Wait. You mean there are some mothers who aren’t perpetually exhausted? Really? Indeed, there are some moms peppered here and there who are energetic, happy and well-rested.
But they don’t live with their kids.
Okay okay. While parenting is tiring it does not have to make a zombie out of you. We often set ourselves up to fail by habits and routines that contribute to our tiredness. When we are tired we pay less positive attention to our children. When we pay less positive attention to our children they become more moody and disobedient. Kids need to know that we not only love them but enjoy them and if we are perpetually in our pi’s dreaming of Starbuck’s then we just are not able to deliver.
This is not intended to make you feel guilty about it, but to give you easy tips and strategies to become a more well-rested and interactive mother. I call it the happy cycle. If you are happy, you pay positive attention, their receive the positive attention and they are happy. They are happy so you are happy to be positive to them. Everyone is happy and feelin’ the love. A vague idealistic nutshell but I have found it to be true most of the time. When we are off I say, okay, I need to get us back on this happy cycle and fast. And after it has time to recalibrate, we are good again.
There are obvious phases when we will be more tired than others. For the first few months you’ll be doing nighttime feedings and, depending on how long your little one feeds, this will be a tiring prospect. If you are like me (and this is one case where that is a good thing) you did Babywise or a similar strategy and had babies sleeping 10-12 hours a night by 4 months. This contributes greatly to your outlook as you are rested and refreshed in the morning. When children are sick, routines will differ and there may be nighttime hours spent awake as well.
Tips to help stay sparky:
1) Establish regular nap times for your young children and rest while they do. Even if you just lay down or crash on the sofa, get as much time as you can. Don’t just jump to action and wash dishes, vacuum, etc but rest. If you feel rested you’ll have more energy for housework later anyway. If your children are round 3.5 to 4 and want to drop their nap, institute “rest time.” Have them sit in their room or on their bed with some books or quiet toys/activities and make them stay there for an hour or so alone resting. This works well to prevent over tiredness on their part and to give you some time to yourself.
2) Don’t start bad nighttime habits of visiting them in the night at their request. In the wise words of my grandmother “start out like you can hold out.” If they are to the age where metabolically they can go 12 hours without feeding (around 4 months on average) then you can be sure they don’t need to feed 3 times between 8:30 and 7:30. If you’ve always just gone in to hug them, give them the pacifier or feed them, then they think it’s just part of the routine. You are ticked off that they are calling you again because, in your adult rational mind, nighttime is for sleeping. In their small child-like mind they think “okay, this is where I call for mommy and she comes and then I go back to sleep.” If it happens at the same exact time each night you can know it’s a habit and not a need. Work to break this so you both can establish unbroken sleep patterns. This will contribute greatly to the mood around the house.
3) Don’t be constantly on the errand wagon. I know there are things we need: groceries, toilet paper, clothes, diet coke. There are always reasons we can find to run errands. At times it is perfectly necessary, but we need to avoid the habit of running errands daily or twice daily just to get out of the house. Running errands, while feeling momentarily refreshing because we can look at something other than the mess our toddlers have created, will wear us out and leave us feeling more tired. Try running occasional errands when your husband or parents are around so you can do it solo. Try to run a few days worth of errands in one go. This way while you are at home if you put on a movie or supervise a game they are playing you can find more moments of rest.
4) Establish independent playtime. From a very very young age (a few months) I establish independent playtime with my children. As a 3 month old that may mean sitting in their bouncy chair looking out the window at nature, laying on a play mat and swatting the mobiles, etc. Of course they are supervised (kduh) but the idea is that they are learning how to function without constant stimulus from you. If they are never happy unless you are there making ugly faces and singing then you are in for some hard yards later. My now 17 month old will stay in her room for nearly an hour each morning playing happily with her toys. It gives me time to myself to clean, rest, read, or simply organise my day. By the time the hour is over I’m ready to play with her.
Paying constant attention to anyone other than ourselves is tiring. Period. But by thinking proactively and parenting with a strategy we can be as rested as possible to make our home life as happy as possible.
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PSS – Are you exhausted but have happy children? Do you already do these things in your home? I’d love to hear what you think!