Thursday, September 3, 2015

How to Manage Mommy Fatigue ... part one and a half

This is Part One-and-a-Half in my mini series on Mommy Fatigue. (I don't know why, but I feel so official saying mini series .   Mini series, mini series, mini series. Ha.)

I'm typing this post from my phone while lying on the couch - ironically, given the title of my mini series (there I go again !) I am feeling, among other things, fatigue :)

I got up to go to the bathroom for the 75th time last night ... at least that's how often it feels like my bladder needs relief these days and nights ... and I experienced the worst vertigo I have ever had in my life . I got out of bed and tried to walk to the bathroom door - only I literally bumped into it because it was moving. I tried to cross the bathroom floor, but suddenly the room was on a slant. By the time I got back into bed I had bumped into the wall and the door frame two more times, and I was so dizzy I thought I was going to throw up. This triggered a little bit of panic (which I am prone to during pregnancy) so I woke Sam up and asked him to pray for me and tell me I wasn't going to die. 

Because at two in the morning, my rational thinking is usually out the window, especially when the window looks like it's on the ceiling instead of on the wall where it's supposed to be. 

So Sam prayed for me and reassured me that I wasn't going to die ("good grief, you are not going to die from vertigo !" were his exact words, I believe) and I went back to sleep. 

This morning when I woke up I was still feeling the same thing, just not quite as intensely . But it was making me so nauseous that I've been lying on the couch ever since . I've been battling an awful cough and congestion for two weeks now, so maybe it has something to do with that ... My left ear is plugged and hurting, so maybe I have the beginnings of an ear infection ? Anyone want to diagnose me in the comment section ?? Just please don't tell me I'm dying, because if I remember your words at two o'clock tomorrow morning, Sam will probably throw his pillow at me.

Okay, so given my present condition and the fact that I'm typing on my phone, this is actually going to be Part One and a Half of my mini series . I'm going to type as long as the room isn't spinning, or until my left ear explodes, so there may only be one or two paragraphs left here ... please don't stone me. 

Yesterday I talked about Mommy Fatigue, and how it is a normal bi-product of our jobs. I don't think I've talked to a mother on the planet who has not experienced this at one time or another ... it's something we all go through in various degrees, and we shouldn't condemn ourselves when it hits. That just compounds the problem, because Mommy Guilt is a real thing too. And when you combine Mommy Fatigue with Mommy Guilt, you often end up with Mommy Burn Out - and that's not a happy place to be.

So take a deep breath, understand that Mommy Fatigue is something we ALL go through at one time or another, and realize that you're not alone. 

And that, my friends, is the first step to recovery . (Ha ha, now I REALLY feel official, blogging like I have all the answers to life's deepest questions.) 

But seriously - recognizing that we are not alone, and that the mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion we sometimes feel as mommies is pretty much universal - helps us to process things for what they are : a normal result of our jobs, and not a failure on our parts to be good moms. 

So now that we all agree that being a mom can takes its toll on every level - how do we manage this fatigue ? 

The solutions I am proposing are not necessarily going to "cure" everything.
But my personal experience is that over time, these "coping mechanisms", implemented intentionally and regularly, help us to manage our symptoms successfully. And in the long run they actually prevent us from slipping all the way down the proverbial slope into Mommy Burn Out. 

So here we go.

# 1  Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask

If you've been reading A Perfect Lily for awhile, you know this advice is a regular theme around here . And that is because I have had to take it myself soooo many times over the years ... and yet even now I sometimes forget this simple truth : if Mama ain't happy, nobody is happy. 

If the plane is going down, and all the kids need help putting their oxygen masks on, but Mommy is lying on the aisle floor, gasping for breath and turning blue because she was too busy running around helping everyone else --- she's not going to be of much use . Not for long, anyway. And everybody will suffer for it, despite her best intentions to attend to everyone first . 

Sure, we can function as moms without any time set aside for ourselves -  and sometimes we can even do so for awhile without any major consequences. We can breathe on our own for a bit, when the cabin pressure is just right, and the plane is flying as it should be. But a sudden change in weather conditions, a drop in air pressure, or a malfunction with the plane, and suddenly our normal oxygen supply is not enough. Sickness, sibling rivalry, toddler tantrums, teenage rebellion, you name it - parenting presents so many challenges on a daily basis, and we are fools if we think that we as moms don't need our oxygen masks. 

So what does this mean in practical terms?

Years ago I was listening to Dr. James Dobson speak on the radio. He made a statement that shocked me at the time. He said that any mom who was caring for two or more small children at home needed to get out of the house for a few hours, at least once a week, on a regular basis.

It's like this, honey... I just need Tuesdays and Thursdays off as a mom... and every other weekend. Monday afternoons and maybe Wednesdays too . Friday nights off would be great as well. I can handle the rest.

When I heard those words, I believe I was caring for at least five small children in my home, and I think I was lucky if I got out of the house by myself for a few hours each month. I'm not exaggerating. 

We had come to our town to start a church from the ground up, so babysitters were non-existent. Sam was working full-time as well as pastoring our tiny flock - we were struggling to make ends meet, and our evening times were pretty busy. I remember calling our pastor back at our home church and telling him it had been 18 months since Sam and I had gone on a date. I told him that I was feeling a little overwhelmed… I remember there being a long silence on the phone while I waited for his reply. Looking back, he probably had to pick himself up off the floor in order to answer me, because his response went something like this : I cannot believe you are telling me that you haven't been on a date with your husband in a year and a half, and you're wondering why you feel "a little overwhelmed".

It wasn't that Sam and I didn't want to go on a date .. We had simply felt that we were out of options, because of the dynamics of our family at the time, and our lack of a reliable babysitter in a new town.  And maybe deep down we both felt that this was the price we had to pay in ministry - sort of the "dying to self" aspect of our faith that Jesus had called us to. It took our pastor pointing out that something was going to die alright – our hearts to labor, our will to go on, and ultimately our marriage and ministry if we weren't careful. He told us that we had to do whatever it took to find time alone together - our future depended on it. 

I got off the phone and took those words to heart. Sam and I began looking for ways to get out of the house alone – even if that meant driving an hour out of town to drop the kids off at a trusted friend's house and going out to coffee for a few hours, rather than eating out at an expensive restaurant. We cut corners in other areas so that we could afford to pay a babysitter to drive here from our mother church, even if it meant we could only go park the car and share an ice cream together. 

We got very creative as far as dates went – we sacrificed wherever we could so that we could have a weekly date night – we learned how to put on our oxygen masks.

As well as dates, I found ways to get out of the house by myself, even if it was only for an hour or two once a week. 

Sometimes that meant a trip to the craft store for an hour after dinner, while Sam cleaned up dinner and got the kids ready for bed. We might not have had a spare dollar for a glue stick, but I could roam the scrapbook aisles, plotting for the day when I could shop to my heart's content. I could inhale the intoxicating aroma on the candle aisle and occasionally splurge on some vanilla scented votives on sale - a luxury in those days of just scraping by. 

Other times that meant an overnight trip to the coast with my friends - we would scrap and chat and snack into the wee hours of the morning, reconnecting with each other and recharging our batteries for the future ... those trips might happen just once or twice a year, but they were a breath of life to that oxygen-starved mama. They were just what I needed to remind me that even though Mommy was the name people called me every day, I was still Patti underneath it all.

ignore the tea stain on my sock. thank you.

So in making time for myself away from my kids, I discovered something. I found that while I loved my job at home, I loved my time away from it all too. Those times didn't take away from my job as a mommy, rather they refueled my energy and my passion for the day to day grind I had left behind. I came home refreshed and restored, and my kids reaped the rewards as well. I was a much more patient mommy, I had more appreciation for them, and they appreciated me more too - it was a win-win all the way around. 

So mamas : please, do yourselves a favor. If you haven't been implementing this powerful coping mechanism before, or if you previously used it but forgot how important it was ... put your oxygen mask on. Do it for your husband, and do it for your kids, and do it for yourself . 

I promise, life is so much nicer when you can breathe :) 

And now the pain in my ear has reached epic proportions, and the room is dancing in front of my eyes... since I'm fairly certain we are not in the middle of an earthquake, I think it would be a good time to call my doctor. In the event that I am wrong, and the ground actually is about to open up and devour me and The Rice Ranch with it, I leave you with my final bit of advice ...

Come back tomorrow for Part Two :) 


mumofsix said...

Yes yes yes thank you for the reminder!
Love the photo of Hayden and lily. His face and your inscription! You are funny.

Hope your ear's okay. My left ear blocked every day of all my pregnancies from about 4 months. If I felt really weary it would go in the morning. If I was lucky the afternoon. My midwife was baffled. Very annoying and tiring. Not what you need. Hope yours is just a cold or something similar. Take care Patti xxx

wendy said...

I can relate to the vertigo issue - I have suffered from it for the last year - here is what I found that helps tremendously - magnesium - I take it in capsule form but I have heard that they make a magnesium oil that you can rub on the bottom of your feet. Hope this helps

Danielle said...

I feel guilty confessing that your post brought tears to my eyes. I think I need some oxygen... and I feel guilty for it... ha ha ha! My hubby just told me, GO! Get out of the house... and I'm still sitting here.. sometimes I think I've forgotten HOW to do anything by myself.... Guess I'd better go TRY :)

Danielle said...

P.S. I'm SORRY about your ear!!!!! How can I help!?!?!? That really stinks.

Alexa said...

Hi! I am in nursing school and we are studying pregnancy, labor and delivery. My nursing instructor told as a cure all for nausea (from her experience, but I haven't had a chance to give it a try). I thought I would pass along the info in case it can help! She says that regular lays potato chips (not baked) and lemonade will cure nausea.

I hope you feel better!!!!!

Joy said...

Great tips, as always! I need to put them into practice, too! :-/

Sam sounds like my husband! But also, I had really severe vertigo yesterday, and my husband, who never misses work, stayed home today with it. Maybe there is a virus going around (both Oregon and Hawaii)? I'm better today, but I also think it has something to do with my ear. Ugh... Hope you feel better soon.

Mary said...

I understand pregnancy panic. Hormones can play crazy mind tricks.
Great advice, I didn't discover how important this was until some of my kids were babysitting age. I cherish our dates even if they are a trip to Home Depot.
I'm praying for healing for your ear Patti!

crystalkupper said...

Whenever I have ear pain, I crush some garlic cloves and drizzle the oil into my ear, laying on my side for about half an hour to let it soak in. It sounds crazy, but I swear it works every time!

Kathy McElhaney said...

Great tips! I think we've all been a little too convinced that we need to be the Proverbs 31 woman but we overlook the fact that she had servants. A couple of servants would help with the oxygen masks ;)

My non-medical professional guess is your vertigo and ear problem are related. Praying for healing!

I love the new header photo!

Fostering Journey said...

You somehow knew what I needed to hear/read today. You are a blessing! Thank you!

Naomi said...

This is a great post! I need to get some air too! It was so fun crafting the other night at Mo's and Im so grateful for Abbi babysitting... Grateful to have so many sweet and willing babysitters here too.. it will be so sad when we move some day. =((((

Anne B. said...

Praying for you and hope you are feeling better....worried that the next part of your mini-series has been delayed.....and hoping that it is because the doctor ordered you to rest (HA!). (((HUGS)))!!

Anne B. said...

and I forgot to mention that these pics are hilarious!!! Gotta love the dynamic duo!!!

Cindy said...

I love how all your (seemingly?) random pics fit right in with your story! I agree completely, moms need to put on their oxygen masks. That was never an issue with me. I don't know if it's my casual attitude or what, but I always made sure I had time to myself when my kids were growing up. I didn't care if there were dirty dishes in the sink, I was going to sit for a couple hours and read a magazine while the girls took a nap. And you know what I learned? My family didn't care about the dirty dishes! They cared about whether I was calm and happy when they woke up/came home from school/work. Take time for yourself! It truly will make all the difference in the world!