Tired minds don’t plan well. Sleep first, plan later.
It’s a too-common parenting myth: you think once your infant starts sleeping through the night, you’ll be less exhausted. But the truth is, parenting has many moments that tax your system, cause you to lose sleep, and place demands on you that make you tired. Plus, when you add in your work, volunteerism, keeping up a home, and dealing with friends and family, you can often find yourself doing more than you should. So what can you do when you’re too tired to deal with your kids? Try these ideas:
Pace yourself. Parenting is not a race. Think of it as a run that lasts forever. While it’s true that active parenting is most intense while your children are living at home, you’ll still find yourself parenting your adult children, depending on the choices they make after they move out.
Take care of yourself. Figure out creative ways to get rest and to rejuvenate yourself. Some parents take short naps during the movie when they take their kids to the movie theater. Others cut back on their activities so they have a little down time (which often isn’t easy to find when you’re a parent).
Know that you’re not alone. Many parents feel tired because of our society’s unrealistic expectations. Too many parents are working long hours, working more than one job, or being single parents who are trying to juggle everything.
Talk with other parents. Learn how they get rest. See if you can trade off so that one parent is with the kids of two or three families while the other parents rest or take a break. This is especially helpful for single parents who often feel they don’t have any breaks at all.
Make sure your child is sleeping well, otherwise you won’t be sleeping well. For ideas on how to help your child sleep through the night, read The Sleep Book for Tired Parents by Becky Huntley.
When you’re overly tired, you will not parent well. Your temper may flare easily. Your thinking may be muddled. If you’re exhausted and your child is pushing your buttons, say you need a time out. (Kids are often surprised when their parents give themselves a time out.) Explain that once you’ve gotten some rest and perspective, you can deal with the situation that your child has brought to you.
parents with children ages birth to 5
Whether you’re a parent who works outside of the home or you’re a stay-at-home parent, you’re going to get tired. If possible, take naps when your children nap, and remember, it’s okay to leave dirty dishes in the sink or let some housework go. Put yourself first and get some rest when you can.
Once your children outgrow naps, continue to have a daily “quiet time” if your child is at home with you, or at the child care center if you work. Turn out the lights. Allow children to have a flashlight and use their “whisper voices” and allow them to do quiet activities, such as looking at picture books or playing very quietly. While your children have a quiet time, you can do the same. Consider meditating or taking a short nap.
Find someone you can trust to give you occasional breaks. Maybe a grandparent or an uncle will spend time with your child while you rest or catch up on things. Or maybe you can get a referral from a friend about a great baby-sitter who loves kids.
Young children are notorious for waking up earlier than their parents want them to. Consider getting your child a digital clock to place near your child’s bed. Write the appropriate wake-up time on a piece of paper and post it near the clock. Your children don’t need to be able to tell time, but they can practice matching the numbers. Explain that if they wake up before the numbers on the clock match the numbers on the paper, they can play quietly in their room. Then when the numbers match, they can wake you up.