September 21, 2016

8 Ways to Fight Mom Exhaustion (Other Than Actually Getting More Sleep)

The birth of my nephew--the second child of my brother and sister-in-law--took some time to happen, when it came down to it. 

I talked to my brother shortly after the eventual arrival of his son, and new-dad-second-time-around commented that he and my SIL had racked up some sleep debt waiting for the grand event. 

"He's just been born," my brother said, "and we're already in the hole."

"You are a parent," I told him. "You will NEVER get out of the hole."

I just love (insert dripping sarcasm) articles that advise moms to combat exhaustion by getting more sleep. People, please. We know we need sleep. We know this has to be a priority for our own good and the good of our families. We know there is no substitute for adequate rest. 

But if the care and keeping of the human race depended on moms being well-rested, we'd all have become extinct generations ago. Instead, moms rely on a few time-tested tips and tricks for powering through days in a daze of exhaustion.

Here are eight standbys that have kept me going for almost two decades. 

1. Daylight. Get yourself outside, mama, and look toward the horizon. Don't look directly at the sun, of course, but look to the light and open your eyes wide to let it in. While I do this, I like to say, in my most convincing voice, "I am well-rested and got a great night's sleep!"--in hopes of tricking my brain into coming on board with this line of thinking. 

My Dr. Mom take on this is that natural (outdoor) light travels in through your eyes and gets to work on your brain and your body's circadian rhythms...your personal internal clock. Natural light (as opposed to artificial indoor light) tells your brain and body, "It's time to be awake! Being awake is what is supposed to happen right now! Awake is how you want to be!"

2. Exercise. If you've read the little bio blurb near the top of this page, you know I am the former president of SAG (Students Against Gym) and the LAST person in the world who's going to tell you that a nice 7-mile run is better than any amount of sleep. And I know that using energy to get energy might seem like crazy-talk. But getting yourself moving really does help fight mom exhaustion better than almost anything else, and you don't have to like doing it for it to work. 

I'm not talking about training for a marathon here. I will, in fact, never be talking about training for a marathon here. (If that's your thing, God bless you. It's just not my thing. It couldn't actually be more an unthing to me.) Just move somehow. Do jumping jacks in the living room. Dance with your baby. Go outside and put one foot in front of the other and try to work up to a pace where conversation would be challenging. (Given the sleep debt that got you out there in the first place, conversation might already have been challenging, but you know what I mean.) Tell yourself you'll give it 10 minutes and then you can quit if you want to. 

If you've never gotten in the habit of regular exercise, it will probably take some fits and starts to make it something you don't have to decide about every day. Just keep on keeping on. The habit will come, and it will be worth it. Not only will you feel more alert, but expert-type people are always saying exercise is the surest cure-all for, oh, everything that ails the human race. And remember what I said: you don't have to like doing it for it to work. 

3. Hydration. Here's how I look at it: if you body is not adequately hydrated, it has to work harder to do all the stuff it needs to do. Working harder makes you feel more tired. WHICH is already a problem to begin with. If you're going to have to ask your brain and body to function on less-than-ideal quality and quantity of sleep for, um, EVER, at least water it well. If you want to flavor-up your water without drinking bits and pieces of fruit, try an infuser option like this one. Drink up, mamas. (Okay, you know what I mean.)

4. Coffee (or green tea). I took up coffee when I had my second child and gave up sleeping. In the interest of full disclosure, I do not so much drink coffee as I drink coffee-flavored creamer. For me, coffee is a caffeine delivery system. I know my sugar-free French vanilla creamer is evil, but there are worse kinds of evil, like me without my daily cup of caffeinated comfort. I do have to jump in here with this bit of scientific justification from Chris Kilham, founder of Medicine Hunter, Inc. (, who says about coffee that "aside from water, it's the healthiest beverage you can drink" (Real Simple magazine, June 2015). Coffee's caffeine plus its antioxidants and magnesium ups heart health, reduces the risk of various cancers and neurodegenerative disorders, and cuts your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. That's all I'm saying. If coffee doesn't work for you, green tea also offers an energy boost with benefits.

5. Peppermint oil. Prized for its powers of invigoration. I'm sure essential oil fans will chime in with options for accessing these powers, but in the meantime, here are a couple things you can pick up next time you run out to the drug store. 

6. Laughter. Being tired is stressful. Laughter reduces and releases stress. It'll come as no surprise to anyone who's read my blog before (thanks, mom!) that I recommend starting with Anita Renfroe and Tim Hawkins.

7. Deep breathing. When your breathing becomes shallow, you end up with "bad air" floating around your system. And when you are chronically exhausted (see "motherhood"), the last thing you need is more bad anything. Force yourself to fully exhale through your mouth, then breathe in slowly through your nose. Hold that breath for a few seconds, then exhale fully again. Bad air out, good air in. I'm not saying this is any kind of substitute for 8 hours of uninterrupted, REM-cycle sleep, but as with hydration, you've got to help your body out as much as you can while you're asking it to work overtime for 18 years straight.

8. Chocolate. If there's a way for me to include chocolate in a list here on Guilty Chocoholic Mama, I'm going to do it. But this is legit: caffeine plus flavonoids plus antioxidants plus mood-enhancing powers. It's your call, of course, but if I'm going to have to give up sleep, I'm going to fill in at least a few of the gaps with extra helpings of my favorite food group.

I'll leave you with this recipe for my favorite "Mama Mocha." It hits chocolate and caffeine and hydration. If I breathe deeply in between sips and drink it while I stand outside looking wide-eyed at the horizon, I just might be able to make it to my next nap.

Mama Mocha:
1 cup milk (from whatever source you prefer: cow, nut, Nigerian dwarf goat...)
sweetener to taste (I use a packet of Stevia)
about a tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
a couple teaspoons (or more) instant coffee granules (sorry, all you French-pressing coffee purists out there)
decorations (whipped cream, chocolate syrup, cinnamon, chocolate chips...if you're that sort of mom, which I am)

Get your milk piping hot. In a mug, mix the rest of the ingredients. Gradually stir in the hot milk, then whip it around with a fork to froth it a little. Decorate if/as desired. 

What are your best energizing tips, mama? 
Share them here in a comment or over on Facebook
And someday soon, may a full night's sleep be yours.  

**This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.**

September 5, 2016

How to Be a Mom in 20 Easy Classes

When I was a high school freshman, the guidance department counselors gave our English class a "career assessment" to help us figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up.

According to the assessment--a series of questions like "do you prefer working with people or by yourself?" and "do you enjoy lifting heavy objects?"--I wanted to be a social worker.

Which, given that both my parents were social workers, made sense. 

Until I realized I'm not social and don't work particularly well with people. (I'm not saying this is good, only that I realized it.)

So I went into journalism instead. I've got a bachelor's degree in mass communications, a specialization in journalism, a cognate in literature, and a minor in church music. (Long story.) All of which does me 0.00 percent good on a daily basis. 

On the other hand, getting a PhD in motherhood would have been a brilliant idea--with these core classes figuring heavily into my pre-maternal studies.

1. Sippy cup location techniques. Sure, you can eventually track down a wayward sippy cup via the stink factor, but I would have liked a less stomach-churning option. My brother is some kind of engineer, and I asked him why in the world he couldn't invent a "sippy cup locator chip" to embed in the cups. You'd press a homing button on a keychain clip-on, and the cup would beep until you found it. He made noises about the cost and practicality and other engineery matters and never did take my idea seriously. 

2. Maternal medicine. Is this one of the times I actually do need to haul my child to the doctor and pay the insanely high copay only to be told it's a virus that just has to run its course? Or is this the time for movies and medicating with Popsicles?

3. Stain identification and removal. Hot for oil, cold for blood. Got it. But what about stains of questionable origin and makeup? Is that brown splotch chocolate? I think it's chocolate. Please, let it be chocolate.

4. Sibling conflict negotiation. Never mind world peace. I just want peace at the breakfast table.

5. Sleep deprivation management. Or, how to look and act like a well-rested, functioning adult when your sleep debt makes the national debt look trivial.

6. Cooking for picky eaters. Wherein the kid who loves chicken one night refuses to have anything to do with it the next but you somehow intuited this and already decided to serve grilled-cheese sandwiches.

7. Everyday plumbing. I've got Draino and I've got a snake, and I'm not afraid to use them.

8. Math for moms. If Timmy has two apples and he puts both of them on a train traveling 63.7 miles per hour that leaves Chicago at 9 p.m. Australian Central Time, how long will it take for mommy to run screaming from the room to email the math teacher a strongly worded message about the stress of homework on children and their families?

9. Psychotherapy for hormonal adolescents. Otherwise known as, "It will be okay, honey. How about some homemade chocolate-chip cookies when you get home from school?"

10. The care and funding of orthodontia. Me to my daughter: "I will buy you a pony if you can just decide you're fine with those two weird vampire teeth."

11. Interpretation of eye-rolling. "I'm tired?" "I'm stressed"? "I love my mom like crazy but think I have to act like I don't in order to be a normal middle-schooler"? 

12. Unconditional love as a primary language. To wit: "even though I know you bashed in your bedroom door with a hammer and then covered up the hole with a poster, I still love you and will claim you as my own in public." (Not that you're going to be out in public anytime soon, however, because you are grounded--without Wi-Fi--until further notice.)

13. Tween-speak as a second language. Your 11-year-old: "Mom, that lunch you packed me today was on fleek." You: "Why, thank you, sweetie. I'm glad you liked it and that it really hit the mark." [Hypothetical example only.]

14. How to navigate the school drop-off line and live to tell about it. Really, is there a reason that child in the car ahead of us has to store his ENTIRE LIFE'S POSSESSIONS in the back of the SUV and unload them at the curb???!!!

15. How to fold a fitted sheet in 67 easy steps. Step 68: give up and cram the thing in the linen closet. Follow up with restorative chocolate.

16. School artwork appreciation 101. "Why, of course, my darling, that looks exactly like a cow sliding down a rainbow, and I absolutely do want to hang it in the middle of the living room wall in the spot currently occupied by your father's and my wedding portrait."

17. Multitasking 401. Yes, you can breastfeed a baby while simultaneously making dinner for the rest of the family and texting the school secretary to demur on her request that you head up the elementary fun fair. 

18. Cheap jewelry repair. Tweezers and needle-nosed pliers. That's what I'm talkin' about, baby. Because that little pink plastic necklace your daughter got in her birthday party goodie bag is, at this moment, the most cherished thing she has ever owned.

19. Advanced sleuthing. The rest of the family cannot find [insert any item necessary to the functioning of the entire household] even though they have looked "everywhere." Mom will find it in 0.07 seconds with her eyes half-open (see #5, above).

20. Motherhood as cardiovascular workout. Your heart is swelled up by love for your children. Your heart is crushed by love for your children. Repeat ad infinitum for the rest of your life. Because being a mom is a study in continuing education if ever there was one.

What coursework would you add to this curriculum? 
Share it in a comment or over on Facebook
You're already a summa cum laude mom in my book.

Image courtesy of Chris,
This post may have been shared at some of these blog bashes.