How Tired Parents Have Good Days

by added on 28 July 2018, Comments Off on How Tired Parents Have Good Days , posted in Blog
By Maggie Homer, WFP Parent Educator

Last night I was up six times with my 5-month old son. He was up every hour, on the hour. I maybe got 4 broken hours of sleep. When my 3-year old woke up and was ready to rock at 6 am, I thought I was going to lose my mind. I pulled my blankets up over my face as I heard her over the monitor yelling “MOMMY!” at the top of her lungs, hoping she wouldn’t wake her brother.

I slowly stood up and my eyes were so heavy I couldn’t see straight, my head hurt, and I dreaded starting the day. There was no amount of coffee that would wake me up enough to be fully functional. My husband was working a 24-hour shift, so I knew I was alone for the long haul.

Unfortunately, this situation is not uncommon in my home. My husband is a pediatric resident at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and he is typically away from us about 80-90 hours a week with only 4 days off a month.

Needless to say, I’ve had to get creative to enjoy long days by myself with the kids, and I know there are many parents out there in the same boat.

Here is how I have good days even when I’m alone and so tired it hurts:

1. Find a mantra

And repeat it over and over…and over

The one I tend to go with is…”I’m doing the best that I can.” I say it to myself on repeat. I say it aloud to my 3-year old when she’s being insanely demanding. I explain that mommy is simply doing the best she can. Some days my best is a whole lot better than other days.

Cecile (our wonderful preschool director) shared with me one of her favorite mantras. “If I could do better, I would” followed by, “If my child could do better, he would.” We are all doing the best that we can with what we have in the moment.

Why do it?

Personally, a mantra helps me stay grounded and sane when I feel like I’m losing my mind. It reassures me that I am in fact doing the best that I can.

But it’s not just me… research has shown through studying fMRI’s that repeating a mantra actually calms the part of the brain associated with self-reflection and self-judgment. I’ll take it! I’m hard enough on myself as is, so finding a way to let go and relax, especially when we’re sleep deprived, is a way to have a great day.

Check out these websites for some other great mantras that parents use to help them navigate challenging days.

2. Write positive affirmations & quotes

And put them everywhere

My husband knows when I’ve had a rough day because when he walks into our home there will be new quotes posted up all over the place. I write myself positive affirmations and stick them on the fridge, cabinets, mirrors, wherever to remind myself how freaking awesome I am.

An affirmation is a positive statement that reminds you of something you believe to be true. It can be simple like:

“You’re the best mom in the world!”

Or one I currently have posted on my fridge is:

“Children need large chunks of uninterrupted play to learn best.”

I tend to want to jam a million things in my child’s face all the time and make sure she has something to keep her entertained, so writing the above affirmation helps me sloooooow down and reassures me that it’s alright she’s just laying on the floor talking to herself. And then I get to lay down, too.

Check out some wonderful affirmations here.

Other times it’s quotes that really resonate and motivate me.  On my kitchen cabinet is:

“Successful mothers are not the ones that have never struggled. They are the ones that never give up despite the struggles.”

-Sharon Jaynes


Parenting is hard. Parenting while tired is even harder. But it’s so, so worth it. Our world will be a more beautiful place because of parents like you who refuse to give up.

Check out some parenting quotes here.

Why do it?

When we are home alone with our children, no one is there to motivate us…but ourselves. We don’t have a boss checking in on us, encouraging us, and telling us what a wonderful job we’re doing.

We have to be our own boss and hold ourselves accountable to being wonderful parents. Writing positive affirmations and quotes is a powerful tool to give yourself the credit you deserve for being such an amazing parent.

3. Explain the Situation

It gives her a chance to practice empathy and teamwork

Be honest with your child when you’re tired. I tell my daughter that her brother was up all night, mommy did not sleep very much, and that I’m having a really hard time today. Being tired is something EVERY toddler can understand, am I right?

I then ask her in kind, gentle words to be patient with me and to be my helper today. Simply by talking through it, we are set up to be on the same team. Instead of being tired and having the mentality that it’s me against my children today, it becomes a family affair to make the day the best it can be.

Now when my daughter hears that I’ve had a tough night, she looks at me, sticks out her knuckles and says, “Teamwork makes the dream work, mama.” Hearing those words from my 3-year old makes me laugh, wakes me up, and gets my mind in the right space to have an amazing day.

Why do it?

Through explaining the situation and setting your expectation for your child, you are honoring them and showing them that you respect and need them to be a helpful, contributing member of the family. Young children thrive when given responsibility and respect. More often than not, they will rise to the occasion.

3. Notice the good

It leads to a positive outlook

Instead of dwelling on the fact that you are totally exhausted, make a concentrated effort to notice the wonderful things your child is doing.

Be very specific and genuine with your words. Stay away from generic praise like “awesome!” and “great!” and instead really notice what it is he is doing.

Use the exact phrase “I notice…” and it will set you up for success. For example, you could say “I notice you washed your hands after going potty! That is so responsible of you.”

Why do it?

This fosters positive feelings toward your child. It also creates feelings of confidence and independence in your child. Not to mention she will more likely be cooperative, which goes a looooooong way when you’re tired.

4. Leave the bad

Let it go

There’s a Texas saying that goes:

“Never wrestle with a pig in mud because you both get dirty and the pig loves it.”

Attention is attention to your child, whether it’s positive or negative. So, if you get worked up and frustrated, it will only feed your child’s fire because she got such a huge reaction out of you. You’ll end the day feeling disappointed that you could not keep your emotions in check. So while your child doesn’t love when you get upset, she does love the attention that comes from it.

An Australian psychologist and parenting specialist, Michael Carr-Gregg, states:

“When my son finished his bottle as an infant, I would often sling him over my shoulder and burp him. He would more often than not throw up on me. I did not, as his dad, turn around and vomit on him”.

We are the adults. We should not react and repeat the actions of our children. If our child bites us, we don’t bite back. Keep calm. When we are tired it’s especially important because we do not have the patience we have when we are rested.

Read the full article here. It has great parenting advice from leading experts from around the world.

If you’re having a hard time managing your emotions, exit before you explode. Take a break in your room, even if it’s for 30 seconds. Take deep breaths and here’s why. Repeat your mantra. The day will pass, the night will return, you’ll be able to sleep again, and you’ll be incredibly proud of yourself for managing your emotions.

Why do it?

Actions speak louder than words. Your child learns way more from what you do and how you manage your own emotions. If your child hears that you are tired and having a hard time, yet you continue to enjoy the day, be pleasant, and act kindly, then they will follow suit.

However, if you explain that you’re tired and then continue to have explosive outbreaks, cry, and drag yourself through the day, then that is what your child will learn to do.

So help yourself out by setting an example that you would like your child to follow. Then the next time your child is incredibly tired, you may be surprised by how well he copes with it.

5. Get up, get ready, and get out

Fresh air wakes you up

Try not to let an awful night of sleep turn into an awful day. Get up, brush your teeth, exercise, shower, and get dressed. Treat your tired body and mind well. Trick yourself into thinking that you’re awake a ready to go.  Practice a little bit of healthy selfishness, especially on days you’re tired.

Activities to get you out of the house

  • Library
  • Grocery Store
  • Car Wash
  • Coffee Shop
  • Parks
  • Target
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Local pool

Go Easy On Yourself

You can’t be 100% every day. You can only give 100% of whatever you have in the tank. A lot of times, I run at about 50% of my optimal ability, but you better believe I am giving 100% of that 50%.

When we’re tired it’s hard to see the big picture outside of the specific moment, but sleep always returns. There will come a time when you will get to lay your head down and catch up from the missed hours of the night before.

As the saying goes, the days are long, but the years are short. In twenty years from now, I promise you and your child won’t remember the sleepless nights, but will instead remember the incredible memories you made when you were totally exhausted, loaded up on coffee, and happy to simply be together.

Remember, you are raising a little human. Their values and self-esteem are way more precious than a couple missed hours of sleep.

This too shall pass.

Comments are closed.