My third baby has never been a great night-time sleeper. Around eight months old, he decided to add more middle-of-the-night feedings. He went from his usual two nighttime nursing sessions to four, five, or even more. With all the wakeups, I was getting a dismal amount of sleep.
My lack of sleep led to low energy, low patience, and an overall low mood.
I was constantly tired and grumpy. When playing with my kids, I would feel like I was in a fog. I was not able to enjoy their silliness or creativity but instead became easily annoyed and frustrated.
I found myself fantasizing about escaping to a hotel for a night.
One glorious night of no kids and lots of sleep.
After a few days of dreaming about a night away, I talked with my husband about the logistics of actually making it work. We decided to go for it. I found a deal at a hotel nearby and ensured there would be enough bottles for the baby while I was gone.
I was so excited to have a break, get some good sleep and return to my family a new woman.
When the day arrived, I packed a bag, bought a bottle of wine, and drove not so far away to my hotel. I checked in and found my room. My oasis for the night was small, clean, and quiet. I ordered pizza from the fancy pizza place my family dislikes and enjoyed my wine. I watched a silly movie and chatted with a few friends. Then I got ready for my much-needed, well-deserved, never quite attainable sleep.
And I slept terribly.
I still woke up every few hours. My boobs were full and I had to get out of bed to pump. The weird noises of the hotel room kept me awake. The air conditioner was very cold and loud. I watched the night tick away wide awake.
When morning came, I did not feel well-rested and re-invigorated. I still felt tired, but now I also felt guilty and silly for insisting.
Before heading home, I decided to get myself a coffee and scone and journal for a bit. I wrote about my exhaustion and my disappointment. I explored my guilt and shame. I expressed gratitude for our abundant resources and the love of my family. I dreamed about the life I wanted for myself and my family.
After 30 minutes of writing and praying, I felt better than I had in weeks. My head felt clear and my heart felt full. I felt like I could go home to my family renewed and hopeful.
Moms often hear that self-care is so important but it can feel unattainable. Yoga retreats, spa days, and hotel stay seem like the magic solution to a mom’s fatigue.
However, self-care does not need to be a grand experience.
I know I am privileged to have the resources and support that going to a hotel was even possible. While I am so grateful for the time away from little humans constantly needing me, the fantasy did not match reality. My horrible night’s sleep did not fix my problems.
What made the biggest difference in my mental health was taking a few intentional moments to reflect, pray, and journal. Processing my emotions and stress and remembering how grateful I am for my life gave me renewed energy and purpose.
While self-care often feels unattainable, it doesn’t need to be a big excursion, like a night away. Little things like taking a few minutes to journal, read or go on a walk can have a big impact.
Maybe someday I’ll finally get a glorious night of sleep, until then I will keep doing the simple, easy things that help me feel better.