We've been on a really, really strange sleep bender around here. (ok, when I say we, I really mean Gerry. But he takes me for the ride too!)
Mostly I'm really proud of myself for how I've been dealing. But sometimes I forget how much of a toll it's taking on me. For example, sometimes I get what seems like "enough" sleep, but our hours are kind of all over the place and then when I'm tired I don't understand why! (Like today, Gerry went to sleep a little after 1 am last night... but then we were in bed till 9 am - not so bad in number of hours. But our schedule - haha, that word just made me laugh - has been so wacky lately I think it just catches up to me).
So, anyways - today. I'm going to try and focus on that. (I did just have my glass of wine too though, so focus is kinda hard right now.) I actually got showered and dressed before 11 (this is pretty unusual around here) and then Marisol requested to go outside (also unusual). We somehow convinced Gerry to go out and it was really nice out - sunny and quite warm compared to what it has been. The kids flitted from activity to activity - we were probably only out for around an hour, but they each did at least 3-4 different things. I'm so grateful to have that huge outdoor space and the luxury or running back and forth to get different toys/clothes/sports gear when they want it.
Back inside I got everyone a decent lunch and made zucchini bread. Then I realized how tired I was. And that we had to start gearing up for dance class soon. Oh boy. So I knew that now was the time to forget the pile of dishes in the sink, of clothes waiting to be folded, and toys on the floor. Now was the time to rest. Not long ago I might have pushed through and tried to get some things done since the kids were happily watching their respective TV shows. And usually those are the times I end up getting really burned out. Today I decided I needed to rest a bit before heading out (I took some time to take this picture of myself first though, haha).
When it was time to go I gathered us up in record time. Marisol was fairly cooperative getting her dance clothes on. Gerry was a mess (remember the 1 am bedtime?) He wanted "muk" and he did NOT want to leave. So I empathized with him the best I could and got us all out to the car as quickly as I could. I strapped my poor, crying boy into his seat. It only took two extra trips inside (grabbing the house key off the bunch connected to the key already in the ignition) - one for Gerry's socks and a stroller and another trip for a movie for Marisol (we had negotiations regarding iPhone use - big sister was very generous and agreed to using a DVD player).
I joked as we pulled out that I forgot my sunglasses and should I run inside one more time? Marisol and I agreed that no, one more time would be a bit ridiculous. But it was very sunny with perfect blue, cloudless skies. Gerry's crying subsided and I dispensed snacks and water bottles as I drove (I wonder if there have been any studies on accident rates of mothers). A few minutes into the drive she requested headphones - I didn't have any. I turned my music down (how I can listen to music with two other devices blaring behind me is another mystery - I guess it's a talent of mine.) I requested that Gerry turn his down and after refusing a couple of times he said, "Otay, I turn mine down". Peace resumed. Then about half way to dance class Marisol started making small, discontented noises. The sun was TOO bright and was interfering with her view of "Brave". I made a quick decision to pull into a gas station parking lot. I found a pink re-usable shopping cart and lowered her window, just a crack. Twisting from the front seat I slid part of the bag out the crack, yelling when I got a leg cramp, then I managed to roll the window back up.
At this point I was congratulating myself on my wonderful mommy performance. I'd been understanding, gentle, and empathetic with Gerry when he didn't want to leave but decisive enough to get us out the door. I was being flexible and patient in the car and really listening to the kids. Thoughts about self-love also ran through my mind and how, if I hadn't been able to be all those things, that would have been ok too. I mean everyone has their limits!
Marisol's improvised sun-shade seemed to help, but a few minutes before arrival Marisol started complaining about the sun again. This time I told her, "almost there." Gerry's eyes closed one minute before we pulled into the parking lot. Good thing I remembered the stroller!
I parked and then started to gather our things. I opened Marisol's door and this is when something happened - she was cold or upset that she hadn't seen much of her movie, "You can watch more on the way home," I said from the back of the car, pulling the stroller out. But all of a sudden Marisol decided she didn't want to go in. I tried to be matter of fact - we just drove all the way here, we are going in - besides she would have fun, I just knew it! But the crying continued and my frustration mounted. My limit was quickly speeding towards me. Gerry woke up somewhere in there and he didn't want to get out either. I admitted defeat but not without throwing my own tantrum - slamming doors and the stroller back in, then raising my voice with some not-so-nice words thrown towards my distraught daughter. I looked at the clock. We were already 15 minutes late.
We talked more and Marisol agreed to try to go in - but requested a couple of minutes to calm down. Heart melting a bit, I said, "Of course!" (How wise children are.) She climbed up front and sat on my lap. We talked more and I apologized for yelling.
Ultimately, she never calmed down. Her legs were tired (a very late bedtime the night before didn't help, and we talked about that too) and she just wasn't up for dancing. In my frustration I talked about quitting again (we've been struggling with dance class lately) but although when pressured she says, "fine!" neither one of us really want to quit - we already paid for her costume AND she really wants to do the recital (so do I!)
I wanted to try and go to the grocery store at least, but Gerry was refusing to get out of the car, so I gave up. Homeward bound we were.
My sweet girl and I talked more - "I love you Mommy," she said and I said sorry again. Eyes watering she said, "I understand why you were frustrated though." Oh my heart hurt. She's so beautiful.
So I focused on the good parts:
1) Gerry's nap had been limited to a couple of minutes, this was VERY good news (and yes, he slept from 7:30 last night till 7:45 this morning, yay sleep!)
2) We had gotten out of the house - and it was a BEAUTIFUL day!
3) Marisol and I talked - about getting to bed at a decent hour, and more importantly I got to say the words, "You are more important to me than dance class. You are more important to me than money."
4) Although I reached my limit and didn't behave in the best way, I also turned things around quickly my kids got to see me apologize and ask for forgiveness.
The funny thing is, I was so tired before we left. But I thought we were going to push through - maybe my intuition was trying to tell me something and I wasn't listening? I don't know.
But there you have it. Our day yesterday (I started writing last night, hence, the "today" at the beginning of this post and the "yesterday" now. Confusing I know, but I feel like leaving it this way with a long explanation...) I know this was long, but I'm glad to record these moments on our journey. And, my new affirmations are going to include things like, "My ability to love and listen is always expanding" because it's true - my limits keep getting pushed out by my kids. And I love and thank them for that.
Have you ever noticed that right when you start congratulating yourself, Life likes to deliver a small piece of humble pie? I'd love to hear some of your choppy moments!
It seems like whenever I write about sleep or taking care of oneself or how parenting isn't really *that* difficult my kids like to help me put my money where my mouth is. They're cool like that. This past weekend Gerry woke up Saturday and Sunday in the wee hours of the morning (think 2-3 am) and stayed up for several hours. The second time I had stayed up to write and had barely gotten to sleep when he woke up. He didn't go back to sleep until 6:30 am so that night I basically pulled an all-nighter with a couple doses of dozing in there. Believe it or not the past few days weren't that bad though. I've learned a lot about dealing with sleep deprivation the past 6 years!
This post is mostly aimed at parents of babies and young children. A lot of the suggestions are more for stay-at-home moms (or dads), but some may be adaptable or applicable to working parents too.
Without further ado, here are 15 Things To Do When You're Sleep Deprived:
1) Maintain your coffee/caffeine intake at the same level as usual (I try to stick to my normal 1 cup in the morning) This way you will be able to rest when the moments arrive and you will feel better too (I don't like that jittery feeling I get with too much caffeine).
2) Shower and get dressed early. It will make you feel more awake and able to tackle your day. Or stay in your jammies and enjoy the fact that you can. Either way works.
3) Try to get out of the house early - go to a friend's house, the playground, or take a walk. Nothing too ambitious, just something to get you moving. If it's nice outside fresh air is especially helpful. Getting together with friends is an automatic spirit-lifter too.
4) If you don't have enough energy to get out, don't beat yourself up about it. Remind yourself that you need and deserve rest. Call your mom or a friend if you can't see someone in person.
5) If you have small children and are trying to get rest, lie down on the couch with them while they watch a show (or two!) If you cuddle with them they may not even notice your eyes are closed.
6) Listen to a meditation track on earphones while you "rest your eyes" (I have a few on my iPhone). A 15-20 minute meditation often leaves you feeling refreshed, sometimes even better than a long nap!
7) Play Music (I have nothing to add to this one.)
8) Have a nice, hot, cup of tea in the afternoon. My favorite right now is peppermint which is good for your digestion but it also can make you feel more alert.
9) Use of essential oils - I like to breathe in some peppermint for alertness too! If you have a headache some lavender is nice on your temples.
10) Make sure to play with your kids early and often in the day. If they have your focused attention early on, they will be more likely to accept you need some rest later in the day when you need it more.
11) Instead of focusing on how little sleep you got (recounting exactly how many hours, what time you were up and for how long etc.) give yourself positive affirmations that you will get the rest you need.
12) Make sure you go to bed earlier than usual when it's possible. If your kids are actually asleep at a decent hour go to sleep when they do and DON'T STAY UP TO BLOG... er, I mean stay up doing whatever it is *you* do late at night ;-)
13) Make sure you eat well - healthy, real, and immune boosting foods (I'm thinking garlic here... mmm garlic). Homemade chicken soup is good, and if you're lucky like me your husband or someone else who loves you might make you some. But keep food simple - especially for the kids. Leftovers, fresh fruit and veggies, frozen food, and if you are really desperate anything in a box. Again, do not stress about exactly what you are feeding your kids - some days you're just trying to get through the best you can!
14) Slow down as much as you can and release all expectations. Let go of accomplishing housework, cooking, your latest project etc. If your kids are tired too (which often happens) they probably need your presence more. Just be. Play games or watch shows together. Shower or take a bath together. Cook together. Nap together. I think you get the idea.
15) Remember all the times you've made it through tiredness and became rested again.
As I wrote this I was struck by how many overlapped with my list of things to do to lift your mood when you feel depressed. Also this could be a list of things to do when you're sick and you're home with your kids too! A lot of these things are great things to do every day but when I'm tired they are even more important. And the more habitual these things are, the easier they are to do and remember when you really need them!
Do you have any tips you can add to my list? What helps you get through your tiredest days?
Sleep, oh, sweet sleep. It's on the minds of most parents in our modern world. Parents are warned that they will never sleep again. And then our expectations are largely realized - sometimes even exceeded - when we compound our difficulties by resisting a baby's true sleep biology.
Marisol started in a bassinet next to our bed. When she was about one month old we put her in a crib in the BEAUTIFUL nursery we prepared for her. It went relatively well for a few months. I went to her when I heard her wake on the monitor, changed her diaper and nursed her back to sleep in our comfy glider, then put her back down. Until she was about 5 months old. Then everything seemed to fall apart (what?! Babies have sleep REGRESSIONS?? What do you mean?!) This period of time was very hard for me - and it coincided with Thanksgiving and Christmas that year.
I did not want to let her cry-it-out and she would wake up almost as soon as I put her down almost every time. I would try patting her to sleep, sometimes even lying down next to the crib. At my low point I was actually making a bed on the floor with blankets and pillows and when I got too tired to try keeping her in the crib we slept together on the floor. Yes, you read that correctly - I was sleeping with my newborn on the floor in our house that had a perfectly good Queen sized bed and full-size futon. Looking back on it now, it's amazing to me what I went through trying to have her sleep in a crib. And I had even read Dr. Sear's book, Nighttime Parenting, while I was pregnant! I loved the idea of co-sleeping before she was even born. So why was I so stuck on her sleeping in the crib?
I think there were a couple of factors. First, I don't think Mike was ready to try anything so "out there" (ha! So funny now - poor guy, he really had no idea what he was in for! To be fair though, neither did I). So I really tried for his sake not to be "weird" about the baby's sleep. I already had a natural birth, was using cloth diapers, and was breastfeeding almost constantly so I think I wanted to do something "normally". Why I wasn't just proud of all those things, I don't understand now, but I'm a different person then I was 6 years ago.
Also, for a couple of months she did ok in the crib. So I think I was lulled into thinking we had sleep "figured out" (I know, I know - what a rookie!)
I remember my father-in-law asking me almost every time I saw them (which was often since we lived in walking distance) how Marisol was sleeping. I dreaded the question and wanted to say, "No!! She's not sleeping through the night! I'll let you know when she is!" I remember calling my mom after a particularly hard night and being so tired but she wasn't able to come over and I thought, "How am I going to make it through the day?" (Spoiler - I did live to see another day.) I babysat a little girl and I remember loving when she wanted to play pretend and it was "nap" time - I lay on the floor a lot at that house!
Fortunately for me, at Christmas time we went to Florida and I was like - "She's sleeping with us!" I didn't want to be exhausted for the whole vacation. It was such a beautiful relief. When we came home from vacation I was not going back to the floor. So I slept with her on the futon for a while and eventually we both moved back to the big bed with Mike. We haven't looked back since.
I remember asking my pediatrician when she was tiny how I "should" put her to sleep. I asked, "So I should put her down sleepy but awake, right?" (I think I probably read that one in a magazine.) And the wonderful man, bless his heart, confirmed that yes, ideally this was the best practice for babies learning to sleep on their own. Even now I can still see his gentle, kind look that pretty much defied the words even as they came out of his mouth. It's like I can see a thought bubble over his head in my memory, "Poor, naive, first-time mom. She's trying so hard! Do I tell her the truth or just agree with her?"
Nap-time was another struggle Sometimes she slept in the car and I would then continue driving her, she sometimes slept in her in a swing, and I remember one time walking in the rain for an hour and a half because she was asleep in her stroller and I didn't want her to wake! And she never seemed to be on a "schedule" - it was just all so confusing and HARD! Even my mother, who is about as supportive as you can get, sometimes questioned my "methods" (or lack-thereof).
When Gerry came along I didn't think twice about co-sleeping. He has slept with me since we came home from the birth center the day he was born (we did use the bassinet a bit when he was tiny too). He's always been pretty good about going back to sleep if it's the nighttime hours and I'm just more relaxed about nap. When he was a baby I thought he was "different" than Marisol was, but as he's grown I've seen them largely follow the same pattern - which tells me it is more me (and Mike), our "sleep-practices", and our attitudes that have changed. Neither of our children really slept through the night till they were about 2 1/2 (and Gerry still wakes during the night sometimes at 3 1/2). This sounds awful to most people, but I can honestly say it's fine. Because I'm right there they go right back to sleep. I've also read enough "studies" and "stories" as well as talking to real live parents to know that night waking is very common.
Am I tired sometimes? Yes. But I don't know parents who aren't.
I'm not trying to push co-sleeping on people who don't want to do it or who don't think it's right for their family. But I do think it would be way more helpful to new parents everywhere if people were more honest about how sleep really looked in their homes. It's another example of everything being so private and hidden in our isolated, nuclear family units/homes. When Marisol was little I would always "admit" that she slept with us a little sheepishly, like I was letting people in on some dark secret of ours. I would "justify" it because when we moved to DC we only had a small one-bedroom condo. So it was a "good thing!" that we *did* co-sleep. In reality, I would have been sleeping with her even if we lived in the Spelling's Manor in Hollywood.
Now it seems so normal I just don't even think about it. All of our friends who come to our house know our sleeping arrangements. Marisol is 6 1/2 and still loves to sleep next to me. I'm not worried about it. I know when she's ready and the time's right she will sleep in her own bed.
So many people are looking for "solutions" to the children's sleep "problems". Most of what are considered problems are actually a child's natural way of sleeping. That or they really want to be close to their parents. Peter Gray PhD calls our culture's issues with our children's sleep an "Evolutionary Mismatch." I love this perspective (of course!) and highly recommend reading his short essay on the topic.
So - Sleep. We make it way harder then it needs to be. Being tired is a big problem because it makes everything else seem difficult to deal with. When we are sleep deprived there is little else that can be right in our lives. I know from experience. But the more we let go of our expectations, embrace the truth or how children sleep best, and then make our decisions based on that knowledge, the more rested we will be (even if we are still tired!)
ps Sometimes we *will* be exhausted when we have little babies, no matter how we do things. This is not about those times. For those times we need love and support and listening ears to commiserate with us - not people trying to "solve" our sleep issues. These are the times that I wish we had our tribes surrounding us.
What is your "sleep story"? (I know you have one, every parent does!) I'd love to hear it. What has made things harder or easier for you?
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.