Monday, September 12, 2011

Enter Sandman

There are many topics that I am anxious to discuss in this blog, but the one I choose for today is one that I have actually not given much thought to until just now.  It is the importance of getting enough sleep! Now, I have thought about getting enough sleep pretty much every day since I became a parent, but it has primarily been a desperate longing for sleep.  I never really stopped to think about how important it is to be rested in order to be the best parent I can be and to get the most joy out of my experience as a parent.   My youngest son, Owen did not start sleeping through the night until he was a year old. It was a long year! But when he did, I felt like a fog was lifted. I could think much more clearly, and was more able to enjoy my time with my children and my time away from them.

To be a good parent and a joyful one, there are two things that I think are really important.  One is that you must have a lot of patience. The other is that you need the ability to be in the moment - to slow down and enjoy what you are doing, rather than rushing through each event of the day, thinking about what needs to be done next.  Both of these things are difficult when you have not had enough rest.  I am cranky and unfocused when I am tired, as I am sure most people are. When I am cranky, I have less patience.  When I am unfocused, I have trouble getting things done, and when I have trouble getting things done, it often makes me anxious and unable to revel in the little things in life. I find myself not listening to Aiden's stories, rushing him along unnecessarily, and doing other things that take joy out of our days.  Children are full of wonder and we should delight in them while we can, because they won't be like this forever.

So, I challenge myself and any other parents reading this to make sleep a priority this week. It's not easy, especially when you have a baby.  There is much to be done, and when you are awakened in the middle of the night, it may be close to impossible to truly get enough sleep, but we should still try to get as much rest as we can, and it does get easier as the kids get older.

So, let's say on my ideal day, the house is clean every day, there's a home-cooked meal on the table each evening, I have time to play with the kids,  time for myself, and a time to spend with just my husband, as well.  Of course this is not a perfect world and this doesn't happen every day even when I'm not thinking about trying to get enough sleep!  However, sometimes we have to be flexible enough to skip this here and that there, while still maintaining a balance in our lives. I think all too often, we sacrifice sleep, so we can have everything else, or as much of it as possible, and I think this is often a mistake.

 Of course, there may be certain things that we just aren't willing to sacrifice, and that's okay. For example, I try really hard not to interfere with my kids' evening routine of dinner, bath, jammies, playtime, reading a couple books and in bed at 8:15 - at least on weeknights. I find this routine to be very important. The kids like to know what to expect, and it makes it easier for the whole family.  You may have other things that are especially important to you.  But each day, I think we can always find one thing we can do without if it is going to ensure that we get enough rest.
Maybe the house can stay a mess today.  Maybe tomorrow we can order pizza for dinner. Maybe another day this week,  we can skip watching TV or reading and turn in a bit early.  If this gives us an extra 30 minutes that we can devote to sleep, maybe we will find that we actually start getting more done each day, with less rushing, because we have sharp, rested minds ready for the day's challenges.

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