I use Mondays for answering Mail. This week I’m tackling a question from an exhausted young mom about battling fatigue. Are you growing weary, too? Then read on for some practical tips.
Question: Any suggestions for those battling fatigue?
How do you maintain your energy while caring for a newborn? My two babies are only 15 months apart, and I’m completely exhausted most of the time!
Answer: Prioritize sleep during this season
Dear Weary Mom,
Our first two children were just 16 months apart, and I well remember what difficulties I had as a new mother caring for them. I wondered if I would ever feel well-rested again! Sometimes when the baby would wake up crying in the middle of the night, I’d feel like crying right along with her, so desperate was I for sleep.
The good news is, that feeling is now just a distant memory. Parenting definitely gets easier over time. Having older children eager to lend a hand makes a world of difference. I know this season will pass for you, as well.
In the meantime, there are a few practical things you can do to help stretch your reserves of strength and energy. And these tips aren’t just for new mothers. They work equally well during other stressful seasons when your energy reserves feel chronically depleted:
Start by sleeping when your baby sleeps, even if that just means resting on the floor for 15 minutes while you toddler plays at your side (We keep our babies in bed with us for the first six months or so; that way, I don’t even have to get out of bed for those midnight feedings).
You may also need to scale back on activities outside the home for a while (it’s not safe to drive in a sleep-deprived stupor, anyway). Do try to get a little exercise, though, even if it’s just a quick walk around the block while pushing babies in a stroller — the fresh air and sunshine will help recharge you.
Watch What You Eat
Eat a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, whole grains, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Avoid junk food and caffeinated beverages. Drink lots and lots of water, too — especially if you’re breastfeeding. Taking a good multi-vitamin with iron can help your energy level, as well (Supermom vitamins have been a life-saver for me).
You may need to relax your standards for housekeeping for the time being. During the seasons of my life when I was battling fatigue, it was enough that our home stayed (relatively) tidy . It didn’t have to be spotless. In fact, it still doesn’t. That old poem rings true: “Quiet down, cobwebs; Dust, go to sleep. I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.”
Change Your Perspective
Another thing that helped me through those early years was more philosophical than practical in nature. John Newton once said, “Everything is needful that He sends. Nothing is needful that He withholds.”
That had always been one of my favorite quotes, but as a young mother, I gained a much deeper appreciation of its truth. I began to realize, when I was awakened at two in the morning by a hungry newborn crying for milk, that what I needed most desperately was obviously not sleep (or God would have provided it). What I really needed was to develop sacrificial love. I needed to learn to die to myself.
This shift in mindset began to make a noticable difference in my outlook. Rather than resenting the fact that my rest was being interrupted, I began to rejoice over the opportunity to serve this little one (Matthew 25:35-40), knowing that by tending to her needs with a grateful heart, I was gradually being molded into the likeness of Christ (the fact that I’ve had 11 babies and still have such a long way to go should let you know how very selfish I was to start with!).
Nurture Your Marriage
My last advice for maintaining energy may seem a little counter-intuitive, but it has the power to revolutionize your life at home. Like many young mothers, back when we first started our family, I became so absorbed in tending to my baby’s needs that I felt quite justified in marginalizing my husband’s needs. After all, wasn’t I having to sacrifice sleep for the sake of of our child? Surely my husband could make a few sacrifices himself!
Let me warn you that this way of thinking is very unwise. You must never use your children, however young and needy they are, as an excuse to neglect your relationship to their father. Reserve at least a little energy so you can regularly devote your full attention to him.
In the long run, I found that investing in my marriage in this manner paid HUGE dividends and multiplied my strength manyfold. Like loaves and fishes, when I freely and joyfully gave myself to my husband, despite the overwhelming fatigue I felt at the time, God took that gift and stretched it in amazing ways, so that I was able to accomplish much more than I ever imagined possible, and actually felt GREAT doing it.
Try it yourself, and see if you don’t feel re-energized, as well. Make it a priority. Make it a habit. Your husband will thank me. And you will, too.