After reading (probably) all of the lists of tips for sleep-deprived parents on the entire internet, (including Ten Ways To Tell You Are Sleep-Deprived – der, I am not getting any sleep?!) it seems that all I need to do to feel better is to eat nuts, do yoga and sleep when the baby sleeps.
Well, I have no time for yoga, my baby doesn’t sleep and the only nuts I consume are in an occasional Snickers bar – so I came up with my own list…
1. Just so you know, you are probably going to get fat, have heart disease, anxiety and depression… There, now you don’t have to waste time googling the adverse effects of sleep-deprivation in the middle of the night. You’re welcome.
2. View sleep as a luxury not a necessity. This way any amount of sleep you get is automatically a treat.
3. DO NOT go out in public if you have been up all night. There are people out there and you may have to talk to them.
4. TRY to remember you are not a bad parent for sometimes giving the children fish fingers for dinner two days running. It will probably not scar your children for life to watch three episodes of Thomas in a row and you will not burn in hell if you give playgroup a miss. These negative thoughts are just the exhaustion talking, so tell them to shut the hell up.
5. Despite how bad you feel, you are not going to actually drop dead from lack of sleep. At worst, there is a small chance you might pass out. Some days it may feel like you have ‘hit the wall’ and can’t go on but you WILL survive; just like you did yesterday and the day before that. Go you!
6. WINE. I am not sure why drowning your sorrows get such a bad press. I am definitely NOT encouraging binge drinking (anyone who has ever experienced a hangover plus baby will know it is so not worth it) but a little wine once the kids are asleep is a great way to relax and pretend you are a normal grown-up person who sips leisurely on glass of Sauvignon Blanc of an evening (or for at least 45 minutes between baby-wakings).
7. NEVER ever look at the clock in the middle of the night. You will just waste precious minutes adding up how much potential sleep time you have left. Then you will waste more minutes stressing about it.
6. DO NOT do anything until you have had a LARGE cup of coffee. However, do not bother pouring it into your mug until the children are suitably distracted. Otherwise you risk either a) drinking it cold or b) spilling it while the children try to grab it, or c) forgetting to drink it at all. If your babies refuse to be distracted either hide from them or iMprison them somewhere safe (cot, car seat, pram) until you have finished your drink. You have been up with them all night. They owe you this.
7. FORGET multi-tasking. Attempting to do more than one task at a time will just result in jobs being left half done. These days, I am the queen of multi-half tasking. I currently have three half written articles, four pending text message replies, a selection of gone off vegetables I bought for a slow-cooked soup that never got made, one polished shoe and I have been doing the same load of washing for three weeks.
8. Maintain a healthy diet. By healthy, I mean food. By diet, I mean remember to eat. When you are busy and tired it is all too easy to skips meals. Until you almost pass out in Sainsbury’s, knock down an entire flower display and figure you had better buy yourself two Snickers bars.
9. Buy slow cooker. These are perfect if you find it difficult to prepare dinner with a hungry toddler repeatedly shouting “is it ready yet?” and a tired baby screaming at you to pick her up. Or, if you just hate cooking. In fact, just for you, here is my favourite slow cooker recipe (you can have this Jack Monroe):
Chopped up savoury edible stuff and stock.
-Put in slow cooker and turn on.
-Open slow cooker at dinner time and you have an actual home-cooked meal that does not contain smiley faces.
-Enjoy feeling like a brilliant mother (for about five minutes until the baby throws her dinner on the floor and the toddler demands smiley faces).
10. Instead of beating yourself up about all the things you should have done, commend yourself for all the brilliant things you have done. Such as: washing your hair, not breaking any crockery and keeping a baby and a toddler alive all day long.
11. Do not buy any books about how to get your baby to sleep. Unless they are specifically written about your baby, they are pretty useless. Besides, you are probably too tired to read anyway.
12. If you find yourself with an Extreme Waker Who Laughs In The Face Of Sleep Training you are probably at the point where if anyone else suggests anything you really should or should not be doing, you are very likely to kick them. At this stage, maybe the only thing you should be doing is to get yourself and your baby to sleep by Whatever Means Necessary (excluding alcohol and drugs). Otherwise, (as I learnt the hard way with my first baby) you could spend those precious first few months/years of your child’s life living like a zombie.
So try not to worry about ‘making a rod for your own back’ or that your child will ‘never learn to self soothe.’ They will most certainly learn to sleep alone eventually. My eldest daughter did and she was the Sleep Thief From Hell for two years. Of course, if my youngest daughter is still sharing my bed when she is 30-years-old I will be taking that rod and whacking myself over the head with it. Repeatedly.
13: Acceptance. There is only one thing worse than being sleep-deprived – and that is getting stressed about being sleep-deprived. How will I look after the kids on no sleep? How can I be a good parent when I am so tired I can barely stand up? If I don’t get some sleep soon surely I am going to DIE? Well, guess what? You won’t die and you can cope! Once I accepted that my baby was not a sleeper and made my peace with the fact that I will have some days where i am too tired to leave the house but I will survive, I finally started to feel a lot better.
14. Do not take advice from anything you read on the Internet ever. Especially, stuff written by a severely sleep-deprived mother-of-two who is an expert on absolutely nothing.