My third child never slept well at night. Around eight months, he decided to add more middle-of-the-night feedings. He went from the usual two nightly grooming sessions to four, five or even more. Despite all the awakenings, I was getting a pitiful amount of sleep.
My lack of sleep resulted in low energy, low patience, and an overall low mood.
I was constantly tired and grumpy. When I was playing with my children, I felt like I was in a fog. I couldn’t enjoy their silliness or creativity, but instead became easily annoyed and frustrated.
I found myself fantasizing about escaping to a hotel for a night.
A glorious night without the kids and lots of sleep.
After a few days of dreaming about a night out, I talked to my husband about the logistics of making it happen. We decided to go for it. I found a deal at a nearby hotel and made sure there would be enough bottles for the baby while I was gone.
I was so excited to take a break, get some good sleep, and return a new woman to my family.
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When the day arrived, I packed a bag, bought a bottle of wine and drove not so far to the hotel. I checked in and found my room. My oasis for the night was small, clean and quiet. I ordered pizza from the fancy pizzeria that my family doesn’t like and enjoyed my wine. I watched a silly movie and talked to some friends. Then I got ready for my much needed, well deserved and never missed sleep.
And I slept terribly.
I woke up a few hours later. My breasts were full and I had to get out of bed to pump. Strange noises in the hotel room kept me awake. The air conditioner was very cold and noisy. I watched the night waking up.
When morning came, I did not feel well rested and refreshed. I still felt tired, but now I also felt guilty and stupid for insisting.
Before heading home, I decided to grab a coffee, a scone and a journal. I wrote about my exhaustion and disappointment. I explored my guilt and shame. I expressed gratitude for our abundant resources and the love of my family. I dreamed of the life I wanted for myself and my family.
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After 30 minutes of writing and praying, I felt better than I had in weeks. My head felt clear and my heart full. I felt like I could go home to my family renewed and full of hope.
Mothers often hear that self-care is so important but it can feel untouchable. Yoga retreats, spa days and hotel stays seem to be the magic solution to a mother’s fatigue.
However, self-care doesn’t have to be a grandiose experience.
I know I’m privileged to have the resources and support that made it even possible to go to a hotel. While I’m so grateful for the time away from the little people who constantly need me, the fantasy just didn’t match the reality. My horrible night’s sleep didn’t solve my problems.
What made the biggest difference in my mental health was taking intentional moments to reflect, pray, and journal. Processing the emotions and stress and remembering how grateful I am for my life has given me renewed energy and purpose.
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While self-care often seems unattainable, it doesn’t have to be a big overnight trip. Little things like taking a few minutes to journal, read, or go for a walk can have a big impact.
Maybe one day I’ll finally get a glorious night’s sleep, until then I’ll just keep doing the simple, easy things that help me feel better.