I have written about babies and sleep before but I thought it was time to write about mom’s and sleep or rather their lack of it!!! The one question I get a lot is “When do you sleep?” And I have to say: “I get by!!!” There comes a time when people just stop asking “Does your baby sleep through?” And when moms say they are exhausted, they very often aren’t exaggerating – they genuinely are!!! In the real world everyone has night-time needs that have to be addressed. Babies, toddlers, children, teenagers and adults don’t actually sleep all night and I am okay with that now, but I wasn’t always, my first child trained me well!!!
I do have nights where our youngest finally falls asleep at eleven, and someone wakes up because they need a glass of water, and then someone wakes with a tummy ache and then they get back to sleep and I will head for bed in the early hours and as my head hits the pillow a little person cries and needs help. And this can go on until I see the glimmer of the light of day creeping out of the dark and as you finally collapse into bed it is the sound of tweeting birds that lulls you to sleep – or not, because by now you have had it!!! I do have nights like that but not every night!!!
I did have a friend once tell me that if you think of the nights as a journey and you are traveling through, some nights are smooth sailing and others are rough riding… and that got me thinking that I needed to be better prepared for the rough nights!!! Just last month when we had a fortnight of coughs and colds I had a spate of nights that were rather ragged.
So here are my Se7en Sleep Deprivation Tips…
- Sleep Deprivation is Torture: Sleep interruption is used to torture Prisoner’s of War and is the one thing that can make a sane person insane really fast… The trick is knowing that, knowledge is everything. Believe me the child that is unwell and keeps you up all night will probably end up sleeping on the couch in the day… make sure you do the same. Your kids will get enough sleep despite a sleepless night – you need to make sure to do the same.
- Exhaustion is an Illness: Seriously people end up in hospital over less!!! Take it seriously and treat it seriously… not every day is like this and not every night is a nightmare… but there are nights when your kids are older than newborn that you look back on and think: “How on earth did I survive?” – You know thirty-nine weeks pregnant and then your six kids get a stomach bug… So how to treat exhaustion? The obvious thing is to get some rest. But I know from experience that we talk about it and never get it. My suggestion is be intentional about it. If you have had a really bad night then don’t sag on the couch and hope to feel rested later on. Go to bed, get some real sleep – even twenty minutes, will make you feel better.
- Cancel Everything: In a lucid moment think about what needs to get done in your house, no matter what, on a given day. Figure out what your “absolute minimum” day would look like and take it. For us that means canceling all outings, play dates, errands – all of them. You probably don’t actually have to do half of them and the world won’t miss you for a day or two. Lose your phone, if it is important they will call you back another time… really the fewer people you have to talk to the better. Lose the internet, for one day or half a day, trust me when you are tired the internet can just pull everything out of you… no one will miss you for a couple of hours – NO ONE!!! Otherwise I keep meals really simple, nothing that needs a recipe – usually something that you can grab and eat and dinner… well pasta and parmesan and we’re done. I hate missing school, I hate trying to catch up later… so a bare minimum school day looks like reading and math, and even that I have been known to cancel and double up the next day.
- You Can’t Do it All: Enlist help. Somehow when you are exhausted even simple tasks seem insurmountable. The thought of going to the post office can seem like such a huge task when you have had no sleep… if no one offers then ask for help. It is not humble pie – it is desperation!!! I have never had someone say no when I have asked for help. I have never said to a friend – “Sorry, you are on your own!!!”
- Take a Break: You just cannot catch up with “Things” when your kids are asleep. Really you can’t do everything. And you don’t have to sleep when your child sleeps but take a break. I took a long time to figure this one out, but lying on the bed waiting for a toddler to sleep and planning a “to do list” twenty miles long meant I wasn’t relaxed and they wouldn’t sleep. If you lie on the bed and read a book very often you will nod off and your child will sleep too. My first child was a hideous sleeper and I learnt early on that if I didn’t rest when he did I would fail dismally. You can clear the table with kids underfoot. You can cook dinner and talk to them, you can fold washing alongside where they are playing. But it is very hard to get the break you need while they are up and about.
- Take a Regular Time Out: I anticipate that by the end of the week (every week!!!) I am going to be tired and need a bit of a catch up. I have a day off every week, usually Thursdays, when I only do essentials. We clean our house together and only do the bare minimum with school. I don’t invite anyone over and no chores except the absolute essentials. It is a bit of a catch up day, no projects, no cleaning out closets, no defrosting of freezers and definitely no building of barns. (Barn building is a post for another day!!!) Don’t be alarmed by the “we clean our house” either… keeping house is two very distinct projects: tidying and cleaning… tidying is a long-term ongoing relentless battle, cleaning is a swipe of the counters and a mop of the floor – if I did it all at once and didn’t attend to anyone or anything it would probably take half an hour to clean our entire house… but my life is a little bit interrupted and things take longer!!!
- Get some Inspiration: I kept this poem on my fridge, until it disintegrated. and now I have the bits stuck into my diary. I have no idea who wrote it, or which magazine it came from but it inspires me and many times when I have thought: “Why don’t these little people just go to sleep…” this poem has inspired me to just keep on caring. I could insist on my “right to sleep” but really it is my privilege to serve these night time wanderers.
- It Will Pass: We definitely go through seasons of bad sleep… a week or two and then we are back to sleep as it should be. When you are in a sleepless cycle it always feels forever… it isn’t!!! Hideous nights come to pass!!! Weeks without sleep pass too. We just need to remember, when we are in it, to do the best we can and that almost always means doing a whole lot less than we think we should.
When you hear your husband
Crying in the dead of night
Do you simply squeeze his hand
And turn on the Goofy nightlight?
Or how about your mother
Weeping, wailing and highly strung
Would you rush to comfort her
Or shrug say “Good for her lungs!”
What about your teenage son
Hungry and begging before dawn.
Could you ignore his pleas, giving water
To get him through to morn?
In fact, on hearing any other adult
Wretched and having a good sob,
Would you calmly close the door
Having turned ‘em over in the cot?
If all these things sound harshly strange.
And you simply could not do.
How come it’s the way mothers are told
To treat little ones not even two?
And the Se7en + 1th thing:
That’s it – Hope it helps!!!
I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.