(Yawn.) “I’m tired!”
I say it so much, I’m tired of hearing myself say it. And everyone around me probably is too!
Being tired is often just the normal state of being a parent. If you’re also an introvert, parenthood can be particularly exhausting. You need quiet, alone time to recharge your batteries. But your children (especially the younger ones) may need to be around you basically from sun-up until sun-down.
In the past few weeks, I’ve really enjoyed the slower pace of not having to rush to the bus stop and preschool in the mornings. I’ve enjoyed lazy mornings around the breakfast table with my boys, and countless walks and bike rides. However, I have missed the few hours of alone time I would usually get during the week when school and preschool are in session. Nonetheless, there are some simple strategies that I have been using to keep myself going as best as I can.
Umm…duh, right? But hang on there, just a second. Like me, you may feel guilty for grabbing a cat nap in the middle of the day if your kids are sleeping or away at school. But, does that nap leave you feeling replenished and in a better mood? Are you still able to sleep the following night? If you let yourself, could you fall asleep right now?
If your answer was yes to these questions, and you are an otherwise healthy person, could it be that you are functioning in a state of sleep deprivation?
I was shocked, when I became a mom, at how much sleep I had to sacrifice. And not only for the first three months, as I was led to believe. For years after children are sleeping through the night, parents are awoken for a plethora of reasons such as bad dreams, potty breaks, bed wetting, sicknesses, and random bumps in the night that snap you awake and into “parent mode” for no good reason at all.
Eventually, it takes its toll. There’s a lot of catching up to do.
One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given regarding motherhood was: “If you can take a break, then do.” You can’t take a break, nearly always. Your kids need you, and you want to be there for them. But when the house miraculously falls silent, and there is a pause in the constant demands on you, by all means – take it.
This point may seem redundant, but it flows from my previous one. Sleep is great when you have that luxury, but for some kids the napping stage does not last long. Which means that your napping opportunities are cut short as well. And even if you have one child who naps, chances are, you have another one who doesn’t or who naps at a different time.
Even if you cannot sleep, there may be a chance for you to sit down during the day and close your eyes for a moment or two. I use screen time very deliberately with my kids. Most weekdays, I will turn on the TV for them after lunch for about an hour (which is the time of day that I find myself hitting a wall). After finding a safe show for them to watch, I’ll sit down somewhere and close my eyes. Closing your eyes is key here – put away the devices, reading material, and whatever else you may want to occupy yourself with, and close your eyes. You don’t have to sleep, but chances are you may drift into a slight doze. I find that even 15 or 20 minutes of this will leave me feeling more refreshed than I was before.
If you don’t want to place your children in front of screens, you can be opportunistic about those moments during the day when they become preoccupied with something for a while, and take a breather then. If my children are playing nicely in the other room, I may lie down on the couch for a while. Or if they’ve gone outside to the backyard, I’ll sit down with a cup of tea. It’s easy for a mom’s day to stretch to the length of 12 hours or more, in addition to being wakened at night, with no days off in between. Don’t feel like you need to spend the entirety of those hours on your feet.
Ok, I don’t think there’s a better way to get a tired person want to kick you in the teeth, than to tell them they should exercise more. At least, that’s how I feel when someone tells me so! However, as difficult as it may be to get going on this one, there is truth to it – as long as, like I mentioned before, you are otherwise a healthy person. It’s like a little magic bullet. Add fresh air to the mix for bonus points. And take your kids with you, to wear them out as well!
Since doing school at home with my son these past few weeks, I have joined in on his Phys-Ed workouts when I can. From him I’ve learned how to do a “burpee” and a “squat.” I’ve braved the wild world of a push-up, and realized how much easier it was to jump rope when I was 9 than it is now. I’ve cycled against the wind. I’ve repeatedly chased my 3 year old around our bay on his balance bike. Each time, it has been a lovely jolt to my system, like some kind of wonderful drug. “Just do it,” as Nike would have you believe. And in my unqualified opinion – the more vigorous the exercise, the better the payout. If you try it, let me know if you agree.
A writer I follow named Deanne Welsh dropped a thought into my inbox last week that caught my eye. Its heading was: “Is creativity sustaining you?” And I would even ask, is creativity nurturing you? For those who love to be creative (you know who you are), it can be incredibly life-giving to have some kind of free-flowing project on the go. However, I would caution that if you impose burdens and restrictions on yourself for the outcome of said project, you can rob yourself of the joy it would have otherwise brought.
For example, my main creative outlet is this blog. However, if I start to worry about all the problems or weaknesses in my blog – not adhering to a consistent schedule, drifting from niche to niche, low stats, etc. – I feel discouraged and my blog becomes a burden, instead of a joy. Now, those things can be important for bloggers who want to grow their following. However, what I am encouraging is to not let the outcome of your endeavors (even if they flop) steal the positive effects of creativity on your mental health. As a music therapist, I am a firm believer in “process over product.” That is, the experience of creating something can be just as important (if not more so) than the end product itself.
My days begin with prayer; my days end with prayer; and I sandwich it in between whenever I can. No, I’m not on some kind of strict, religious schedule. Prayer gives me life. It is my connection to the One who cares for me more than anybody else. The only One who fully knows and understands who I am and what makes me tick.
I think prayer would be awfully boring if it were a one way street – talking to someone who never speaks back. Thankfully, that is not the case.
“…his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:4b-5 NIV
The thoughts, feelings, pictures, memories, and impressions that the Lord gives to me as I pray or read my Bible are sometimes the only things keeping me calm and behaving as a halfway decent human being. And even if I don’t really hear Him respond, I know that He is always listening. Intently.
I have become convinced that God has a soft spot for moms. This topic could probably comprise a blog post all by itself, but for now, I will leave you with one of my favorite verses. It reminds me that I am not alone in parenting my kids!
“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in heaven.” Matthew 18:10 NIV
So, there they are – sleep, rest, exercise, creativity, and prayer – 5 things helping me survive (and sometimes even thrive) as an introvert mom.
Are you an introvert mom? Do you have tricks or ideas to share? Let me know in the comments section below!