Did you ever fathom how tired you’d be as a mother? Yeah. Me neither. It’s like a tank that is never full. It’s a tank that, even if you tried, will never be full. During the baby and toddler years it seems someone is always up at night, and usually multiple times during the night. Bad dreams. Baby needs to be fed. Sick kids. Heck, even a toddler who is full of deep thoughts and just wants to chat a little bit longer.
I really struggle with dragging myself out of bed in the morning. It’s not that I dread the day; it’s that I always feel incredibly tired. I think this is one of the things I struggle with the most as a mother. It’s this battle. Recently I was mulling this over in my head. It really comes down to accepting the reality of sleep deprivation. It’s a part of my life and it’s not going away. I get that.
But I wanted to go a step further. I wanted to do something about it. I can’t control the random things that happen at night. I’m happy with our night routine and for the most part my kids are good sleepers. It came down to accepting that I needed to make a few changes in my own routine and attitude. That’s when I came across this quote:
The heroic minute. It’s time to get up, on the dot! Without hesitation, a supernatural thought and . . . up! The heroic minute; here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does not weaken your body.
That’s from St. Josemaria Escriva’s The Way #206. And then there was this quote:
Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a set time, without granting a single minute to laziness. If, with the help of God, you conquer yourself in that moment, you’ll have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day. It’s so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish! The Way #191.
Isn’t that fantastic? The heroic minute. I like the thought of the first thing I do in the morning being “heroic”. St. Escriva
isn’t saying that it’s easy. In fact, it’s so hard, it’s heroic. I instantly felt better and was ready for a plan of attack.
Here are a few things I do to try to make the best use of this heroic minute. When I actually do these things my days start on a better note and I am more easily able to conquer that first moment of the day:
- Amount of sleep. Everyone has a number of hours that work best for them. For me it’s 8 to 9. If I know I have to get up by 7am then I need to be in bed by 10:30am. That allows 30 minutes during the night to wake with a baby or child if the need arises.
- Atmosphere. Do you need a dark room? Do your kids need a dark room? What temperature is just right for you? Do you need white noise? We put panels on the windows in the kid’s rooms, set the thermostat so the house feels a little cool, and then put a small fan on in the hallway to drown out excess noise.
- Go to bed on time. It’s so easy to fall into the habit of staying up late. The house is finally quiet. No one is tugging at my shirt asking a million questions or demanding my attention. Ah. But this is where I get in trouble. As much as I like the quiet time it’s so important for me to stop whatever I’m doing and head to bed on time. The next day depends on it!
- Allow plenty of time for the night routine. I need to unwind at night. I usually turn my computer off by nine. Then I try to do something relaxing like read a good book, meditate, or write. After that I begin my bedtime routine. As mothers we have a routine for our children. If we know we want them in bed by 7:45pm then we allow plenty of time to brush teeth, read a book and anything else necessary before their heads hit the pillow. The same goes for me. If I am going to hit the pillow by a certain time then I have to start getting ready early enough.
- Choosing the right alarm. I can’t stand alarm clocks. The beep, beep, beep sound is annoying. When I start my days with an alarm clock I’m already in a bad mood. I use a kitchen timer. I set it for the number of hours I need to sleep and then 10 extra minutes to allow for the 10 minute warning it gives before the final beep. A kitchen timer has a much more pleasant sound than an alarm clock.
- Look forward to the day to come. I think it’s easy to dwell on what interruptions may happen during the night. When my first child was a newborn I struggled with postpartum depression. Part of that was intense anxiety. I literally could not get to sleep because I was so anxious about when he might wake, how many times he might wake, and how much sleep I wasn’t going to get.
Since then, I’ve learned to relax. Instead of focusing on the random events that may occur during the night, I try to hit the bed with positive thoughts of the day to come. I especially like this quote from Matthew Kelly: “How do your best days start?” Isn’t that wonderful? Sometimes it’s important to think back to a few good days and figure out why they started off on the right foot and then try to replicate that.
It’s not easy to conquer a bedtime routine and I think it’s even harder to get a day started on the right foot. But I think it can be done with a little creativity and discipline. My Mom used to say that it takes about 30 days to get into a good routine or to adjust to a big life change. I think she’s right. It takes time and there are bound to be days and nights that don’t go well. Don’t let those setbacks make you think you can’t get a routine in place. Keep trying and you’ll find what works for you. Ask yourself what you need in order to conquer that first moment of the day. And remember, you’re doing something heroic!
Sarah is doing a better job of looking forward to the first heroic minute of each day. It’s still a struggle! She writes about her sleep deprivation adventures at The Happy Resourceful Home.