Do you know how to relax while still being a MOM? Read these great tips on how you can sneak a little rest and relaxation into your day to day routine!I knew being a parent wouldn’t be all kisses, snuggles, and sweet happy feelings, but I remember that the thing that most surprised me about parenthood was the exhaustion. Of course, right in the beginning of your baby’s life, the lack of sleep is unparalleled, but even after your little one finally sleeps through the night at 5 weeks, 4 months, or in my daughter’s case, a year and a half, your sleep schedule is at the mercy of your children, and you rarely get enough of it.
If you’re a working parent, this is even more true. The whole “sleep when your baby/kids sleep” thing can’t always happen. Sometimes, they’ve napped in daycare or with the sitter and come home to you recharged and ready to go, while you’re just wiped out after a long day at the office. Parents can’t take sick days either. When I struggled with severe, all day, every day morning sickness for 8 months while pregnant with my son, I couldn’t just stop being a parent. My daughter still needed me. I still had to work hard to meet her physical and emotional needs—though I didn’t do a very good job of it during that time.
On days when I find myself exhausted from lack of sleep with two kids full of boundless energy, I’ve discovered ways to engage them while still getting the rest or relaxation that I need.
Here are some of my favorite, mommy needs to rest (or mommy’s nursing) activities:
Read a book.
Whether you’re reading Moo, Baa, La La La to your nine month old or By the Shores of Silver Lake to your four year old, you can usually sit or lie down while reading. Even little ones (my son excluded) usually stop activity for the amount of time it takes for you to read them a small book. When Bunny was one or two years old and I was too tired to run around and play hideandseek or monster games, I’d get a stack of books and she and I would sit in an arm chair reading. Now that she’s older, we lay in bed before naptime and read Laura Ingalls Wilder books together.
I don’t know if you’re brave enough for this, but I give my daughter my makeup brushes and makeup, lay down on the couch, and let her paint away. The great thing about makeovers is that they usually require you to close your eyes. I look a little like a raccoon when she’s done with me but she’s happy, she’s gotten Mommy time, and she’s found a way to release some of her creative juices, and I’m more refreshed for the rest of the day’s activities. If you’re not comfortable giving your child your real makeup, grab a couple of compacts from the dollar store and keep them just for makeover time.
Hair salon works much like makeovers. This one may or may not be relaxing, depending on how sensitive your head is and how gentle your child is. I have a tough head and a daughter who has learned to treat it gently, so the two of us really enjoy playing hair salon. Again, I lay down on the couch with my hair hanging over the arm, or sit in the easy chair and Bunny grabs her box of hair supplies and a brush and clips, ties, and headbands away. Sometimes, she even adds a complimentary head massage by scratching my scalp with her little hands.
I only enjoy this activity because someone gave my daughter fake nail polish. The little bottles were filled with a goopy, clearish, glittery substance that washes off. Bunny got the experience of really painting my nails, and I didn’t have to worry about nail polish getting everywhere. I’ve since allowed her to paint my nails with real polish, but that’s not relaxing—not yet anyway.
I think “doctor” is a relaxing game that every parent has in their arsenal. What’s more fun than lying down, pretending to have ailments, and letting your sweet child fix them all for you?
If your child plays the parent, and you play the kid, you can get them to play “naptime.”
Bunny used to love to put her babies to sleep and then she’d come up to me and say, “Naptime! I had to lie down while she arranged blankets and pillows for me. Then she’d turn off the light and make me go to sleep. The problem with “naptime” play is that the naps only last about 30 seconds long.
Back massage writing practice
Lie down on your back and have your little learner practice writing letters on your back with their forefinger or a stylus. You can either dictate to them what they should write, or turn it into a guessing game. This could also work with drawing. Back massage with matchbox cars For Christmas, we gave my husband a shirt with a little car map on the back. Bunny proceeded to play with her cars while he laid on his belly. She also got out her little Polly Pocket dolls and played house on his back, so I’m thinking you could also draw a doll house and get the same, relaxing effect.
Find Cloud pictures.
Lay down near a window or on a blanket in the back yard and find pictures in the clouds. My daughter loves doing this in car rides. Sometimes, even if I can’t really see anything, I make something up and she loves the stories she sees in her mind as we use our imaginations to see turn puffs of clouds into pictures. Narrate your kids’ play If my daughter is playing with her dollies, trains, or dinosaurs in view of me while I’m resting on the couch, I make them talk and say ridiculous things. She’ll often interact with my voices, and occasionally just laugh at the crazy stuff I come up with. More often than not, I end up getting scolded for making the dollies say something she doesn’t like and we’ll have a good giggle over it. I’ve adapted this slightly to truthfully narrating what Bunny is doing “for her little brother.” This happened a lot in the beginning when Baby Bear got 80% of my attention because Bunny often felt neglected. When I said things like, “Wow, look how your big sister is writing her letters!” Or “Did you see your sister playing with her dollies? She’s building them a fantastic house,” Bunny felt important and needed. This was also a way to include her newborn brother into our play and set the stage for her to play with him for real later on.
You can’t really lie down with puzzles, but they’re a sitstill sort of thing. You can rest on your side, or sit down while doing one with your child.
Bunny gives me what she calls “prints” to tell a story. “Mommy, tell me a story with a mountain and a princess in it,” she’ll say. The mountain and the princess are the “prints” for the story. Then I have to come up with a story with those details. This often happens when we’re snuggling at bedtime. Other times, we’ll just tell stories without “prints” (I don’t know where on earth she got that word, but I have a feeling it might have something to do with my husband).
Set up a bed fort on your bed and lie down while your kids revel in it. This can be done with pillows, or even just by putting your knees up to support the blankets. You can add a flashlight or books to this scenario to give it extra excitement.
Usually, introducing something new and out of the ordinary will keep your kids attention for a good bit of time because they’re exploring it for the first time. I rarely make forts for the kids, but on occasion, when we do break out the kitchen chairs and the blankets, my daughter is occupied for hours because it’s so novel. Sometimes, I can just lay on the couch and nap while she plays, and other times I lay inside the fort to get the rest I’m craving.
Create a “Yes” zone
My little guy isn’t really into imaginative play yet. He’s into EVERYTHING else. He’s curious and precocious and pursues anything that can cause him harm—wires, choking hazards, electronic devices. This stage of his life is exhausting. Nursing him isn’t even relaxing at this point because it’s more like a wrestling match. Even when I lie down, he’ll often hop off the bed or the couch while still latched on and start dancing. At least when he’s still latched on I know he’s not getting into stuff he shouldn’t. Baby Bear hates restraints and sticking him in a walker or the packnplay will result in screams so I usually don’t. What I enjoy doing with him when I’m exhausted is closing he and I and usually his sister in his room. I lie down on the floor and zone in and out of consciousness while he plays in a perfectly safe, “yes” zone. He loves his Mama so much that this usually results in my being the jungle gym, but I don’t mind. After 1020 minutes of this I’m generally recharged enough to prepare dinner, do a load of dishes, or even play a rousing game of chase with either of my kids.
Be a jungle gym
This may or may not be relaxing depending on your definition of the term, but I’ll often lay down on my back and put the baby on top of me. He crawls all over and tries to escape and I catch him every time. I’ll stick him on my knees and play seesaw with him. Also, this is an opportunity to just let him climb the way he wants which may mean he gets distracted and wants to play with his shape sorter, giving me the chance for a minute or two of “sleep.”
Play “I Spy”
I spy is a game that requires only that one’s eyes are open. It is a perfect way to lie down while engaging with your child’s creativity.
Nap with your kids
If you’re blessed to be able to be home with your kids while they nap, I know what you’re thinking: “But that’s the only time I can get anything done!” It is true. Naptime is the holy grail of parenthood. It is sacred and anything and everything else must revolve around those precious hours. Why on earth would you actually sleep during naptime??? Well, because you’ve got to rest sometime. You wake up hours before the kids to get things done and get time to yourself, you drag around the house exhausted hours after their bedtime trying to catch up. There are days when I know I need to nap and I intend to lie down and do so but I just have to do that one more thing, which turns into two, three, four more things. Or, I actually laid down to rest with a book or a TV show and I can’t get my brain to shut up so I think of more things that have to be done and I end up getting up after 20 minutes of no rest because my mind was going the whole time. Well, a while back Bunny was having a hard time actually sleeping during naptime. I found that if I got into bed with her, held her close, and started to regulate my breathing as if I were sleeping, she would relax and actually fall asleep, buying me the time I needed to do what can only be done when she’s asleep. I discovered something else, too. When I’m trying to relax so she relaxes, I actually relax and more often than not I wake up 20 minutes later and I’ve actually gotten the nap I needed! She’ll sleep for another hour or two, I’m fully rested, and I can clean the bathroom, wash the diapers, or prep that casserole with renewed vigor! This rarely happens anymore but when my son actually nurses himself to sleep at naptime, I’ll take that time to rest beside him, often falling asleep myself. There is nothing sweeter than falling a sleep with your precious child in your arms. It makes you want to do nothing but sit there reveling in their tender innocence. There is nothing better, more refreshing, or more relaxing in the world than napping with your kids when they actually fall asleep.
Parenthood is tough. The hours are long, you don’t get days off, and you’re always on call. The pay off is worth it, though. We would do anything for our kids and we will go to great lengths to spend time with them and to make sure they’re fulfilled little human beings. We can’t do that job effectively when we’re overtired but then again, who has time to sleep? Finding time to rest when your little guys are full of energy is sometimes the only key to solving that equation.
So, what are your tips and tricks for being a good, engaged parent when you’re exhausted? Please share!