All of us parents have been there.
Maybe it was because we had a coffee too late in the day or because our baby is cutting teeth. Or we might have had three consecutive nights with only a few hours of sleep. Whatever the reason, the night passed by and the clock ticked on while our eyes remained open.
The next day is tough. Lack of sleep affects our clarity, thoughts and mood.
Being the parents of young children demands that we see many days with tired, burning eyes. And so I have made a few changes in how I get through them. Because these days are not normal days.
Here are ten ideas that I have found useful:
1. Acknowledge how tired you are. Be real about what you will be able to accomplish during the day. If your evaluation reveals that venturing out of the house is too much to think about, don’t. Give yourself permission to hang out at home and do nothing.
2. Cancel plans. If you have plans for the day but the thought of getting the kids dressed and out the door to be somewhere at a specific time seems impossible, cancel them. Be honest with the person you are canceling on. If they do not understand, they should.
3. Make it fun for the kids. Declare it a ‘stay in your PJ’s all day’ day. Set the expectation that you are going to be snuggling and cozy all day long. If wearing pajamas all day is a rarity in your house, this will be a treat!
4. Pronounce it movie day. Keep some popcorn on hand, snuggle up on the couch and splurge for a movie on demand that you and the kids have been wanting to see. It can be fun to watch a movie in the middle of the day. And there is something about being in your pajamas on the couch that takes the pressure off.
5. Be prepared. Keep a stash of age appropriate pre-packaged activities. Like those little wooden figures that come with their own markers from the dollar store, or a 30 piece travel puzzle from the bargain bins at target. Pull them out when things get hairy. The projects are self contained, and clean up easily. Plus, you get to feel like you accomplished something!
6. Do not use the day at home to catch up on chores. You are tired! You may or may not be able to keep up with dishes just from the day that you are in! Putting extra pressure on yourself to get chores done may try your patience and cause unpleasantness between you and your children. It is not worth it.
7. Don’t cook. Ask the kids if it would be fun to eat only finger foods for the day. Cut PB&J’s a little smaller to look like Hors D’oeuvres or serve hummus with pita chips and veggies for lunch. Peanut butter crackers, yogurt and grapes is a balanced dinner. Put out a tray of nuts, crackers and fruit and let the kids snack on them all day. Keep the sippy cups full of water and available for the kids to grab when they are thirsty.
8. Do not make it a habit. These days of staying at home in your PJ’s are fun once in a while, but too many might drive you nuts. Address whatever the reason is that you are not getting enough sleep. If it is a baby, rest assured (pun intended) that it really is for a short time.
9. Do not beat yourself up. If you can embrace the day and turn what might have been a day filled with quick tempers and frustration into a day of cuddling and connecting, congratulate yourself. It is a smart and honorable decision.
10. Feel free to apply these ideas to any and all parts of your life. Taking the pressure off of yourself is appropriate and positive. You are a stay at home parent who has an important role. Being home and happy with your children always trumps being out and impatient.
What do you do to get through the day following a sleepless night?