mom coping strategy #1: sleep.

Tina has inspired me again. A few weeks ago, she wrote a post on a Bible study she was doing and what she gleaned from it.

“Being kind is definitely something I struggle with. Not with the rest of the world, but with my own children. I get impatient, frustrated, short-tempered and unkind. And I really SO do not want to be that mom. I am praying now for a gentle spirit. I’ve always admired women who have that….godly women that love the Lord and seem to just live and breathe Proverbs 31. Believe me, my children don’t, as a rule, arise and call me blessed.”

My daughter sure as heck doesn’t arise and call me blessed. Often, she’s a crank in the morning until after we give her some orange juice or Ovaltine and her blood sugar levels out. We OFTEN wake her up with a no-spill sippy cup in our hand. (Try it, you might be amazed at the difference in your kiddo’s morning attitude and cooperation.)

I write about my parenting strategies and my perspective, and it may seem like I’m getting it right, but I need to clarify. I fall off the “good mom” wagon all the time. I just get back on as fast as I can. AND, I used to fall off MUCH more often when my kids were home with me 24-7. AND I know some of the reasons why.

PinkGirl and I have our moments. MOST of the time, I can give her grace when she has a blood sugar dip and starts crying for no apparent reason. But sometimes, I find myself asking her, “WHY are you crying NOW?” and saying my standard, “Handle this differently” or “Solve your problem.” in a frustrated, impatient tone of voice instead of my encouraging, reminder voice. Sometimes, when she is “disagreeable,” I completely forget to calculate when she ate last and I react with what is to me, a lack of empathy and a toneless voice. What SHE sees is a mom “who doesn’t care about me when I’m upset!” (and she tells me exactly that.) Instead of responding with grace and providing her a complex carb/protein combo before continuing in a reasonable conversation with her, I react immediately and escalate the situation. The whole episode steals time and energy and peace from our day. It’s a waste. And I know it. I don’t like it. So I try to take my own advice and “Solve my problem” by “handling things differently.”

When find myself impatient or frustrated with my kids, I start by looking for the root causes so I can fix my real problem. Physiological, psychological, spiritual . . . I always start with the physiological. (I’ve got my fair share of problems, but today I’m only focusing on ONE of the the physical problems.) I do a little self-check.

  • Am I tired?
  • Am I hungry?
  • Is my iron low because I keep forgetting to take that stupid pill?

Until I “fix” these physical issues I can’t consistently parent intentionally or well. Unfortunately, “fixing” isn’t an instantaneous, one time thing. Often I have to make consistent changes over time to completely get RID of these problems rather than just trying to manage them. If I’m not careful, I could end up like this: (the first two minutes)

But back to fixing my (physical) problems and handling things differently. Let’s start with “tired.”

I sometimes have trouble getting to sleep. Sometimes I don’t get enough sleep. So I’ve made a few changes:

  • First, I now take Ambien when I need it. Not every day – only when I can’t get to sleep. I started with Tylenol PM. One was too much. Half was just enough. When both my GP and my GYN heard I was taking it, they both suggested Ambien instead. I started with 10mg control release. Too much. I need to wake up when a kid needs me. Then I went with the regular 10mg. Too much. Drowsy the next morning. I now take 5mg.
  • I also intentionally GO TO BED earlier. Sometimes (not often) as early as 10:00 p.m. I’m a night owl. Sometimes I’m not sleepy at 10:00 p.m. If I can’t get to sleep, I take some Ambien. My goal is to go to bed the same day I wake up instead of wake up the same day I go to bed.
  • When I read in bed, I only read fiction. I don’t need to be learning when I’m trying to calm my mind. Even when I read a devotional, I find my brain ramping up when it should be ramping down. To make sure I don’t slip up, I don’t keep any non-fiction books in the bedroom.
  • The low iron can make me weak and tired too, so I take a prescription iron supplement. (But I’m fixing that too.)
  • No coffee after 1:00 p.m. or so. Enough said.
  • Back when PinkGirl was a baby, I would nap when she napped. I read this over and over again when FavoriteSon was a baby and I rarely followed the advice. When PinkGirl was born, I was older, with more on my plate and more tired. I kinda had no choice.
  • Sometimes it was the kid’s sleep cycles that threw a wrench in mine. When a kid won’t go to sleep or wakes up in the middle of the night, what are you going to do? Sleep anyway? Not likely. I’ll write another post on overcoming kid sleep problems. We had to do that too.
  • I removed things from my “To Do” list. Some jobs get harder the longer they are delayed. Like dishes and laundry. But some jobs take the same amount of time and effort each time you do them, regardless of whether you last did them yesterday or last week. Like vacuuming, cleaning the toilet or dusting. So my house wasn’t up to white glove standards. big whoop.

So, given my history and challenges, I have a question for moms like Tina and I who sometimes get, as Tina put it, “impatient, frustrated, short-tempered and unkind:”

What kind of sleep are you getting? Supposedly, a sleep cycle is 90 minutes. I know that when my sleep is fragmented or I don’t get enough of it, I’m predisposed to a lack of patience and frustration. It doesn’t take much to push me off the “good mom” wagon.

Yes, when I get more sleep, my day is shorter. I have less time to accomplish all the things I “need” to. But when I get more (and better) sleep, my day – and my family’s day – is BETTER. And all those things I “need” to do? Some get done. Some don’t. Some jobs I keep doing. Some jobs FirstHusband handles. Some jobs the kids take care of. Some I decide not to do anymore.

You CAN change your situation. Even minor changes can add up. We have choices to make every day. When you say to yourself, “I HAVE to do (insert urgent, important task here).” Rethink it. Do you? What’s the worst thing that would happen if you didn’t? What things can you let go of? What things can you allow others to take responsibility for? Maybe the person who picks up your slack doesn’t do things exactly like you would. Is it THAT important that something be done your way?

I used to think I had no choices. But I was confusing “no choice” with “difficult choice.”


Find more ideas over at Works for Me Wednesday, hosted by Kristen at We Are THAT Family.

Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer

6 thoughts on “mom coping strategy #1: sleep.

  1. I used to fall asleep in my car when I got off work (in highschool) My parents got upset the first few times when I told them I was late because I fell asleep until one day my dad found me – asleep in the car. I get that way now, just too tired to go on and I must stop and rest.

    I now have a mental checklist if I get cranky or tired. I have been worn out to the point of buh buh buhbuhbuh buh. not a fun state to be in, that’s for sure.

  2. I think we have the same daughter. πŸ˜‰ She whines and cries when she’s hungry…but she’s too cranky to agree to EAT anything. I’m the ONLY Mom I know who FORCES her kid to eat when she has a meltdown.

    Well, not the only one now!

  3. The fall of 2007 I was getting more and more exhausted–and I don’t have children. I’d always had trouble staying asleep, but now I couldn’t get to sleep, either. I couldn’t remember squat, I felt as if I were in a constant state of road rage, I had no energy, and I was constantly snapping at my husband, and sometimes at my co-workers. It was like being in a suspended state of menopause–or PMS for you younger gals.

    I finally gave up and went to see my physician’s assistant to ask for sleeping pills and a check-up. In my efforts to self-diagnose, I’d wondered if I was anemic, if my thyroid was not functioning, if it was depression or even early dementia. My PA agreed to check my blood levels, but threw another wrench into the works–maybe it’s sleep apnea.

    I had the sleep test done–and it’s SEVERE sleep apnea. Severe enough that my oxygen levels drop to a dangerous level and my heart slows and has irregular beats. And even though I’m claustrophobic, I’ve learned to deal with, and even welcome, the mask. It made such a difference in my life–probably has prolonged it!

    So although you already know you’re anemic, I hope everyone who reads this and has some of these symptoms does what you and I did and go see her doctor. There might be an underlying medical reason.

  4. Hi again! Came over to read your “sleep” post. I have to agree: lack of sleep and/or trying to pack too much into my day can both make me short and snappy. Fortunately, the sleep deprivation tends to be limited to school trips; so I can live with that I guess.

    Do you have to have a certain plug-in to put actual youtube videos in posts? I can only seem to do a link, but I think the videos are really cool. Not to seem ignorant or anything… πŸ™‚

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