Practical Ways To Stay Rested

Yesterday I posted about people’s compulsive need to comment on the number of small children I cart around with me. You know, the “you sure have your hands full” comments. Totally unhelpful, but surprisingly good conversation starters.

Today I thought I would follow it up with some practical tips for staying well rested. Because truthfully, four kids hasn’t been that much harder than two kids, and two kids wasn’t really that much harder than one kid. Motherhood is difficult because it’s tiring. It wears you down. It grinds on you. This is true whether you have one child or ten. The key, then, is to get rest. Lots of rest.

My hands are full, but my body is rested, so mothering these four littles is manageable. Carting them all to doctor’s appointments is feasible. Navigating all four through the crowds of Costco is doable. Even getting through one entire day without snapping at one of them is possible (although, admittedly happens less frequently than I’d like to admit).

Here are some practical ways I stay rested:

  1. All Children Must Nap

Over the years I’ve heard some moms say their children stopped napping or gave up naps. I think what they really mean to say is “my child starting battling me at nap time and I finally gave up.” Because let’s be clear – the child didn’t give up on napping, the parent gave up on napping.

Now I realize that when it comes to the youngest child in the family, there may be reasons the parent wants to end the napping stage. Perhaps they want the freedom of being out all day. Or perhaps a working parent wants more time with their child on the weekends. Neither of those apply to me, though, so until my last child goes to Kindergarten, at our house there will be naps.

The question that usually prompts is what do I do when they stop sleeping at nap time? To which I respond, who cares if they’re sleeping? Once they hit preschool age, napping is no longer about the sleep – it’s about the break. I need a break from them and they need a break from me. We all need rest.

2. Independent Playtime

Independent Playtime offers a second opportunity during the day for everyone to get a break from each other. You can read more details here, but it’s basically a 45-60 minute structured time that each child must play independently – meaning not with you and not with each other. I use this time to shower and clean up a bit, but you could use it in anyway that gives you rest. Read for an hour. Garden. Do the ironing. Doze. Whatever.

3. Send Your Kids Outside

I realize this may not be a year around reality for many people (and my heart goes out to them!) but being that it’s California, my kids can and should be outside for a good portion of almost every single day.

Kids do not need to be actively entertained 100% of the time. Send them outside and let them explore and entertain themselves! Meanwhile, rest.

By now you’re sensing a trend.

Is the key to being a rested mother never actually being with your children? 


Well, yes.

Sort of.

I just think you’d be hard pressed to find one mom who can be truly “on” for 12-14 hours straight during the day. I think most teachers would tell you that they need recess almost as much (if not more) than the students do. It’s the same for mothers. Having sporadic periods of rest during the day makes it possible to be focused and intentional with the time you’re actively mothering.

Now back to my list:

4. Go to Bed Early

There are about a billion reasons its generally better for kids to go to bed early (for example, this study) but I’m not talking about putting your kids to bed early here. I’m talking about putting YOURSELF to bed early.

Gone are the days when I could stay up until 1am, roll out of bed for work at 6am and somehow feel rested. I don’t know if it’s that I’m older or that my days are just more full, but I need a lot more sleep than I used to.

If you want to spend tomorrow feeling like a truck ran you over then sure, stay up and watch just one more episode of Narcos before you hit the hay. But if you want the energy required to successfully wrangle four kids through Target without losing your marbles, GO TO BED EARLY.

5. Get Up Early

Why go to bed early if you’re just going to get up early? Because nothing beats a hot cup of coffee in a quiet house with the newspaper, a book, or time with the Lord. This is rest. Start off the day on the right foot.

6. Keep a Clean Kitchen

This may be unique to me, but I am simply unable to relax with a messy kitchen. Perhaps it’s not specifically the kitchen for everyone, but I’d bet the principle is true for most mothers: I am not able to relax when “x” isn’t done.

So the answer, then, is to always have it done.

If I am unable to relax when my kitchen is a mess, cleaning the kitchen needs to be a priority. I do that before I hop on the computer, before I move on to the laundry, or even before I sit down and read to my kids.

This way, when the opportunity for rest arises (during Independent Playtime, nap time, or just a few moments when everyone is playing together happily), I am prepared to sit down, relax, and rest.

7. When All Else Fails, Play Doctor

I’m not usually an active participant in my kids’ pretend games. Sure I engage in pretend play throughout the day here and there, but I rarely get down and actually play kitchen with them, go through the entire process of tucking the dolls in, or participate in a gory battle between Spiderman and She-ra.

But when I am tired. When I am really, really tired.

Then we play doctor. I lay down on the couch and tell them I need a check up. First my head hurts, and then it’s my leg. Then can you check my ears? I might have an infection. Oh no! My foot is broken! I think it needs a massage. Can you put a cast on my arm? Please Dr. Vera – I don’t want a shot!

And through it all, I’m resting. It’s twenty minutes off my feet with little hands working for my recovery. It’s the best pretend game EVER.

See. With a little effort, all moms can find time for rest, and the difference between having two kids and six kids is almost irrelevant. My hands are full but my body is rested.


“You Sure Have Your Hands Full”

How to Catch a Break: Independent Playtime

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5 thoughts on “Practical Ways To Stay Rested

  1. Love this post. I love ‘book time’ too. Each day I set the timer for 15- 25 mins and my two year old and three year old sit and look at books until the timer goes off. Sometimes I read also. That silence and being able to read in peace is amazing. Rest! 🙂

    I do have a question for you. I send the kids outside daily also but mine can only last bout 20-30 mins (or less) before stuff is being thrown over the neighbours fence or someone is crying because the other one pushed them down the slide! How long do your kids play nicely outside , and if they dont, what do you do? Would love some ideas.



    • Book Time!! What a GREAT idea! It reminds me of “sustained silent reading” in elementary school. I LOVE that – thanks so much for sharing! I think we’ll give it a try!

      As for outside time – some days are better than others with the “playing nice” thing. I have found that they play much better together when I’m inside – sometimes on the weekends we all go outside in the afternoons and I try to sit and read or something but it never works. If I’m out there with them, there tend to be more arguments that they expect me to intervene in. In general, when they are outside by themselves, I expect them to work things out between themselves. I try not to get too involved in the sibling rivalry because I think it’s good for them to learn to resolve issues themselves. If I happen to be looking out the window and I see one push the other, I definitely go out and address it, but if I hear them squabbling, I usually just leave them to it. They generally work it out within a couple of minutes. So, to answer your question, I would probably just leave them out there whether they are playing nicely or not. Make it your focus to work on helping them resolve issues between themselves when you are around so they have this skill when you are not. For example, if they are inside playing and having trouble sharing, get down and talk to them about selfishness and loving your siblings and work on them coming up with their own solutions for fixing the problem (e.g. “Can you see that your sister is hurt because she wants to play with the shovel as much as you do? What could you do that might make her feel better? What could you do that would be loving to your sister?”). If you work on them getting along well when you are around, hopefully it will transfer to when you are not.

      As for throwing stuff over the fence, that’s an obedience issue and I would discipline for that, personally. I usually spank for direct acts of disobedience (when they KNOW they are not allowed to do something and they do it anyway) but I don’t think that’s the only solution. You could do timeout or removal of privileges (TV time or whatever) or whatever your kids’ currency is.

      This comment was so long, sorry! Hope it helped!


  2. Thanks so much for this. I’m also a mother of twins (now 7yrs old) and mother of 4 children (youngest are 2yrs old and 11months)

    This is a Perfect reminder.


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