone says “You look tired”. Well, yes – I suppose I am. I am in my third trimester, while holding down a full-time job and a toddler. But I really hoped I didn’t look it – at least badly enough that someone had to tell me about it.

    I guess people mean well. But I agree- I much prefer the “You look Great!” comment.

  • val97

    Why are people so rude? My response when I see someone out who just had a baby is “you look good, how are you feeling?” Even if they do look tired, I wouldn’t say it.

  • jessica

    Ugh, that most dreaded comment! Seriously, there is no gracious way to respond to it. I usually hear it from a boss or coworker, and my go-to respond is awkward silence, or a “thanks?”

  • Jenna Nieves

    I am completely okay with people telling me that I look tired if they follow it up by offering to babysit so I can get some sleep.

  • That teen

    you could call them a poophead?
    I’m not a mother but most of the time if you call someone a poophead they don’t really have much of a response to it and it’s also pretty funny seeing their reactions to it (:

  • Sara610

    Okay, so……..I used to tell people they looked tired all the time. I was well into my 20s before I realized what a rude thing that is to say to people. I would see someone, think they looked tired, and tell them they looked tired–my aim was usually to be sympathetic, because I thought if they looked tired it was probably because they were stressed or had something going on that they might want to talk about, but I didn’t say that. I would just say, “You look tired”.

    It probably has something to do with the fact that I have ADHD and I was super-slow to mature socially–I was in my 20s before I really developed the social skills that a lot of people develop in middle school, and I honestly don’t remember if someone ever actually said to me, “You know, that’s a really rude thing to say” or if I eventually just figured it out on my own. But one way or another, I don’t tell people they look tired unless a) I know them REALLY well and b) I follow it up with an offer of some kind of tangible, immediate help.

  • Sara610

    Okay, so……..I used to tell people they looked tired all the time. I was well into my 20s before I realized what a rude thing that is to say to people. I would see someone, think they looked tired, and tell them they looked tired–my aim was usually to be sympathetic, because I thought if they looked tired it was probably because they were stressed or had something going on that they might want to talk about, but I didn’t say that. I would just say, “You look tired”.

    It probably has something to do with the fact that I have ADHD and I was super-slow to mature socially–I was in my 20s before I really developed the social skills that a lot of people develop in middle school, and I honestly don’t remember if someone ever actually said to me, “You know, that’s a really rude thing to say” or if I eventually just figured it out on my own. But one way or another, I don’t tell people they look tired unless a) I know them REALLY well and b) I follow it up with an offer of some kind of tangible, immediate help.

  • Cryptologist

    I would have to respond like this! “Thanks for noticing it is good to see someone is paying attention”!

  • Cryptologist

    Usually people do that when they are not happy with their own life and want to put someone else down to try to make themselves feel better. I think rude comments are rather immature regardless of what a person is going through it ruins a persons day if they don’t get their mind off of it and think about better things.

  • Cat

    I’ve always viewed that comment as an invitation to rant. If a friend says it to me, they’re inviting me to unload my worries/complaints/etc. Same with when I use it.

    …but then there’s my old oma, who is all kinds of passive aggressive, and loves saying “you look tired/pale/fat” to female members of the family.

    I think the best response is just “I am”, and leave it at that, without relying on bitchy retorts. You don’t know if the person saying it intends it as an insult, and if they don’t, then you’ll come off as the rude one.

    Or, if you’re in the mood to guilt trip: “And here I thought I was looking good today.”

    But really, after 10 years, I think you should just ignore the comment. I’ve constantly been told how pale I am for 20+ years, and rather than choose to be offended, I just shrug and say, “Yup”. Work on becoming comfortable with your appearance, and you won’t care if other people think you look tired.

  • TwentiSomething Mom

    I could have written this myself. Like yea, I look tired because I am tired, what do people really expect you to say?

  • brebay

    I hate this one, I’ve taken to saying “Nope, slept fine, just old, thanks for saying something.” I mean, seriously, some people are genetically pre-disposed to having bags or circles under their eyes. I didn’t sleep at all in my twenties, and no one said shit! Are people really so used to seeing botoxed and filled faces that they don’t know what a normal middle-aged face looks like anymore?

  • brebay

    “Thanks, I am. Your ass looks huge. Not just in those pants, but generally.”

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  • Anonogal

    I say, “Really? Thanks! I work hard to look this way!” The ones with any sense take it as the snide retort of an exhausted bitch. The stupid ones are just confused by it, which is their general status anyway so no harm no foul.

  • shorty_RN

    Ugh, there are some days, like today, where if someone told me “you look tired” I would probably just start crying and agreeing. So, so tired.

  • Williwaw

    I have a kid and a sleep disorder (the sleep disorder is not known to most people) and people hardly ever tell me I look tired or exhausted (even though I often am). On the rare occasions it happens, I don’t mind, because it is usually followed by an offer from my friend to help me with something. Maybe the people telling you you look tired just have really bad manners.

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