Oh my dearest tired mama. Come and rest a while. I just want to love on you a little bit. Were you to come over, I’d settle you on the comfiest spot on the couch with a cup of hot chamomile tea, and we’d chat quietly. And when your eyelids began to flutter (as they surely would), I’d slip away and let you nap while I watched your children for a little while.
Because, my stars, you’re exhausted.
I had absolutely no idea how truly bone-tired I have been for years on end. There aren’t even words to wrap around it. Two months of regular solid sleep for the first time in ten years, and I suddenly realize just how heavily sleeplessness and exhaustion can color our world. I’ve known it intellectually for years, but I deep-down-heart-know-it now. It’s just the reality of the lovely little babes and delightful toddlers (and teengers!)- we don’t get regular sleep. It just does NOT happen on a regular basis. It becomes exponentially more complicated the larger the family is.
I feel like a new woman these days. I can complete proper sentences and even paragraphs without losing my place in my thoughts. When I wake up, there is not a burning heaviness behind my eyes begging me to turn back into those warm, cozy covers for a few minutes more. The troubles within and without seem to be shrinking down to manageable sizes. The thought of cooking dinner or washing yet another load does not fill my eyes instantly with exhausted tears. (Well, I might still cry at the laundry, but that’s because I have boys. 😉 ) I feel more like myself. I’m reading again. Creating. I don’t feel like I’m barely treading water or even drowning at times; my feet are back on solid ground.
Dear heart, that lack of sleep colors everything. So what’s a tired mama to do?
Here’s what I’ve learned not to do:
1) DON’T LISTEN TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD FOR ONE SECOND. Listen to your heart and your body; listen to your children’s needs, and let the rest go. The thing is, if you were able to sit still long enough, you know what you need. It’s the voices in your head that tell you that you aren’t measuring up to the world’s expectations that make you ignore it. Listen close to your heart.
2) DON’T PUT ON THE SUPERHERO CAPE. Oh bless us, we try so very hard. And we think that we have to be everything to everyone, or everything to even just ourselves; we’ve got some idea of what good mama is and does (or maybe she’s a cliched stereotype, which is even worse) and we will kill ourselves trying to be an unattainable something that, were we to look closely, would realize was not us. It’s a heart dissonance when we try to achieve goals that our outside our unique calling. It wears us out.
3) DON’T THINK YOUR TIME IS CHEAP AND LESS-THAN. Don’t burn the candle at both ends. This, this, is the tear-stained truth that I bring to you out of my own life. I did not realize how little I valued myself and my time- I would literally work from six in the morning until two or three in the wee hours of the night, just to be everything to everyone. I grabbed sleep in fistfuls when I needed at least eight hours of sleep a night. It has played terrible havoc on my health. I will most likely pay for that mistake for the rest of my life in varying forms. You are worth a good night’s sleep, in whatever form you can find it. Aside from a nursing babe or sick child, there is so very little that should cross that boundary. When it does, it should be exceedingly rare. Please trust me on this. NOTHING is worth losing that God-given rest. It is a precious gift. Treat it so.
4) DON’T THINK YOU CAN DO THIS WITHOUT REFUELING. You just can’t do it. You cannot run on fumes for years on end. The thing is, you’ve burned away the God-given fuel and have begun consuming your own life-force, in body and in soul. You’re on starvation rations and your body will do what it needs to do. So will your heart and brain. Depression is such a stalker of young moms and this is one major reason why. When we don’t get proper rest, it strains the balance in our bodies, chemically, hormonally, emotionally. It’s all connected. Find the rest. Fight for it. Please, please hear me: a towering load of laundry, a dirty load of dishes, a crunchy floor, a late report at work, an upcoming article deadline, none of it is worth your critical need for sleep. I seriously doubt many of us are being lazy; we are just trying to do too much in too little time. If your body is telling you to rest, listen.
5) DON’T THINK THAT A SMALL MOMENT OF GRACE ISN’T WORTH STOPPING FOR. With little ones, it is so very very hard to get straight stretches of rest. We do have to grab it in strange combinations. It’s just a reality. And sometimes, we just can’t grab a twenty-minute nap, as much as we’d desperately like to. But we can afford to sit still for five or ten minutes, fix ourselves a warm cup of tea or (more likely :D) coffee. We can slip a few rows on the knitting needles, we can grab a photograph. We can refuel in ways that pay it forwards to that time when we can slip into glorious sleep. This step is perhaps the most easy to implement and yet the hardest thing to convince myself of. I think this goes back to valuing ourselves and our time. We try to tell ourselves that we aren’t worth a small moment of peace, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, by the end of that ten minutes, some child will be crying or some such thing; but I am always so much calmer at the end of that quiet moment. It is so worth it. Find those little five and ten minute things that you can do to refuel the tank. Schedule them into your day if you have to, but try at least one of them throughout the day. You’ll be amazed at how much better it makes you feel.
I am cheering you on, sweet mama, in whatever season of life you find yourself in!