“How to be a better mom while being exhausted”
I didn’t make up this title. Someone searched for it on Google and landed here.
I immediately took a screen shot because I felt that it would make for a great future post. I recently wrote a post sharing how I feel like women need to give themselves a break when they are too tired to be a good mom. But I felt like this search term would make great content for a practical post for all the exhausted moms out there who really do want to be good moms.
I didn’t intend to write this post today–it was far down on the list of posts to compile, below all of the posts I have yet to write about our moving experience.
But then this morning happened.
I was in an unusually deep sleep. I know I was dreaming, but I couldn’t tell you now what about. All the sudden I awoke to Ezra talking over the baby monitor, hearing his door open, and hearing the pitter patter of his feet running into our room. Normally Ezra is in his room with the door locked overnight, but we are still getting used to this apartment, and if the doors aren’t closed tightly, they don’t latch, even if they are locked. Apparently last night it wasn’t shut tight enough so he was able to make it into our room within 30 seconds of being awake.
I don’t wake up quickly. And I especially don’t like to be forced to wake up in 30 seconds.
He immediately started asking that I get out of bed and get him a banana.
Groggily, I pulled him up in bed with me for a hug and cuddles and started fumbling for my thermometer and my iPhone, as taking my waking temperature is an integral aspect of natural family planning. Ezra continued to squirm, trying to reach for my glasses on my night-table which he said that I needed. I managed to get my app open and thermometer in my mouth, at which point he exclaimed, “NO! Don’t put dat in your mouf!” and tried to pull it out (managing only to get the battery cap pulled off and leaving the rest of the thermometer in). My husband tried to assist, but thankfully I was saved by the beep and was able to take it out before more harm was done.
By this point I had only been awake for 2-3 minutes.
Ezra hopped down off the bed and grabbed my hand, again asking for a banana. I pulled on my pajama pants while rubbing sleepies out of my eyes, all while he exclaimed, “Come on Mommy!! Let’s go!”
The rest of the morning was much of the same. Three breakfasts and a lunch to make, in between sips of coffee and a short sit-down on the couch to check Facebook. There were questions from my husband. So what’s up in that cupboard above the fridge? Where did you put the pants you washed yesterday? Do you know where we might have a mechanical pencil? Could you get me a different kind of lunch box? This one doesn’t have pockets… I think I want to do xyz for storage in the bathroom if we are allowed…
…all sung to the accompaniment of Day of the Diesels and requests from the Little Man for more food.
Every request made me bristle with anger and frustration. I just wanted the world to go away and leave me alone.
Can’t they see I just woke up?
My husband left for work and I knew something had to change. Yesterday was bad enough (can we say “terrible twos”?) and I could already see that Ezra was heading that direction again. And I was exhausted from all of the moving, unpacking, adjusting to a new schedule, and recovering from the 4 hours of hiking on the “strenuous” trail that we did on Saturday.
If there was ever a morning that *I* needed the “how to be a better mom while being exhausted” post it was this morning. So I turned to my arsenal of tricks and solutions and topped it off with a little bit of grace and a lot of deep breaths.
It’s only 10:30 and I still have a long way to go, but here’s some of the things that I recommend that I’ve done so far this morning.
10 Tips For Exhausted Moms
1. Take a hot shower. There’s nothing like having hot water running over your head to clear away the cobwebs and sleepies, rest the sore muscles, and make you feel refreshed. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if you can sneak a shower in, DO IT!
(P.S. If you have littles who are not confined, prepare to have this sacred moment interrupted by children who want to “take a shower wif mommy?” Just try to enjoy the 1.378962 minutes before that happens…)
2. Take five minutes for yourself*. This may mean locking yourself in your bedroom while your child cries on the other side. (Yes, I know, it sounds horrible…but stay with me here.) This morning, I crawled into bed, closed my eyes, and listened to a song. Just one song…while taking deep breaths and praying for grace. Five minutes really can make a huge difference and turn your whole day around.
(*This is a concept that I have unashamedly stolen from my friend Leigh Ann at Intentional by Grace. Please check out her take on this in her posts I Just Need Five Minutes and Five Minute Fresh Start.)
(P.S. If you have potty training littles, be prepared to emerge just in time to discover that your child has both peed and pooped in his underware during that five minutes.)
3. Get dressed. Now, I’m not talking jeans, boots, scarves, earrings, and red lipstick here. You won’t find me “dressing for success” on a day like today. In fact, I greatly dislike that concept and more often than not you can find me in pajamas. But, sometimes taking off the pjays and putting on a clean and comfortable can make you feel a little less sleepy. My choice for today was cotton stretch pants and a tshirt that reminds me of my beauty in Christ.
4. Hug your babies. Especially if you have been “neglecting” them to take a shower, take your five minutes, and get dressed and they are about to DIE of dismay… they need a reminder that mommy loves them. If they are old enough to understand, explain to them that you love them, you just needed a quick break to feel better. It really does help. Hugs are easy, quick, don’t require too much energy–and are what a lot of children crave the most.
5. Let your children color outside the lines. By this, I mean, relax the rules a bit. Maybe it’s a long movie. Maybe it’s Cocoa Puffs for breakfast or Spagettios because you are too exhausted to cook. Maybe it’s putting them back in a diaper even though they are potty training. Maybe it’s coloring on their body. Remember that you don’t have to be perfect all the time, and sometimes, something has to give.
6. Rock your babies to sleep. So it was 10am and Ezra had just thrown three things across the room in the space of about five minutes. He was now laying on my bedroom floor crying. At any mention of nap, he says “No! I’m not tired!” I tried to lay him down but he refused, still insisting that he wasn’t tired. So I scooped him up in my arms and rocked him for a while.
Rocking is great because, like hugging, it requires little energy. You can close your eyes and breathe deeply. I also (Unless you have a wiggly baby, at which point, this might not work for you. I couldn’t rock Ezra to sleep for a very long time!) I also usually have on lullabies or praise music for him to fall asleep too, which often helps to calm my frustrated soul. Cuddling (especially if there is skin-to-skin contact involved) also helps increase both your and your child’s oxytocin levels which helps reduce stress in both of you.
7. Make sure you are eating. I’m not a morning person, and consequently have a hard time eating first thing after waking. Sometimes it’s not until later in the morning when I even realize that I haven’t eaten yet. Sometimes I run into trouble if the day gets busy…a hungry mommy is a cranky mommy, and eventually I start feeling it. Taking time to eat a small breakfast or a snack, even if it’s mid-morning, helps to make me feel a little refreshed.
8. Give your babies a change of scenery. This is something that I picked up from the e-book Parenting Wild Things. I don’t know how the rest of this day will go, but I plan to take Ezra out somewhere. Our four go-to FREE getaways are local parks, the library (most libraries offer nice children’s sections with books and puzzles, or story times!), the train table area at Barnes and Noble, and the play area at our local mall. Check out your area to see what is there and get out of the house for a while! Invite a friend to go along, or take a good book that you can read while your child plays.
These last two are things that I practice continually, but am not really doing specifically today:
9. Say no to outside stressors. I have learned through experience that I do not do well with commitments when I am mothering a little one. I have had to step back from taking on a lot of great things that I would love to do, simply because it stresses me and makes me exhausted. I love having less commitments, so I can CHOOSE what I want to do each day without worrying about that decision affecting a lot of other people. Even things that I love to do (MOPS, Bible Studies, etc), some days I simply have to say, “Nope…I’m staying home today to get some extra rest.” Almost always when I make that decision I am a better mother for it.
10. Stay connected to other moms. While seemingly contradictory to #9, it’s actually meant to be complementary. There have been many days when getting myself and the baby out the door for another MOPS or PWOC meeting was the last thing that I truly wanted to do. But once I wolfed down some coffee and made it there (harried or not), I found myself refreshed by other moms who had done just the same thing and arrived just as harried and exhausted as I was. And there, we found community and friendship, and were better mothers for it.
If you are not a part of a local mom’s group or Bible study, I urge you to spend some time on Google and see if you can find something to be apart of. Check out the MOPS International, Community Bible Study, or meetup.com websites. Other great search terms: mother’s day out, mother’s morning out, parents morning out, MOMS (mothers of many seasons). Check your local library, YMCA, or gym to see what programs they offer.
This list is definitely not exhaustive, but doing even some of these things on the hard days really helps me. What about you? What do you turn to on days when you are exhausted? What helps to make you a better mother?