“What do you want for Christmas, Mommy?” my four year old asked me as we were mindlessly wandering the aisles of Target the other day burning time before her gymnastics class. “Sleep. Sleep is what I want for Christmas, baby,” was my response. She looked at me like I was crazy and then threw her head back and giggled, “You’re so silly, Mommy!”
Honestly though, I’m going on about two months straight of interrupted sleep. Not ONE eight hour stretch in two months. I thought (naively), oh yay! We are past the newborn stage, he’s sleeping through the night, I feel like a normal human again. Remember this cute sleeping baby? All of a sudden he was eight months old and just started waking up at night. Multiple times. The reasons why he’s waking up are unimportant here (and I only say that because truly, I’m not sure of the reasons), because it still comes down to the fact that I don’t get to sleep.
And let me tell you. I am not a person who functions without sleep. Some people can get like three hours and then wake up chipper and run a few miles and feed all their kids and go to work and still smile until bedtime, but that person is not me (and that person may actually be a unicorn instead of a person). Right now, I feel like half of a real person. Sometimes I don’t even know how I made it from point A to point B during the day. And no amount of caffeine helps. I even tried coffee (it was gross). So basically, I’m just tired all. the. time.
When I am able to rest, like get some real good deep sleep, I’d say that I’m a generally optimistic person. I can see the positives and deal with problems knowing that the next moment or hour or tomorrow will be better. I can speak calmly and quietly to my spirited and sometimes super sassy daughter. But when I’m utterly exhausted, I struggle with finding those positives. It’s like I don’t have the energy to remind myself that everything doesn’t suck. And that I don’t suck. And that I’m not a “bad” mom.
Because, let’s be real, added to all the self-doubt that naturally comes with motherhood (and parenthood, don’t wanna leave the dads out here), which is then magnified by exhaustion, there’s all this noise coming at us. First, there are all the parenting articles, in which you could find any opinion from any side you could ever want. And there’s Google, just a black hole for worried parents, don’t even do it. Then the pediatrician feels all judgey with their questions and recommendations about food and screen time (do they even have kids? Ideal situations are one thing, but real life is a totally other thing). And finally, there’s the “research”, which I learned as a teacher that people can usually manipulate to prove whatever point they want. Humans are kind of incapable of being 100% unbiased. This may seem a bit cynical of me, I apologize, it’s the bags under my eyes doing the talking here.
When I’m rested, I feel pretty confident in my parenting abilities. I know I’m not perfect and there’s always room for improvement, but I feel like I’m doing an okay job. But when I’m tired, I find that I’m particularly susceptible to doubting all of the things I’m doing. Are they dressed warm enough? Eating enough? Eating the “right” things? Getting enough love and attention? Watching too much TV? Getting enough fluids? Enough rest? Enough activity? Enough spiritual guidance? Am I modeling kindness and problem-solving skills enough? I could go on forever. No one really tells you how many choices you have to make every minute of the day as a parent and it can honestly be overwhelming. Especially if you are a bit of a perfectionist.
So this is kind of depressing right? I promise I’m getting to a better place, and quick. Luckily, even in my cloudy fog of exhaustion, I still have moments of clarity. And in one of those moments, I heard this still small voice inside me whisper the word, “balance”. I have written about finding a word to guide you during a particular season before. And my beautiful friend’s post about seasons spoke loud and clear to me. I’m in a season. A season of exhaustion. A season that I keep having to remind myself won’t last forever. And so in this season, I’m trying to remember to create some balance.
Balance is a beautiful word, don’t you think? It makes me think of graceful ballerinas and those fancy gold scales that are perfectly even. It makes me think of flamingos standing on one leg to sleep and my daughter confidently tiptoeing across the beam, arms stretched out wide. It helps me to take a breath. Brings me back to center. It drowns out all the external (and internal) noise that makes me doubt myself. When my goal as a mom becomes to create balance, all of a sudden things feel more simple. Are my children fed? Are they generally content? Do they know I love them? Do they know they are important? If I can answer yes to these questions at the end of each day, then I can relax a bit. I can breathe again. I can know that really, I’m doing okay. And even if there’s a rough day (or night!), tomorrow’s coming and I can start over, try better.
But what does balance look like? For me, it looks like cooking healthy meals but not stressing about the amount of calories or if there’s gluten. It looks like turning on a show for the kiddos if I just need some time to sit, even if it’s one more than I usually allow. It looks like letting go of our learning “schedule” a little and letting McKinley play pretend for hours on end. It looks like throwing something easy in the Instant Pot (see below!) and taking a nice walk around the block with my family instead of creating some elaborate meal. It looks like leaving the laundry in the dryer for just one more day and snuggling up on the couch with the hubby to watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine or The Big Bang Theory after the kids have gone to bed.
So yeah, I’m in a tough season, but I have hope that sleep will come eventually. Until then, I can work toward creating a balance. I know that this work is a choice I will have to make consciously every day and it won’t always be easy. But I can rest in the fact that I am loved and that I have the honor to love my sweet little family every day.
Currently Reading: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It’s taking me a little while to get through this one, not because of it, but because sometimes I’d rather catch a few zzz’s than read (UNHEARD OF, RIGHT?). The main character is a former aristocrat in Russia following the revolution and is trying to navigate a new life imprisoned in a famous Moscow hotel. He meets a young girl and they strike up a captivating friendship and that’s all I know so far, but I’m really enjoying it and love when I have moments to sit and read and actually focus on it.
Currently Cooking: Hamburger Soup- recipe here. This was hands-down the easiest thing I’ve ever made in the Instant Pot and it was SO GOOD. The recipe calls for a special seasoning blend, which you can find on Amazon, but also, you can just use a mix of whatever spices you like on ground beef and potatoes; salt, pepper, paprika, garlic, oregano, whatever. The baby, the husband, and even the 4 year old who said, “I DON’T WANT THAT!” and eventually tried a bite after some bribing, all loved it! It will definitely be making its way into our weekly rotation.
Thanks for reading and until next time, peace and love from my household to yours.