From the day I created Moms & Crafters, there was one person I knew I’d have to have here as a guest contributor, and that is, my big sister. Fun fact: I am the third of ten children, and my sister Fradl is the oldest, making her practically the third parent in the family. She also has four beautiful daughters of her own.
One day, when we were chatting, she mentioned something that made me say “you need to write about this on Moms & Crafters”! And so, here goes. Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
People sometimes ask me if I would consider giving parenting classes, and I generally hesitate. I don’t think they need my classes; they have everything they need to be a great parent right there inside themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I think parenting classes and books and workshops and anything that can give parents those helpful, often game-changing, tools to help them in their most vital of all trades are wonderful.
It’s just that if I were to ever give parenting classes they would take about ten minutes and involve exactly one tool:
GO TO SLEEP.
That is the beginning and end of it, in my experience.
The footnotes might include healthy eating, exercise and all manners of self-care, as well as practical tips and tips for getting the aforementioned sleep, which, if you have ever gone anywhere near mommyhood you would know is a whole lot harder than it sounds, but those three words would be the basic gist of it.
Hitting the Pillow: My Number One Parenting Tip
You see, I firmly believe that we are all incredibly intuitive and wise parents.
I believe that in any given parenting situation we know exactly what to do.
We know that when three-year-old
Devil Debra paints a stunning mural with the full set of make-up we finally allowed ourselves to buy – all over the living room wall of course – the proper response is to remain firm and controlled, to gently remove her from the crime scene and give a natural consequence and all of the things they may have taught in parenting class.
So why do we instead morph into a creature more animal than human? Why do we sob or yell or rant or worse, reacting in ways we know, in the clarity and serenity of night, we will sorely regret and wonder if we’ve forever damaged our precious child?
It’s because we are so deep down, plain and simply bone tired.
It’s because that exhaustion that is our constant companion breaks down our control and wears down our motherly intuition, our ability for calm and rational thought in the face of mommy-crisis and allows our raw emotions to emerge unbidden and unwelcome.
It’s why we become irritable and uptight, snapping at the slightest provocation, acting toward our children in ways we know we shouldn’t.
It’s why we can’t be bothered to listen and empathize; it’s why we lose the battle of self-control because we have diverted all of our fighting resources toward fighting the battle against gravity our eyelids are perpetually waging.
We are just too tired.
For me it’s thanks to that factor that is supposed to be a mommy’s greatest blessing but has become this mommy’s greatest curse: working from home.
How wonderful, they say, and I said at first, that you can be home when your kids are home and then finish up on your own time, when your kids are asleep. It’s not so wonderful when the only “own time” I own is at 2-3-4 am.
After too many late nights spent working, I find that during all that wonderful time I have with my children, I may be there physically, but mentally and emotionally I am far away. I am irritable, prone to lashing out disproportionate to the “crime” committed, and counting down the moments until I could get them all to bed and crash on the couch before my next late night work marathon.
For you, it may be something else that is causing your sleep deprivation, but the bottom line is that most of us are just plain too tired to parent in the most nurturing, loving, effective and intuitive way we are capable of parenting.
It’s our children who lose out, which is why, as I said, my number one tip for parents is to get enough sleep. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give your child. You’ll be amazed at what you are capable of, at the depths of patience, insight and calmness you can access when your brain is focused and unmuddled.
How to Get Enough Sleep as a Parent:
It’s easier said than done of course! Which mommy has enough spare hours lying around that she can just simply decide to sleep more? Show me her; I’d love to meet her! Maybe she’ll have enough to spare for me too! It’s hard, but here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Awareness is key.
If you can’t acknowledge how much your parenting is dependent on your sleep level and other manners of self-care that invigorate you emotionally, you won’t have the motivation to make any changes. So first, recognize the importance of sleep.
2. The dishes can wait!
Resist the temptation to whip the house into shape once the little ones are in bed. Leave the mess and go to sleep. No child died from a sticky floor; plenty have died inside from a mommy who was too tired to modulate her words.
3. Naps are your friend!
Nap time is not just for little ones, and if I were elected President, I would sign into law mandatory nap times for every mother with children under the age of ten. It’s not always feasible, but do whatever it takes to help you get there. Power nap. Hire a babysitter if you can; it will be your wisest investment ever. Which brings us to our next tip:
Spouse? Relative? Cleaning Help? Takeout? Many of your household tasks can be done by others, but only you can ensure that your children’s Mommy can access her very best self every moment of her parenting career.
5. Keep a time log.
If you feel you simply don’t have time to sleep any more than you are already, spend a week keeping track of all of the time you spend every day. Go through that log with a fine tooth comb and weed out anything extraneous that is getting in the way of your beauty sleep.
You may need to unwind before heading to bed, but you may not realize that you are spending two hours watching a movie when you could suffice with a half hour episode. You never realized that those conversations with your BFF kept you on the phone for over an hour and that you spent a full 72 minutes mending
Devil’s David’s torn pants.
6. Say No.
I don’t know about you, but one of the factors that keep me from getting a decent night’s sleep is all of those extra projects and responsibilities I take on, mostly because I don’t know how to say No.
Whether it’s volunteering, an extra freelancing job, or doing a favor for a neighbor or friend, carefully evaluate whether saying yes to this will negatively impact your own emotional health and your family’s well being.
It’s important to remind yourself that by saying No, you can be saying Yes to something far more important.
Don’t forget, until you start taking care of yourself, you can’t effectively take care of others!
Allow yourself to come first so that you can live up to your innate potential to be your children’s very best Mommy!
About the author:
Fradl Adams is the proud mother of four yummy girls. On the side, she works as a life coach in private practice, helping every Mommy find and nurture her true best self. She is also a poet and a writer. Her book, a compilation of inspiring Orthodox Jewish women, is available for purchase here.
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Menucha’s notes: While this article strongly shares with you WHY you need to sleep, and some methods for getting to sleep earlier, there are case when it doesn’t help – when you seem to simply not have the ability to sleep. Not only that, but if you’re struggling with insomnia these tips are really not for you – and taking naps can harm you more than help you. You SHOULD speak to a professional.
I have been struggling with extreme insomnia lately, and have finally faced the fact that I need to take care of myself Fradl’s article is on point and timely for me. I’ve “allowed” myself the expense of therapy, and am currently working through CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) for insomnia.
My therapist is a highly qualified woman, and I am seeing near immediate success with her approach. We are working through this workbook together and I strongly encourage you to give it a try if you’re struggling with insomnia.
At the end of the day, you need to take care of yourself, because no one else will. If you are dealing with insomnia, ask around and find a therapist that can help you work through it – there is no shame in getting help for yourself. If you think that you may be dealing with something underlying causing the insomnia, such as anxiety or depression, you NEED to find a mental health professional that can help you ASAP. Don’t wait until you hit rock bottom. DO IT NOW.
Also, Baby Y really did get into my brand new nail polish that I splurged on, and spill it on my pretty new desk… Of course I lashed out. I’m tired.
The photo of M coloring on the wall with my lipstick, though, is staged. It’s an old lipstick and it’s really a big poster board taped onto the wall.