Motherhood is relatively easy for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have those sleep deprived days after endless nights of waking with my almost two year old every hour of the night (teething and rainy nights are tough for her).
Those days can be challenging. I recognize that my patience isn’t where it should be and all I want is some quiet. I silently beg my kids to be fine playing on their own. I countdown to naptime and bedtime. Everything that normally doesn’t bother me has the potential to be utterly frustrating.
But I’m resourceful and know myself well enough to know my shortcomings on those days. It’s easy to snap at my kids, but it’s not fair to them. Remembering that helps me hold my tongue.
I used to be a behavioral interventionist. I used to go to work with a literal and figurative toolkit. I carried toys, games, and activities in my bag and, on those days where I wasn’t feeling 100%, I brought in the good stuff, the things the kids loved and new surprises. I also carried in my training: how to form a relationship where the child wanted to engage with me, how to handle tantrums and non-compliance, how to enlist the parents for help, and the routines and schedules that were already established.
As a stay at home mom, I wake up at my workplace. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my toolkits.
Here are the 7 things I do on those sleep deprived days that could be hard:
- Get dressed. I do this every day, but, on those days following the rough nights, I tend to be a little neater in my attire. I wear the clothes I used to wear to work. It reminds me I’m here to do a job. My bosses are little and demanding, but I’m the big boss, and I should act that way.
- Routines and schedules. My son has his schedule and my daughter has her routines. Luckily, they mesh well with each other. Sometimes I change it up, but not on those sleep deprived days. Oh, no. Those routines and schedules are key to a productive day, happy kids, and less stressed out mommy.
- Let the kids lead. I’m too tired to think up new activities and games, so I let my kids guide us. This isn’t too hard since my almost 5 year old has a million ideas rattling around his head. The hard part is all of it rushes out of his mouth and I have to figure out what he’s trying to say. But I let them tell me what they would like and not like to do.
- Bring out old or new toys. These kids practically live in a toy store. They have very generous grandparents and a dad who loves toys as much as they do. Inevitably, toys get shuffled to the side and it’s those that I drag out. They’re always delighted because they usually don’t remember these one-time favorites. Sometimes I also have brand new toys squirreled away, and these sleep deprived days are when the kids get them.
- Long baths. My kids love water. They’ll easily spend an hour turning into fish if I let them. That’s one less hour I spend chasing after them. They’re not always great at playing together, but they also don’t rely on me to play with them. Morning baths are a great treat and afternoon baths take up the space between naptime and dinner (and dad coming home). It makes bedtime more relaxed because all they have to do is get dressed and brush their teeth.
- Bake. I love to bake. Baking is easy for me and I’ve mastered baking with small children. They also love baking with me, and the little treats I give them to keep them away from the eggs. All I have to do is ask if they want to make cake or cookies and they’ll go running to the kitchen. Come to think of it, I think they enjoy sitting on the counter more than anything else…
- Have patience. It’s hard. I’m tired and possibly holding the last of my rope, but they still need me to be their mom. I can’t snap at them just because I’m tired. I just have to remember I am exhausted, probably fighting headaches, trying desperately to keep my eyes open, and definitely not at my best, so I make more of an effort to be overly patient and kind to my kids.
It’s not easy being at home with small children when you’re tired, sick, or otherwise not feeling 100%. Those days happen, but I don’t let myself use that as an excuse to be anything but the kind of mom my kids need and deserve. I don’t give myself the space to be okay with having mom fails left and right.
Is it hard? Yes. But seeing them cry because I needlessly snapped at them is harder.
I’m not the of kind of mom who is okay with failing or being an okay mom. I knew motherhood was going to be tough and I’m determined to rise to the challenges it presents. Just because I’m tired doesn’t mean my kids aren’t expecting me to be the same old mom as yesterday. It just means I have to have plans in place and practice kindness and patience a lot more than usual.
And, if all else fails, being authentic with my kids and telling them mommy is tired or not feeling well goes a long way.