Hello everybody, welcome to episode 211 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is from a sleep deprived working mother of two.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
Today is going to be a great episode for the parents out there! We have a question that’s come in from a mom who’s busy, but determined not to just go through the motions with her children or herself. She wants a good sleep and she wants to be able to connect with her childen in spite of a demanding job. You love to see it. Let’s hear her question and try to help her today.
QUESTION: “I am a mom of two (one is 3 and one is 6 years old) and have a full time job as a professor at a university. I struggle with being present and taking care of them every day and balancing work life. I use my time during the day to fulfill my “mom” and “housewife” duties and jump in and out of work remote teaching, but then I end up leaving all of my emails, grading, exam writing, recording lectures and other tasks after my kids go to sleep. For instance, last night I went to sleep at 2am. What can I do to better structure my day so I don’t have to be up so late and have consistent sleep?“
Mindful Parenting and Wellbeing
Ok, great question! It takes a good, mindful parent to ask this question and not forego the emotional wellbeing of both themselves and their children just because they have a lot on their plate.
Yes, sleep is important. Yes being with your children emotionally rather than just physically is important. Sure, you and your kids can survive without good sleep and good time spent together, but there will most definitely be a price to pay between the cracks, and it’s good to catch it early before it slowly but inevitably adds up.
Make A Plan Together
First things first, let’s make sure you’re making the most of your other resources and not putting too much pressure on yourself to do it all or know it all. I assume you have a partner given the housewife comment. Get on the same page with them and make a plan together. This will be good for both your romantic relationship and your parental relationship – not to mention your relationship with yourself.
Talk with your partner about what you both agree is important for the kids and how to delegate responsibilities based on your given schedules. What needs to be done for them and how can these tasks be split up appropriately?
And what household chores can be split up appropriately as well, so they become not “housewife duties” as you’ve described them, but rather mutually beneficial necessities that are being split as equally as possible?
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And what about your resources at work? Can you delegate there as well? Could some grading and emails be offloaded on to a TA?
Or what about other professors who are in or have been in a similar place that you are? Surely some of your coworkers are or have raised two children while working as professors. Reach out to them for a guidance, and who knows, they might even be willing to help you with your kids if you become close enough.
The same could be said of family and friends, as well. Don’t be afraid to look to them for help, whether it be practical help or just advice.
Sleep Deprived? Try This Method
Now as for your sleep schedule, we did talk about this just two episodes ago, coincidentally. A really great sleep strategy that I mentioned there is the 10-3-2-1-0 method, which, for those of you who missed out on episode 209, advises that you:
- don’t consume caffeine within 10 hours of going to sleep,
- don’t eat or drink alcohol within 3 hours of going to sleep,
- don’t work within 2 hours of going to sleep,
- don’t look at screens within 1 hour of going to sleep, and
- hit the snooze button zero times in the morning.
I know you’re at least violating the 2 hour rule, so let’s talk about how to adjust at least that based on this method.
In short, it would mean that it’s ideal for you to wake up earlier, probably before your kids if you don’t have a partner who’s helping them in the morning, and do your grading, recording writing and emails then instead of before bedtime. I assume you’re already waking up early with everything you have to do, but as far as consistent sleep goes, it’s more attainable if your busy-ness is accomplished earlier than later, and you’re better off spending the last few hours of your night playing with the kids instead of doing work.
Better to sleep 10-4 than 2-8 (or whatever you may be doing right now) and if possible, establish a nighttime routine for yourself that doesn’t violate 10-3-2-1-0 and familiarizes your body with what happens before it’s time to go to bed.
Being Present With Your Kids
And before we wrap up, there’s one thing I really don’t think either of us should overlook. It’s interesting that you mentioned being present with your kids. I think there’s a lot to be said about that not only about your and their emotional wellbeing, but also about the effect it may have on your sleep. When you’re with your kids, really be with them. Designate that time with them and stick to it, free of screens and other common distractions. Whether you’re playing with them or cleaning up with them, make it as engaging as possible.
One exercise you might want to try is to really create a vivid image in your mind of what a very present mother looks like. Close your eyes and take some time to do this. Surely she’s not just a mother. I’m sure she has friends, other family members, hobbies, a job, and perhaps a partner as well. After all, the best mothers are well-rounded, setting the example for their children to be the same. Not even she is with her kids every second.
But what does she do when she is with them? What sets her apart and makes her a mother that is really there with her kids when she’s not doing her other tasks? Maybe this vision is someone you know or someone you can imagine. Consider what really sets her apart in your mind and try bridging whatever gap you see between you and her even a little bit.
Maybe there are no screens allowed in playtime. Maybe she and her children always make a point of sharing the best part of their day. Maybe she teaches them one new fact each day. Maybe she reads them a story each day. Maybe they work on a puzzle or draw a picture together each day. What things like this can you make sure you don’t miss with your kids, and are enjoyable to all three of you?
Sleep Deprived Working Mother: Conclusion
For as much as a well structured day and night routine will help your sleep, the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re really there with your kids will help a lot too. This is true especially for you, as it’s clear you’re willing to go the extra mile to not just feed and support your children, but ensure that there’s a genuine relationship being built between you. You wouldn’t have phrased this question the way you did, or even submitted it if you didn’t believe in the value of these intangible aspects of parenting. Don’t ignore them.
Thanks a lot to the woman who sent this in; a mother whose children are surely lucky to have her. I think this question really shined a light on the value of honoring who we are and knowing what we want.
As I said towards the end, this woman is clearly someone who wants to make time for the parts of parenting that others may feel are just cherries on top if they get the chance for them. So while putting together a nice hour-by-hour plan could’ve helped, to me, it still wouldn’t have fulfilled this asker because it wouldn’t have spoke to the value she takes in being present with her children.
I think making a point of being present with the kids would’ve been helpful to anyone, but for those who aren’t so quick to emphasize such a thing and just have a schedule instead, it might have been disregarded at first. So just a reminder to not ignore the things you feel are important, even if they aren’t always practical to others.
And that’s going to do it for today, everyone. Thanks a lot for being here for another episode and helping to support the show. We’re done for now but you know we’ll be back on Friday to set you off into the weekend on the right foot, so don’t miss out. Be good out there, and I’ll talk to you in a couple of days.