Posted in Momming Hard

5 Little Pick-me-ups for Tired, Introvert Moms

(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.

Sleep

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.

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Rest

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.

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Exercise

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.

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Get Creative

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.

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Pray

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

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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!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Mom Fail Number 99

How long would it take me to reach 99 failures as a mom?  Two weeks?  One week?  A day?

Sometimes, the reality that I’ve been entrusted with two young lives seems like a wild idea.

We all got sunburn today.  All my life, people have chirped in my ear about sunburn, sunscreen, and skin cancer.  My mom used to make me wear SPF 15 on my face every day, because I was ‘fair.’  You’d think I would have gotten the idea.

I suppose it would be rare to go through life never having had a sunburn.  But when my babies’ beautiful, plump, flawless, pristine skin gets scorched – at the hands of my own neglect, no less – it really, really bugs me.

My line of reasoning went something like this:

“I’ve forgotten the sunscreen.  I should go back and get it.  But no, I don’t want to.  We don’t have time, and I’m sure we’ll be fine.  We’ll be submerged in water.  It will all wash off anyway and contaminate the pool water.  We’ll take breaks in the shade.

Besides, look how nice other people’s kids look with their brown skin.  I’ve heard sunscreen is bad for you.  We should build up our skin’s natural resistance and get a nice, gradual tan.”

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that my skin is about as pasty, white, and prone to sunburn as it will come.  And my kids aren’t much different.

Failing, I suppose, is normal.  And yet, it always seems to catch me off-guard.

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Recently I witnessed a friend of mine in the midst of one of her self-described ‘mom fails.’  A group of us moms were getting together at my house.  Half an hour after everyone else had arrived, she was nowhere to be seen.  Because she was in her car.  In my driveway.

Fighting with her kids.

Trying to convince them to come inside, when they wanted absolutely nothing to do with the whole thing.

She gave up, took them home to their dad, and showed up at my house almost an hour late.  Her eyes looked wet, and her eyelids were a little puffy, like she’d been crying.

“I can handle 28 girls,” she said (she manages a hair salon), “but I can’t handle 2 boys?”

Although I understood her sentiment (having felt similarly obtuse, on several occasions, with my boys), I could not see what she was seeing.

Because when I look at her, I see a woman who is nearly perfect.  Who handles whatever life throws at her, with grace.  Who cares about others more than I thought was humanly possible.  Who never misses a great teachable moment with her children.  Who oozes peace, strength, humility, and servanthood.

What if, instead of only counting failures, we also took some notice of the things we are doing right?

So yes, we got sunburn.  But I had raced around the grocery store that morning and done the shopping in record time, so we would have time for fun in the afternoon.  I had beamed with pride as my 8 year-old swam all the way across the pool during his swimming lesson, without touching bottom.  I had held my 2 year-old up on the public toilet seat so he could go, wiped his little bottom, and then washed his brown-streaked shorts in the sink with my bare hands.  I had overcome my body insecurities to don a swimsuit in front of God and man, stayed within an arm’s reach of my toddler at all times, and kept a watchful eye on his brother (praying for safety) as he flailed around with his friends.  The two of them went to bed tonight content, and worn out from play and learning and stimulation and fun, with full tummies and clean clothes on their backs.

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I don’t think we should ignore failures.  I think that we should take note, learn, and do differently next time.  Personally, I pray a lot: for mercy; for grace.

But, for every one failure, there may be 99 ways that you have gotten it right.  (Or, at least, had your heart in the right place.)  I would be willing to bet.

What’s your latest mom fail?  I’d love to hear about it. 😁

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

One of the things I remember from prenatal class was when the teacher said: “You cannot do everything, well.”  I have also heard it said: “Women can do it all.  Just not all at the same time.”

And boy, have I ever found these to be true in my life.

After having my first child, I really tried to cover all the bases on my own steam.  I tried to keep up a successful and current career, keep a clean house, cook all our meals, and spend tons of time with my child.  All by myself.

But I couldn’t.  It tumbled down pretty quick.

I really loved my job.  But, I felt bitter about it when I came home to a dirty disaster of a house, and had to scramble for meals for the family to eat.  I also began to feel disconnected from my child, and worried that if I continued on that path, I would miss out on the precious years of him being little.  Years that I would never be able to get back.

I remember, coming to a crossroads.  The term position I had was ending, but I had been offered another one.  It was the sort of job that I would have never dreamed of having.  It really fed the part of me that craved significance, value, purpose, creativity, and excitement.

But, I was starting to realize that while I worked at a job, there was another full-time job at home and with my kids being left undone.  If I were to continue working outside the home, someone needed to help with all the other stuff.  I sat down at the kitchen table and crunched the numbers.  I knew that I would need to pay for housecleaning, and childcare, if I were to take the job.  However, if I stayed with a smaller 1-day-per-week contract, I would be able to do my own housecleaning, and my son would only need daycare one day per week.

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It may not surprise you, that both options were about equal from a financial standpoint.  So, I chose to stay home and keep a side-hustle that wouldn’t use too much time or energy.  I wanted to spend my days with my kids while they were little, rather than apart, if I had a choice.

The decision of whether to stay home or not is a pretty big deal.  (And let us remember that to even have the option of staying home is a privileged position.)  But since it can be such a difficult decision to make, today I am sharing the things that I considered at the kitchen table that day.  If you are in the same situation right now, I hope the following thoughts will help you.

  • Finances:
    • Can your family afford to live on one income?  Are there things about your life that you will have to change?  Are you all willing to make those changes?  (We eventually ended up selling our house and moving.)
    • What will you need help with if you go to work?  (Housecleaning, childcare, cooking, driving or dropping off children, yard work, etc.)  Who will help you?  Will you have to pay them?  What will this cost?
    • What do you expect to make from your job?  What is left over after paying for the additional expenses you will incur by working?  (Paid housecleaners, childcare, fuel and vehicle expenses, clothing, memberships, other work expenses, etc.)
  • Quality of life:
    • What will your child or children experience while you are away at work?  Will the childcare situation be beneficial and stimulating for them, or stressful and exhausting?
    • How will you keep up relationships with the people that matter?  (Husband, children, other family members, friends, etc.)  Will you have enough time and energy to spend on them?
    • What do you and your family need or want in terms of – household cleanliness, meals, vacations, extra curricular activities, etc.?  How will you best achieve this?
    • What will your own schedule look like, realistically?  Will you thrive on this schedule, or will you be exhausted?
    • Is your job a valuable outlet that you will miss?  (For creativity, socializing/networking, academic stimulation, energy, etc.)  How will you fill this void if you decide to stay home?
  • Professional development:
    • Would having a job right now help you advance professionally?  How?
    • Would staying at home cost you, professionally?  How?  (Loss of: learning, promotion, status, income, etc.)  Would you be able to recover from this loss?  Are you willing to make these sacrifices?
    • Is there a way that you could keep your career going on a part-time basis?  (Reducing your role at work, working from home, starting a small side business, etc.)

While I took all of the above considerations into account, I do remember a pivotal moment when my decision was made, before I even acknowledged it consciously.  After explaining my position to a wiser, older woman whom I trusted (but who was not personally invested in the situation), she did something very bold.  She told me what she thought!  She said:

“Usually, it’s better for the children if the mother stays home.”

And I just couldn’t argue with that.  How could it not be better during those pivotal years, for my kids to have time at home with the one woman who loves them the most in all the world?

I understand that every family is in a different position.  There are families where fathers are able to spread themselves out more between work and kids, and then the wife does the same.  There are families who just can’t afford to live on one income, and if it’s a matter of eating or not eating, they do what they have to do.  There are families with grandparents who are able and willing to watch the kids for a few hours a day.  There are families who thrive on a lot more activity and stimulation than my family and I can manage.

Whatever your situation, there will be benefits and drawbacks.  I’ve seen kids thriving at home, and at daycares.  I’ve also seen the opposite…at home, and at daycares.  If you pay attention to how your kids are doing, make the best choices that you can within the options available to you, and ask for help when you need it: they will thrive.

Is this a decision you have made or are making?  Where’re you at?  How’s it going for you?  Tell me about it in the comments section.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Rambles

The Driveway Rumble

One of my favorite things to do with my kids is hang out on our driveway.  We moved to the town from the country, so a paved surface is kind of a novelty.  They rumble around on bikes, scooters, and ride-on toys, while I sit with a coffee or tea at my bistro set.  (Or plant myself at the mouth of the driveway as a human barrier between them and passing cars.)

For me, it’s a rare opportunity to soak up some warm sunshine while the short summer is here.  I relish the chance to sit for a while and sip on something while enjoying the beauty of my children as they play.  For them, it’s a chance to motor around together and have the full attention of a happy mom.  A mom who is happy because, quite honestly, she is meeting her own needs while simultaneously meeting theirs.

This, I believe, is the true nature of play: it’s fun for everyone involved.

As a younger mom, I nearly wore myself out with all the “playing” I did with my son.  I thought that I should do whatever he wanted when we spent time together, because he was the developing child and it was his needs that were most important.

To a point I still believe this.  Sometimes as parents, we need to sacrifice our own desires to support our kids in their interests.  (No, I don’t actually feel like playing Lego/trucks/Uno/fill-in-the-blank, but I’ll do it for you, because I love you and what you like is important to me.)  However, if taken to the extreme, we defeat the very purpose of play.  It’s supposed to be fun!  For both parties.  And let’s face it: they’re kids, and you’re not anymore.  What is fun for them will not necessarily be fun for you.

I’ve also noticed that my mood really impacts my kids.  My joy multiplies theirs, and their joy multiplies mine!  Because of this, I’ve come to re-frame the way I think about playing.  I now think of it as sharing joy.

When we have a chunk of time to spend together, I ask myself, “What could we do to have some fun?”  For us, this may look like:

  • Playing on the driveway, as I mentioned
  • Walking or biking to a park
  • Skating a few laps around the neighborhood rink (the little guy just slides around on his boots)
  • Going tobogganning
  • Cooking or baking something yummy together
  • Heading to the dollar store and spending pocket change for a small toy, activity, or treat
  • Doing a special, seasonal craft (e.g. making Christmas decorations or coloring Easter eggs)

None of these activities are a drag for me, because they are things that I actually enjoy too.  When I structure our time in this way, a few neat things happen:

  • I am more patient in dealing with the inevitable squabbles and behavior problems, because I’m in a decent mood myself.
  • The kids learn that the wants and needs of other people matter too (the world doesn’t revolve around them, and that’s actually ok)!
  • I have a chance to pass on my passions, and the kids learn from what I teach them.
  • The kids experience things that are different from the usual play that would occur either on their own or with other children.

And you know what?  In the middle of these activities, I often find myself spontaneously joining in on what the kids are doing.  We’ll throw a ball back and forth, push a truck around, or dig in the sandbox.  It is still about them and their needs.  But because I haven’t sentenced myself to an hour of doing just that, I can do it cheerfully.

Quality time spent with your children is never wasted, but if it’s fun for you too, your children will feed off of the joy that you are sharing with them.

Do you like playing with your kids, or is it difficult?  What kinds of things do you do together?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa