Have you been up all night mama?
Let me guess you painted the town red with a wonderful date night. You were binge-watching your favorite show. No? Oh yeah, the baby was up every 2 hours wanting to eat. You were up with your sick toddler. Your older child needed your consolation after a bad dream. A mother’s work never ends. Do you find the day after these kinds of nights is just as rough as the sleep itself? Life has to continue on, but how do you get through it when you have bags under your eyes the size of real grocery bags and your body feels is as limp as a crumpled up blanket. Keep reading to learn how to conquer the day after a sleepless night.
I will share with you information based off of my own experience as a mom and as a counselor on how to make the most of your day when you feel like you’ve been put through the ringer. My focus will be on conquering the day, but I also understand that addressing sleep issues is important too. I won’t go into detail about sleep training techniques but I will provide links to resources at the bottom of this post.
My Sleepless Nights
One of the biggest surprises for me as a first time mom was how tired I would feel. Going into motherhood I knew I’d be up to feed the baby at night. I knew I would not be able to sleep for 7-8 hours straight for a while but figured I could sleep when the baby sleeps. That’s what all the advice says right?
Well, I was blessed with a baby who liked to get up every two hours to eat for the first 12 months of his life. I’d read all of the sleep milestones babies should reach and my son never achieved them. That was our night time ritual. Daytime was another beast. My son hated napping. It would take a good hour to put him down and I’d be lucky if I got a 45-minute nap out of him despite all of my efforts. This kid fought sleep with a vengeance. I was tired, frustrated and felt like a failure.
For me, nothing was more disappointing not being able to set out to do the things I wanted to do during the day because I was too tired. Grand plans of going out for a run with the baby went out the window. Completing a project around the house felt overwhelming. Doing basic thinking, like figuring out a shopping list, was difficult because my mind was mush.
Then there was my mood. Cranky, cranky, cranky. My poor husband got the brunt of my moodiness. I thought frustrating thoughts towards my son, even though I knew he couldn’t help it. This is not how I thought motherhood was supposed to be.
Then when my oldest turned a year I got pregnant with #2. Oh goody, 1st-trimester fatigue meets a party animal 1-year-old!
Sleepless Nights Sucked The Joy Out Of Motherhood
Have you ever felt so tired that you just don’t want to do anything? “Ugh, the baby needs to be changed again. I just want to sit here.”
Has fatigue made you feel like you can’t do anything? “Gee, I wanted to take the kids to the park, bake cookies and do a fun craft with them but I’m too tired to do anything.”
Have you ever been so sleepy you only think negative thoughts? “Oh look it’s a beautiful day, too bad I’m too tired to enjoy it.”
Has sleep deprivation put you in a constant bad mood that the first thing you do is yell? “Stop it! Be quiet!”
Has lack of sleep ever made you feel defeated? “I’m such a loser, I’m too tired to make a healthy meal for my family, instead we’ll have frozen pizza…again.”
This is what sleepless nights did to me. I used to joke if you want the joy sucked out of you have kids. Deep down inside though this is was not me. This is not who I wanted to be. As a mom, I knew I couldn’t continue down this path. As a counselor, I knew this would take a toll on my mental health of not only me but my family too.
You Can’t Change The Situation But You Can Change How You React To It
The above phrase was something I learned about in graduate school during one of my counseling internships. My mentor told me she used this phrase to help her students change the way they dealt with situations that were out of their control. I used this phrase a lot with my clients and students too.
If you’re encountering a difficult thing that you’re unable to change you have two choices, let it make you miserable or find a positive way to think or feel about the situation.
I decided to heed my own advice and look at sleepless nights and it’s effect on my days differently. I used to dread going to sleep knowing full well I’d be up again in a few hours. I couldn’t force my kids to sleep through the night (though we were working on helping them to stay asleep.) I could change the way I felt about having to get up to take care of them in the night though.
I reflected on what being a mom meant. To me, being a mom means doing whatever it takes to love and care for my kids. Doing whatever it takes requires making sacrifices. In other words being a mom means showing sacrificial love to my kids and that doesn’t stop when everybody is asleep.
Accentuate the Positive
This shift in thinking greatly helped me change my perspective on my sleepless nights. Instead of thinking “ugh, I have to get up again,” I began to think “my child needs me and as a mom, I will sacrifice my sleep so I can take care of them.”
Showing this type of love and care to my kids reminded me of Jesus’ sacrificial love towards me. If he died on the cross for my sins surely I can get up and take care of my child.
Shifting my mindset was the first step towards conquering my day. Without it I’d be stuck in a pile of negativity, a pile that took it’s hold on me and effected my mood during the day.
Eliminate The Negative
So while you can’t change the way your child sleeps through the night in an instant you can change the way you think about sleepless nights. Start here, think of something positive about having to get up in the night. I agree, there’s not much to enjoy about getting called out of your warm bed after a long day. As dark as the night is, it can be hard to see the light side of sleepless nights.
Sleepless nights means your child needs you and you can be there for them. It means you are their source of comfort. Even if you don’t know how to take care of them at the moment you do know how to provide snuggles. And if you don’t know it doesn’t make you a bad parent. Perhaps you do know what they need and getting up to take care of them provides an opportunity to teach them something. All of these actions say “I love you, I’m here for you, I’m taking care of you.” These are the positive things that come from having to get up in the night with a child. Focus on these things when your slumber gets interrupted.
How To Conquer The Day
After you worked on changing your mindset from negative thoughts to positive ones it’s time to conquer the day and not let it be ruined just because you had a sleepless night.
Before we go any further I don’t want to dismiss the fact that you’re tired. I’ve been there and I’m still there. In fact, this post has been delayed several days because I was up with my two-year-old several nights in a row and I was too tired to write. The strategies I’ll be sharing with you take into account that you’re tired, but it also takes into account that life goes on whether you slept 8 hours or 3. In other words, here are some things you can do to make the most of your day and get things accomplished, even if you just feel like curling up in a ball like a sleeping cat.
You Can’t Do It All
Recognize that you can’t and shouldn’t do it all. It’s okay! You’re not a failure if you don’t get to everything on your to-do list. We all know as parents not everything goes as planned. Ever have plans to go to Thanksgiving dinner only to have your child puke everywhere on the way to Grandma’s house? Kids throw wrenches into our plans so we just have to keep adapting and making changes.
If you have a to-do list a mile long and you had a sleepless night look at your plans for the day and make changes. What are the essential things that need to happen? What are the things that can be rescheduled?
For example, let’s say you have to go to the grocery store, you want to workout, take the kids to the park, pay some bills, clean the bathroom and go to the library. As you go through the list you might make an inventory of things like, ok I’m out of milk and bread, I’d like to get some exercise and fresh air for the kids but I’m not up for the park. I don’t have any bills due today. The bathroom is in pretty good shape. I don’t have any books due at the library.
So you need to go to the store to buy the items you’re out of. You take park off the list, but change it for a walk so you get exercise and fresh air. You look at when you’re bills are due and schedule to take care of them by their due dates instead of today. You skip cleaning the bathroom and going to the library.
There you conquered your day! You did the things that needed to get done and rearranged other things for another time.
Let It Go
My 6 year old loves to sing “let it go, let it go…” You know the tune! Let that be your anthem on days you’re coming off of a bad nights sleep.
And by let it go I mean the struggle you have with wanting to do everything and feeling too tired too.
You’re not a failure, but you are setting yourself up to feel like one if you try to do more than you’re energy allows you to. Let it go! Only bite off what you can chew
This may sound silly but sometimes I take my list with 1000 things on it, crumple it up, and let it go by throwing it down the stairs. Then I take a fresh sheet of paper and think about how much I’m capable of tacking in the day given my current energy.
I look at what absolutely needs to get done and then only add just 1 to 2 other things to keep my list short. Let’s say I had hoped to mop my floor. Perhaps I won’t mop it with a toothbrush, instead, I’ll spot clean it with a rag. My floor gets clean, but in a more adaptable way that better fits the day.
Bam the day is conquered. You let go of the lofty aspirations and tackle the achievable things instead of trying to do something that’s insurmountable.
Go Halvsies On Sleep When The Baby Sleeps
Have you ever lay down at your child’s nap time thinking you’ll catch some zzz’s only to start focusing on all of the work you could or should be getting done while they sleep? But then you think you really should nap since you’re tired? I hate that thought cycle.
I have found it’s possible to do both. I understand the need to rest when the baby is napping but also understand the desire to get chores done without having to juggle a child. On days I want to nap but feel like I have a mountain of work to do I like to do both. How do you do that?
After I put my child down I quickly do a chore that is easy and short in duration. Perhaps it’s putting away a basket of laundry, or wiping down counters. Basically, something that doesn’t take too long to get done. When my chore is completed I lay down. I find crossing off one thing from my list helps me relax.
There are other days that, even though I’m tired, I just can’t fall asleep. In these moments instead of forcing myself to sleep, I just use the rest of nap time to do something quiet for myself. Even just laying on the couch and reading helps to feel rested.
Do this and you’ve conquered your day! You got some downtime and crossed an item off your list.
Set Realistic Expectations
When your child has really bad sleep and is crabby the rule of thumb is to lower your expectations of them. Perhaps they normally eat lunch and clean-up without a stink on good days but when they are tired they don’t like to eat or clean-up. On those days you know not to expect much.
When you had a sleepless night follow that same idea for yourself. What are your realistic expectations for the day after being up all night? Perhaps it’s not realistic to clean the house from top to bottom that day. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to get your play-date right on time. It might not be the best time to try out a 50 step Pinterest craft. Exchange those expectations for a general pick-up, arriving 10 minutes late, and crayons and paper.
Also if your kids watch TV a little bit more or you just stuck to the basic daily chores and nothing more above and beyond on certain days it’s okay. Give yourself grace that 3 hours of TV vs 2 won’t hurt anyone.
You conquer your day when you create realistic expectations for yourself.
Delegate and Ask For Help
The term “it takes a village” is very popular and true. We shouldn’t have to do everything by ourselves. If you find you’re too tired and can’t get everything done it’s okay. Call upon your village.
Do you need a break in your day? Who can you call to watch the kids so you can nap or have quiet time?
Talk to your spouse if you need extra help around the house. They are perfectly capable of helping with dishes, running errands or picking up.
There is no shame in asking for help and letting others know what you need.
After you’re done asking for help pat yourself on the back because you just conquered your day!
I hope these ideas empower you to feel like you can conquer your day after a sleepless night. The overriding theme with all of these strategies are about letting certain things go, adapting your plans and doing things that are achievable. Sometimes taking a step back helps you feel like you’ve accomplished a lot.
If you follow these tips gone are the days of just floating through life in a sleepless fog instead, you’ll be able to conquer your days with purpose.
If you are in need to helpful resources for getting your child to sleep I found these resources to be helpful.