We’re not supposed to feel the stress. We’re supposed to be chill and calm and the opposite of a stressed-out mom.
Namaste 24 hours a day.
It’s not just moms with babies that are stressed out and sleep deprived. Its moms and caregivers of elementary school aged kids who need help with the science project after hours of homework and music classes and sports events. It’s caregivers for teens who are at the ready for a late night call because they’ve told their kids they’re there for them.
Stressed out moms include caregivers for older parents and family members who are not well. Just being there for people you love can be stress you out. Making space in your life and denying your own needs – even with the best intentions – still means life gets derailed. Add inconsistent sleep to the mix, and the consequences of that stress are exponential.
In a great big world where everyone is sleep deprived, it’s caregivers who are the most sleep deprived and stressed out. The shorthand for that is moms, but it could be anyone. It could be dads, grandparents, or older siblings.
If we’re supposed to be in a state of serenity all the time why are there so many funny stressed-out mom memes out there?
Did you see the ones floating around social media during Valentine’s Day week that centered on moms’ need for sleep? There was one that had a narrative about the best Valentine’s Day gift ever. A caring partner takes the other by the hand, leads them up the stairs – holding them fast in their gaze – slowly guides them into the bedroom, gently pulls back the covers and says “Sleep as long as you like. Happy Valentine’s Day.” And exits to take care of the kids.
Memes that have a picture of someone with their head on a pillow that read “You know you’re a parent when…your fantasies are about sleeping.”
Just check out all these stressed out mom memes – most revolve around the need for sleep.
They’re everywhere. And if we’re not laughing out loud, we’re smiling in recognition. You know that saying “It’s funny because it’s true”? Well, it is true.
We should all be “meditated” instead of medicated. We should be using those yoga pants for something more than a more stylish version of sweatpants. Yes, we should eat right and hydrate.
In these times of overwhelm and over-stress, here are three simple tips to find calm and maybe get that sleep pattern back on track:
1. Lower Your Standards.
Messy homes are fine. Take-out is fine. Breakfast for dinner is more than fine. Letting your kids dress themselves, do their own laundry, choose their own birthday party themes, are all fine.
By the way, you may be surprised how easy and affordable kids’ ideal birthday parties can be! Like my friend whose 10 year old’s party was a humongous success and a bargain to boot. Get a bunch of boys, take them to the local science museum, and give them a couple of dollars in quarters for the vending machines. They thought they’d won the lottery!
Part of lowering your standards is ignore all social media posts that show happy families. It’s even tempting to unfriend. If unfriending is awkward, go on a Facebook fast and then post about how disciplined you are!
2. Less is more.
Yes – we know ritual and routine and habits build Great People who do Great things. And clutter is the enemy and everyone is Marie Kondo-ing their homes. But that’s not the less is more I’m talking about.
In fact, it exhausts me just weighing all these responsibilities. Parenting is a responsibility – not an obligation. Accept that we’re going to make mistakes just as our parents made. Some day when our kids are as wise and compassionate as we are, the will cherish those peeks of our shared humanity.
And they’ll forgive us while remembering that you managed to laugh together despite the clutter of art supplies or that you put their Pinewood Derby car in the oven to dry it off and melted the wheels.
By less is more, I mean take just one step that gives you a routine that works for your family. It can be a post-it on the bathroom mirror with a quote that reminds you to breathe first. All those other routines and habits and steps will happen. But not if you’re stressed out.
3. Celebrate the small victories.
This is really the power of gratitude practice. Did you manage to connect with your kids just once during the day? Did you get a surprise call, find a penny, offer a smile? Did you cross off just one thing on the to-do list?
Celebrate it. Make celebrating it part of your bedtime routine.
There was a time when I was so stressed out and overwhelmed I couldn’t plan. This was in the days before the Internet when I could have gotten information, but I also could have been buried under an avalanche of “oughts”.
I made a list of things I had to do anyway. 1. Get up 2. Get dressed 3. Make Coffee….you get the idea. And then I would cross them off one at a time. Crossing each item off made me feel as if I had accomplished something and wanting to add more to the list.
Bit by bit I added to the list things I had to do anyway and things I wanted to do. Every time I crossed something off, it was a mini celebration. It didn’t take long before I was back in a groove again.
And if you have 15 minutes and a portable music device, here’s a mini vacation you can take. It’s “My Time” a guided meditation for caregivers.
Because guess what? You ARE doing a great job.