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:
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?
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.