Thursday, September 10, 2015

How to Manage Mommy Fatigue Part Two

First of all, I am happy to report that my yucky encounter with vertigo last week was short lived. Hot tea with lemon and honey, nasal spray, steamy showers, Tylenol, lots of liquids, vitamin C, hot and sour soup (great for unplugging sinus pressure !) lots of rest and lots of prayer seemed to do the trick . I woke up Friday with my ear unplugged, my sinuses less filled, and my vertigo gone. Thank you so much for the kind words and prayer ... I hope I never go through that again any time soon !

And now, the very belated ... Part Two of my mini series on Mommy Fatigue . 

Remember back in the day when people talked about the three R's of school - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic ? I never quite got that, because those are actually one R, a W and an A. So my three R's are going to actually make sense ... Are you ready ?? The three R's of How to Manage Mommy Fatigue are ...

Routine, Relaxation and Rest

I'll start with Routine.

I know many devoted and loving and good hearted mommies who are able to sale through parenting without implementing any sort of routine (seemingly) in their homes. Somehow their children make it through school successfully, appear to be happy and healthy and thriving, and go on to lead productive lives. And those mommies do not (on the outside anyway) ever appear to be frazzled or overwhelmed. If you are one of those moms from the non-routine camp, my hat is off to you. I don't know how you do it, but I admire your ability to fly daily by the seat of your pants without ever considering bedtimes or to-do lists or daily assigned chores as important elements of life .

I googled "crazy mom at home" and this is what I got. CRACK. ME. UP.

Admittedly your style of parenting makes my head hurt just thinking about what would happen at The Rice Ranch if I employed an equally laid back approach to life - because we can barely get things done even when there is an established order to things.

So if you're one of these Super Moms, who thrives in chaos and laughs at routine ... and still manages to keep a tidy home and get your family where you need to go on a regular basis -- ignore this section. 

But for those of you who share my need for (semi) calm and order in the midst of running a household on a daily basis - keep reading !

The only way the Rice family can function with the amount of children we do is to have a plan. This doesn't mean we are always able to stick to that plan, but at least we have an idea of what we need to do in order to keep things running somewhat smoothly . 

One of the routines we have in place is in regards to chores.

I've talked about it in a previous post, but we have assigned zones in our house, as far as chores go. We have a dry erase board in the laundry room where zones are detailed for a reminder - each zone is assigned to one or two children, and the details of how to keep that zone clean and organized are written down clearly in case anyone forgets .

We have a daily routine of breakfast together, and then each child takes care of their zone before homeschooling begins. Beds are made, the kitchen is cleaned, bathrooms are touched up, floors are swept and vacuumed, jammies put away, teeth brushed, rooms cleaned and laundry put in the laundry room so that we start each day with a clean house. Many hands make light work, so this usually takes forty five minutes at the most for a family our size . 

I realize many of my readers don't have the amount of children we do to delegate chores to, and many of you may also have very young children - but in my experience even small children can learn to put their jammies in drawers or the hamper and help make their beds. I think it's healthy and helpful to start training children at a young age to clean up after themselves, which will help them understand that mommy is not everyone's slave !

Having a chore/zone/routine in our lives helps for several obvious reasons : Mommy doesn't have to spend every day asking every single child to do specific chores, because they already know what is expected of them. This does not mean that I never have to remind children about their responsibilities. That happens on a regular basis. BUT, I have found that the reminders are less (and subsequently Mommy Fatigue is reduced as well) when they know ahead of time what I want them to do.

Establishing a cleaning routine also means that it is just ingrained in them to help keep the house picked up on a regular basis. For example, when they come home from church or sports or other events, they are not to just throw their clothes or backpacks or shoes or what-have-you on the floor ... they are to put them away. They will even remind each other to put their things away if they see someone forgot - especially if multiple items were left in their zone ! Having an assigned zone in the house to be responsible for has taught them how unpleasant it is to have to clean up after everybody else. And all of this means less work for Mommy, and thus less fatigue.

Keeping a fairly tidy home has instilled in our kids a desire to have things remain that way ... I can't tell you how many times one of my children has said to the others, "Guys, let's do a ten minute pick-up and get the house back in order" if they feel things are getting too messy. And because we have raised them to make sure the house is in order before leaving for outside activities, I generally don't even have to ask them to tidy up before they leave. For example, Sunday mornings are very chaotic getting us all out the door for church - but they know that it would be even more chaotic to come home to a mess and have to prepare lunch... we leave the house with beds made, dishes put in the dishwasher, counters wiped, and floors picked-up so that we can come home ready to make a new mess :)

It is easier to maintain a well-kept home when things are well-kept on a regular basis ... it takes less time to clean everything when it wasn't that messy or dirty to begin with, in my opinion. And all of this means less stress on Mommy. I don't spend my days trying to find missing items, hunting for clean clothes for people, etc... I have more time with my family and also more time for myself when the chaos and clutter is reduced.

Other areas of routine that we establish (keep in mind that this is all helping to reduce mommy Fatigue) are : daily nap times for small children (mommy too!), family dinners whenever possible (EVERYONE helps clean up, including Daddy), bed times for everyone, and Saturday morning chores .

Naptime routines are important for obvious reasons. I always look forward to that window of time in the middle of the day when my little ones are sleeping, and I can either rest myself or have some quiet time to relax. Up until about age five, my little ones have always taken one to two hour naps after lunch ... even if they say they are not tired, they have quiet time in bed (usually Mommy's bed) so that Mommy gets some time to herself.

The routine of having a family dinner together might take a little more work in preparation than a laid back approach to evening meals (say eating out, or an every-man-fends-for-himself approach to dinner time) but in the long run I really do believe they help to alleviate Mommy Fatigue.

Here's why : there is something so rewarding about sitting down to a dinner with your family. Our dinner time is one of my favorite times of the day- we talk about what each of us did that day, we discuss current events and politics, we share concerns and needs, and we reconnect. Little ones learn manners, teenagers learn to listen to others and engage, and Mommy and Daddy have a window of time where all other responsibilities are laid aside and we can tune into our kids. Generally we do not allow phones (texting, email, etc.) at the table, and we try to limit incoming phone calls during this special time as well.

All of this means Mommy gets time off her feet, and time to recharge her batteries, and when everyone pitches in with setting and clearing the table, I'm not overwhelmed by the job of cooking for eleven people nightly. I look forward to our evening meals together - they are a bright spot in my day.

Bedtimes at The Rice Ranch fluctuate according to our schedules - we are stricter during the school year, and pretty lax during the summer time. We spend two evenings a week at church (Sundays and Wednesdays) so on those nights bedtime might get stretched a bit later. If we have friends or family over for dinner and fellowship, we are lenient with bedtimes then too. But there is still a routine- dirty clothes are put in the hamper, rooms are tidied up, teeth are brushed and Daddy prays with everyone before the lights are turned out. This nightly ritual helps for the same reason the Sunday morning ritual does : it's much easier to wake up to a clean house than to wake up to chaos... we can start the day off easily, with a clean slate, rather than feeling like our to-do list is already a mile long.

Saturday chores are just our regular daily chores amped up a bit - we make sure everything is deep cleaned, and the van and garage are cleaned up after any weekly mess (things do tend to accumulate there, even with the best intentions !). When we have had a rough or busy week here, I always know that it will ultimately be restored on Saturday morning, when the whole family is home together and pitching in. When Monday rolls around we have a fairly clean house to start the week with, rather than craziness.... all of which means peace of mind and reduction in Mommy Fatigue :)


SO now that we've talked about Routine (whew, that was a long topic !!) I'll address the second R -- Relaxation. This might sound like a repeat of Part One and a Half of my mini series - but it's not.

Mommy Alone Time is definitely something we all need, to relax and unwind... but I believe we can be recharged and refueled by spending down-time with our children as well.

Our kids need routine, they need order, they need rules, and they need structure. Without a doubt.

But if the only time they spend with us involves those things - without any FUN - we are going to feel like our job as parents is just that : a job. And our kids are going to resent us.

If we don't intentionally purpose to carve out time in our busy schedules to relax with our kids and really enjoy them for the unique little people they are - we are going to forget the very reason we wanted to have kids in the first place. We can become so caught up in keeping our homes running smoothly and so BUSY with all the administrative duties as moms, that we forget to have fun. We forget to stop and pay attention and savor childhood for what it is : sweet and fleeting.

One day these little people are going to turn into big people, with their own lives and their own routines ... and if we aren't careful we will miss the joy that they bring right now as children - just blink and they turn eighteen. Trust me on this.

What does this look like in our home ? Lots of images come to mind ...

Lying in bed after lunch with my little ones, reading piles of stories at naptime. Watching them point to pictures and ask questions while we snuggle in close, before they drift off to sleep.

Trips to the park, down the street from our house - sometimes right in the middle of our school day, "just because."

Going for walks together on the beautiful nature trails that weave through our neighborhood, going to the beach, going to the library, visiting our favorite Science Center just a few hours away.

Individual dates with my kids on a regular basis - coffee dates or lunch dates or ice cream dates or "come run errands with mom" dates ... because being in a large family shouldn't mean my children always have to share Mom.

Family Game Nights - playing Apples to Apples, Clue, Cranium, or any one of the dozens of games that are stacked in the hall closet. If I had a dollar for every time one of our children (teenagers included !) asked, "Can we have a family game night tonight ??" I'd be a very rich woman. We all look forward to these times together, even if we do argue about who really won when it's all said and done :)

I could go on and on, but I'm sure each of you has your own mental image of what it means to relax and enjoy your children. I know this "R" probably goes without saying, but I also know how life can get. Sometimes we get so caught up in the duties of being parents that we forget to make time for what really matters : showing our children that they are not just our job, they are the joy of our lives.

Relaxing with our kids and just enjoying them for who they are is a sure-fire way to help manage Mommy Fatigue. It doesn't have to be expensive or extended, but it is essential to our well being, and that of our kids as well.


This is my final R in my three point sermon (tee hee) and although self-evident, it is often overlooked.

Being a Mommy is a full time job, isn't it ? We don't get to clock out at the end of the day. There's nobody to take the night shift, and even when Daddy does his best to help with middle-of-the-night crises like sick babies or nightmares or trips to the potty ... we are still generally awake for each event. At least I know I am. It is rare that I sleep through someone calling from another room that so-and-so is throwing up, unless it is the twenty-second time that night. I am usually the first parent to awaken when there is a crying child or call for help. I like to tease Sam that the house could be burning down around him, and he would snore right through it - but he really is extremely helpful when I need him in the wee sma' hours of the night. It might take a bullhorn and a sledge hammer to wake him up, but he has never been one to refuse to help out - no matter what time he has to get up in the morning.

But still ... Motherhood is a full time job. Even with a husband to help.

And if I am going to be able to function at that job every day - I need my rest.

I mentioned naptimes above, and this is one of the ways I find time to rest ... even if it is just a half an hour power nap in the middle of the day. Just a few minutes to rest and get off my feet is usually all the break I need to keep going for the rest of the day. I say it all the time, but it's true : Praise God for naps. And it's nice to know He took them too.

Sometimes I am counting down the hours from nap time til bedtime, but naps are a great way to manage Mommy Fatigue, in my experience.

And then there's Bedtime.

Children aren't the only ones who need bedtime rituals. Mommies need them too. I used to stay up late every night, burning the candle at both ends in an attempt to get everything done. But what I found is that the later I stayed up, the more sapped I was the next day, and things came undone quickly because of my lack of energy to manage things efficiently. Better to go to bed at a decent time, even IF that last load of laundry didn't get done, rather than skip sleep.

I read an interesting article on the need for sleep recently, and here's what I found.

Our sleep problems are so bad that the CDC refers to them as "a public health epidemic."
While a tiny percentage of the population does just fine on little sleep, those people are incredibly rare. Almost half the population doesn't get enough sleep: 40% of people sleep less than the recommended seven to nine hours a night (teens and children need even more).
Sleeping too much isn't good for you either and comes with its own health risks, but only 5% of people sleep more than nine hours a night.
For at least 40% of the US population, getting more sleep would make our lives so much better.

People who get enough sleep :

* are happier

* learn better

* are better drivers

* have an easier time staying fit

* are less likely to develop diabetes

* have fewer problems with depression and anxiety

* have fewer headaches and migraines

* are more productive and focused at work and at home

* feel less pain

* have fewer heart problems

That list is just a fraction of the benefits I read about in regards to sleep ... it just makes sense that as moms, we need all the sleep we can get to do our jobs better.

If this means putting aside our favorite habit of staying up til two in the morning to finish a good book ... (guilty) ... or saying no to that late night of fellowship when we know we are already dragging ... or getting more strict about putting the kids down to bed so that WE can get to bed on time ... or putting off that last bit of chores until tomorrow (it will still be there when we wake up !!) - whatever it takes, we need to get our sleep.

And finally, I'm going to throw this in, even though it has nothing to do with sleep... because it does fall under the topic of REST.

Here is my biggest piece of advice when it comes to dealing with Mommy Fatigue ....


It took me a long time to learn this one, but it is something we MUST do to survive as Moms.

Just say no.

So-and-so calls for the fourth time this week for a babysitter, but you are already drowning in life ... just say no.

I love love love to watch my grandbabies (I don't even consider it babysitting, and I never say no if I can help it because I NEED time with my grandbabies to be happy :)), and occasionally I am able to help a friend out who needs a sitter.

But for the most part, my plate is FULL when it comes to watching children, and I have had to get very firm in this area. I am my kids' mom first, and I can't be a great one if I'm busy watching everyone else's kids in the neighborhood on a regular basis. This includes having my kids' friends over, even when they are well past the age of babysitting. We allow them to have friends over - within reason. Our home is my sanctuary, and it won't remain so for me or my husband or our kids if there is a constant influx of people coming and going. I know our limits, and I'm not afraid to say NO when it comes to going beyond those.

These areas of limitation might also include (but are not limited to, ha ha) :

School boards, volunteer projects, Team Mom positions, class party planner, Women's Bible Study Leader, Town Council Member, Vice Presidential Candidate (Ted Cruz did call, but I politely declined) - if you are taking on too much outside the home ...

Just say no.

Does this mean there is no place for "extra responsibilities" outside of being a Mommy that don't include wiping bottoms, folding laundry or preparing meals ? Absolutely not. I do many things outside our home, and I take pleasure in those activities. But I know my limits. And when that little alarm bell goes off in my brain when so-and-so asks if I would like to volunteer for such-and-such, and I already feel stretched to the breaking point...

I just say no.

Does this mean that some people won't get it, and I will risk hurting their feelings or letting them down ? Maybe.

Does this mean ruffling feathers when we tell someone that this is actually not a good weekend to come visit, because we just have too much going on right now ? Sometimes.

Does this mean destroying the (false) notion that many people may have us as Super Moms who can handle ALL of our responsibilities without ever batting an eye, and still have enough energy to say yes to everything everyone asks of us ? Absolutely.

Take off the cape, admit what is true for all of us moms - we have our limits. We will try to be the best moms we can for our families, and we will say YES when we can. But we are not going to beat ourselves up when we have to say no. And nobody else is allowed to either.

Just say no.

So there you have it, Mommies. My cures for Mommy Fatigue, or at least my attempt at relieving some of it for you. There is no getting around the fact that we are all going to feel exhausted and overwhelmed and fatigued at different points throughout our career as moms. Some days are harder than others. But if we will take some intentional steps towards reducing that fatigue, we will find that we are better able to care for those we love the most, and in the long run we will love our jobs even more.

I hope this little mini series has helped some of you, and as always, if you have some tips yourself, please feel free to share in the comment section. Until next blog post ...

Peace out :)


Naomi said...

Buy yourself flowers!! Even if they are cheap! They keep me motivated to have a tidy house and they make me happy! Takes a tiny piece of mommy fatigue away for me!

Patti said...

Yes !!! Works for me too !!!

Unknown said...

LOVE this post. I was *just* going to email and ask you how you keep your schedule and keep organized! we have a pretty good structure around here, but with all the kids activities, I've been struggling with keeping them on top of their chores. I'm in love with the idea of having their own zones! makes total sense, and embarrassingly, it's taken me 8 kids to realize that :\ thanks so much for all the great advice!

Unknown said...

also, I should be resting ;)

Grammi Faith said...

I am such a homebody so I have to force myself to get out by myself just for "me", not grocery shop, or an appointment I have to keep. I find myself more relaxed and happier if I take "me" time even if it is just walking the mall with no shopping purpose. I start out feeling guilty but am distracted by the shops and people watching.

Unknown said...

I'm a new mommy in the multiple kid work (two boys 23 months and 3 weeks) but this post speaks to my soul! It is doable to be a happy, tired, loving, and semi-organized mommy! I love that you share your heart and always the truth, good or bad. Thank you! And thank you for giving really practical ways to live abundantly where we are.

MamaV said...

I was in the same place as you 2 years ago... It will get better! It is really hard to have two that are so very little and it does get easier as they grow. just wanted to encourage you!