I love alone time. I’ve always been happy to hole up by myself, embrace the opportunity to watch my trashy TV shows without comment or judgement, or work away at my computer on whatever personal project I have going at that moment. I could spend days on my own. But it’s different now that I have children. I’m never really alone, and never really relaxed.
I’ve mentioned before that I find Arlo’s night wakings difficult and that it’s quite a big source of anxiety for me. I don’t always know how to help him, and I seem to make things worse a lot of the time. I’m always wondering what the next wake-up will have in store, hoping that it will be an easy one. For this reason, I dread nights alone. On top of that, there’s all the standard worries that naturally arise when you are the sole person in charge. If my anxieties aren’t already heightened by wondering if Arlo will have a bad night, I’m torturing myself with nightmare scenarios in my head…”What would I do in the event of an emergency?…What if this happened? Or that??”
On top of that, there’s the sleep deprivation. Both children wake throughout the night. Going into Arlo means leaving Rory’s side, which wakes him up too. It’s a vicious cycle that is really tricky to juggle when it’s just me here.
The joys of another 5am start.
Sam goes away quite regularly for work. I felt I still hadn’t quite gained enough closure and distance from the last trip away (Rory was eight weeks and Arlo had a tummy bug), when all of a sudden the next trip was looming. These trips last between a week and two weeks, and with two children who seem to hate sleep, it doesn’t take long before I feel like I’m walking through treacle, with a head foggier than anything I experienced during the days of having a newborn. We’re out the other side of the trip now (YESSSSS), so I’m sharing a few tactics I employ whilst in survival mode:
Music for company. Upbeat music or radio chatter to fill the noticeable void during the hour Sam would normally be getting home from work, and when my niggling anxiety about night time starts kicking in.
At the end of the day, it gets light.
I can be a sobbing mess at my wits end at night, when no one is sleeping and I’m DESPERATE for some small amount of rest. But, somehow, with the break of day comes a miraculous new enthusiasm. In the darkest night time moments, I try to remind myself that I KNOW that everything will look better in the morning.
Make life easy for yourself.
In whatever big or small ways that you can. For me, this involves blowing the food budget on a takeaway for me and expensive ‘baby food’ products for Rory. There doesn’t seem much point expending extra energy cooking proper meals for one (and a half) every day, whilst Arlo and I would happily exist on a diet of ‘things on toast’, Rory at least deserves a shot at slightly better nutrition (and salt content), and I need to keep my energy levels up too.
Don’t plan anything too ambitious. I’m always tempted to plan full on days out to fill the days and up my chances of adult interaction. I think it will help the time pass quicker. But these outings usually only serve to push me over the edge when I’m already running on very low reserves. Quiet time may be boring and lonely, but it’s often a safer bet.
Go to bed early. When you never know how your night is going to go, go to bed at the first chance you get. A 5am start doesn’t seem so bad if bedtime was 8.30pm.
Plan your social activities at the right time for you. I always think it will be a great idea to invite my friends round in the evenings when I’m on my own, but the reality is that they are finishing work as the bedtime routine starts, and by the time they arrive it’s basically my bedtime (according to the vital early nights rule). However, weekends can feel pretty lonely so it’s good to have day time plans for then.
This might not be an option depending on local obligations, how far away your friends/family are from you, and various other practicalities, but for me, the very mathematical equation looks something like this: peace of mind that I am not alone at night should an emergency occur, + a change of scenery for the boys, subtract x amount of preschool days missed, + sharing a room with both children and getting less sleep than usual, + family all working full time anyway, = a max of two nights away before it becomes more hassle than it’s worth.
Expect Sod’s law. It would be foolish, reckless even, to expect anything but the worst to happen. They will get ill. They will sleep worse than usual. Something will break (at the very least, your sanity). In order to avoid severe disappointment, treat anything easier than this as a bonus.
They fell asleep in the car. I brought a pillow with me. Genius.