Anybody who’s ever had young children knows that February is one of the most difficult months. One person in the family gets sick and then it’s a domino effect. (I’m usually the last one to get sick, hooray).
Last week, I took my eldest to a birthday party. At some point, one of the other mums asked me something. I couldn’t find the words to reply to her. Granted it was in German – my fifth language – and it was VERY loud but also, I had only slept for 2.5h the night before. My youngest was sick and wanted to be rocked the whole night. My brain seriously felt like soup. As I excused myself for my non-responsiveness and explained how tired I was, she seemed surprised. ‘You don’t seem tired at all’!, she said.
The old me would have been proud of myself for managing to hide well how tired I was. I do have a people pleasing tendency, and showing vulnerability used to be very uncomfortable to me. I have no issues being vulnerable and honest now. I actually didn’t look that tired not because I was hiding it well but because I was well aware of what such little sleep meant for me and what my needs and expectations were that day. I also I didn’t feel sorry for myself. I was simply very conscious of the low burning mode I was in and did things like:
- Making sure I drank enough water – being dehydrated doesn’t help my concentration levels or my hunger levels (we are more hungry and have more cravings if we haven’t slept well)
- Having breakfast with lots of protein (fasting after a tough night is not a good idea)
- Being extra kind to myself for not performing quite at the same level that day and bringing my expectations down
- Trying to find little gratitude moments throughout the day to get me going (cup of tea, spending some moments outside, listening to a favourite song)
- Not cooking that day, because I didn’t have any energy left.
What I don’t do in such moments (not that I always manage!), is complain about things I cannot change and adopt a ‘poor me’ attitude. I also don’t allow myself to binge on one of my favourite things in the world – chocolate – even though I love it. I’ve learned the hard way that it isn’t going to get me anywhere, and it certainly won’t make things any better.
I see many parents, especially mums carrying this attitude without even realising how damaging it might be for them. Recognising your limits, honoring your needs, opening up and asking for help is one thing; pretending it’s like any other day and pushing yourself to the max, while complaining and expecting others to figure out how to help you is another.
If you know you are exhausted, be kind to yourself in the ways described above, or in any other way that feels good to you. Allow yourself to be gentle and vulnerable, but let the martyr mask aside. Just notice the difference that makes.