Exhaustion …. What it feels like

I’m writing this for three reasons.  (Well, I actually started writing it 14 days ago, but have been that exhausted that it has taken this long to finish!).

  • Firstly to share with non mums what it feels like.  I’m sorry to do the whole ‘you can’t understand what its like’ card, but seriously, I reckon that only Mums or people who have illnesses or who work shifts, can really understand the true meaning of ‘exhaustion’!
  • Secondly so that other mums know it is not just them.
  • And finally to remind me when these days are over, that my body really is too old to get broody again!

It starts with overwhelming sleepiness. I like the feeling of this stage as for years I was a rubbish sleeper. My eyelids get heavy, blinking takes twice as long, and it takes a huge effort to reopen my eyes. Suddenly I find myself asleep on whinnie the pooh. Max (4.5yrs) will either be shaking me awake or kindly putting a blanket over me, depending on his mood. But in a couple of months time this type if tiredness will be potentially dangerous when little Willow starts to crawl; there are stairs, small toys, so many potential problems. I remember waking up oneday with a start to find myself asleep on the floor and max nose to nose with one of our old dogs, who just woken up was trying to work out if max was a dog (who could be bitten) or a child. (We sadly found him a safer home very shortly after, which was extremely heartbreaking to do, but he was worried, let alone us).

Soon sleep becomes more difficult though as the worst stage kicks in. Your head hurts, there’s a dull ache constantly behind the eyes, your stomach feels like a washing machine, and all I want to eat is chocolate. After days of sleep torture, where you are dragged out of a heavy collapse several times, I then find myself incapable of getting back to sleep, which is just the worst kind of torture ever. The brain gets noisy and I get GRUMPY!

When we are grumpy, the ability to be nice to people, give them the benefit of the doubt, have endless patience with the children and be fun rather than shout, disappears in a puff of smoke. But no one appears to be willing to understand or let you be grumpy, or not as grumpy for as long as I’d like anyway! Expectations are high, children are disappointed, husbands snap back and ‘normal’ people either think you are stupid or a cow.  I suspect this is where many of the arguments in the blogosphere/twittersphere/facebooksphere originate from.

Soon perspective goes. That’s when there are tears hiding behind my eyes constantly all day long, and all I can see is an interminable long haul ahead with no hope of rescue. And frankly I’ve been tempted to throw both kids out of the window.  I hate the crying bit.  I hate the pathetic bit.  When I’m out of it, I can see how useful it can be (I’ll post about that in a few days, as I’m on my way out, cross fingers).  But when I’m in it, it feels like big dark sticky goo.

So don’t feel sorry for me, or be put off having kids, because it isn’t every day or forever, and I wouldn’t change a thing.  It’s not their fault that tonsilitus in one (mega puke city!), inevitably is passed to the other, and then other things go wrong like child-care etc.  But when you see a mum parking really badly or slowly, be patient.  She may very well be stupid, but she may also be operating on minimum brain cells due to the exhaustion.  Remember, it’s one of the most effective forms of torture, and lack of sleep can kill you!  When she snaps at you, hold your tongue and give her a hug instead. Most of all, have realistic expectations on what she can achieve and tell her how fabulous she is for managing it.  Finally remember, ‘this too shall pass’ (one of my mates favourite sayings, you know who you are SB!), and normal service will resume very soon, with a much cheerier version of me/your wife/mum/friend/workmate/neighbour.

To be continued …. Tips for picking up the pieces when exhausted.

What Does It Feel Like When You Are Not Asked For Help?

Recently I’ve been blogging about the importance of asking for help, having been forced to get over myself and find loads of different ways of asking myself!  Here are a couple of my blogs: pictures to inspire youfeeling guilty and why is it so difficult? I realised that it is often actually much more pleasant for the rest of the world if I do ask for help (although I’m still a fan of a healthy balance between depending and being independent!);  my husband now comes home to a much more pleasant wife, and the 4yr old has a more patient mummy.

But then I had the opposite experience, so that I really understood what it was like not to be asked.  I went to see one of my favourite mummy friends, just as I was getting better.  We had a lovely chat, some cake and I got to show off Wibee loads.  I’d done the whole ‘so what’s been happening question’, but it wasn’t until the end that I looked at her and asked how she actually was.  Only then did she admit that she had also been ill, for months, but hadn’t told me because she knew that having a second baby was bound to be tricky, and then I’d fallen ill too.  She now had the all clear, but for some time she had been worried that it would be something serious.

As she explained why she hadn’t told me, I heard what she said, but here are the thoughts that immediately flashed through my mind:

  • That I was a rubbish friend
  • That she didn’t think I could help
  • That she thought I was too selfish to be interested

This was how I’d been making other people feel all these past 40yrs, when I told them after a problem was solved, or quietly retreated into my own world during the worst times.  I knew that my worries weren’t what she thought.  I also knew that I hadn’t meant to make people feel the same way.  But it took me a few minutes to knock some sense into my head about it and realise that she was right; there was no way that I wouldn’t have immediately been on the internet looking for ideas to help her, so she did save me from myself by not telling me!

So then I got onto a theme of thinking about other times that people haven’t asked for help.

There are definitely a few who are going for dramatic effect!  So they don’t tell you until after or half way through the problem, and there is definitely an implication that it’s your fault that you couldn’t help because you didn’t know.  This is again your fault, because you hadn’t taken the time to keep in touch.  To be honest, I’ve probably done this too, but the reason I haven’t let people know what was going on was because when I was in the midst of the drama, I’ve forgotten to look outside my small world and keep my nearest and dearest in the loop.  I also have to admit to getting slightly peeved, when I have made the effort to update people, but it just wasn’t in the right medium for them, so they still don’t know.  For instance, there might be people who are not quite as close to me, but would still expect direct contact via text/phone, rather than keeping in touch via facebook/blogging.  I even get grumpy if someone posts a question on my facebook wall asking for how I’m doing, rather than looking back on my profile for the info; which is really unreasonable of me, because I’m thinking they can’t be bothered, and actually they are just less aware of how to use different ways of communicating, so there is no need for them to feel guilty.

Then there are the times that we don’t ask for help, don’t ask for help, don’t ask for help, and get ourselves into such a twiddle that by the time we do ask for help it causes the helpers a great deal more trouble.  The poor old in-laws had to drop everything (they have a very busy retirement: golf, special parties, seeing sick friends, family birthdays) to help when I fell very ill suddenly.  Whereas, it is possible that if I’d been getting more regular help from the time that my new baby was born, I wouldn’t have fallen so very ill.  Meanwhile, because I’m the most senior person certified in a particular methodology in the UK (not because I’m especially clever, just because I’ve been doing it for longer), I get people doing the same.  They try to sort things out themselves and not bother me, but suddenly it all goes pear shaped, and then they need a big chunk of my time.  What they don’t realise is that keeping in touch a little at a time, works much better for me, because then later on if they really need my help it will take me hardly anytime at all to get up to speed, which is much easier as a working mum.

  • Us ‘people fixers‘, you know the type: healers, coaches, therapists etc etc, can get upset when people don’t ask us for help sometimes.  It’s a sign that we are beginning to get our heads around the job when we see sense and realise that:
  • (a) we can’t fix the whole world all at the same time and
  • (b) whatever it is that we are trained in might not be what that person wants and that
  • (c) strange as it may seem, some people really don’t actually want to be fixed and
  • (d) sometimes people have been offered so much unsolicited help that they are sick of it!

So there are loads of reasons why we don’t ask for help, many of them valid.  But next time you are tempted not to ask, remember how willing and keen people often are to help you, and that sometimes it is actually easier for them if you do, rather than putting an additional burden on them.  Of course there is then the problem of what to do with help you don’t want ….. hmmm, I see another post coming on ;o)

Some Pictures To Inspire You To Remember To Ask For Help

I realised something last week, which is that sometimes we actually have to bite the bullet and ask for help.  This might seem obvious for some people, but it’s been quite a new concept for me; so, I’ve spent the last 10 days very sick and finding all sorts of different ways of asking for help, and do you know what, it’s not so bad.  so I thought I’d post some pictures to inspire you to ask for help too.

If you feel guilty about asking for help, look at it from your family and the people you ask’s point of view.  Your family just want you happy and being yourself.  The people you ask will either earn money, or feel that they are worth something, because they have been asked.

When the in laws came to help out, it was brilliant for their bond with the kids.  My 4yr old son and his granddad really bonded, with his granddad appearing to come alive and become really fun.  Meanwhile, my baby girl was very comfy and secure on her grandma’s shoulder.  Grandparents are important to children, and it’s even more important that they themselves understand this, because it gives them a reason to be.  It might have been tiring for them, but having a ‘reason to be’, keeps us going, gives us purpose, and boosts our health.  They probably hadn’t realised until now how important they still are to the growing family.  Memories were created over the last couple of weeks, that will stay with my kids forever, thats a great thing and worth getting sick for.

So if it’s a family problem hows about asking a friend/ neighbour/ relative?  Is there someone you have helped in the past, who is really keen to get the opportunity to help back?  Is there an online forum or community that can give you some info?  There are many specialists out there on the net, who are happy to give quick and free help.  You can pay for help or for people training up e.g. there are Au Pairs, Au Pair Plus (older, more experienced, do more cleaning), Mothers Helps, Nannies, Child Minders, Day Nurseries, Cleaners, Dog Walkers.  There are even alternative and medical options, just to help you get through the day.

For instance, I’ve been complaining that I couldn’t find anyone to help out with the last couple of hours of the day (see previous post about feeling guilty about asking for help), but I wasn’t actually asking, because I hadn’t actually put an advert anywhere.  It seems I was weirdly expecting them to appear, just because I had thought about it, doh!  Now I’m inundated with options.

When the inlaws left, we asked a girl called Victoria to come and help us tidy the house.  She’d interviewed for the job as a part-time mothers help, which we sadly probably can’t give her, but she did get a generous bonus for coming at short notice.  Even better was that when my baby girl cried, she took one look at me (looking very lumpy and sick), and took her off me, popping her on her back: a truly amazing and lovely girl!  Look at this picture of Willow happily asleep, just gorgeous.

I’ve asked for advice on facebook and got over 40 comments, some incredibly comprehensive and time consuming for the people who filled them in.  Now people love to give advice, but they often give it inappropriately, especially in my business, as us healer/coach/therapist types tend to get very enthusiastic and want to share all our knowledge with the whole world.  But this was definitely a chance for extremely well received and appreciated information.

Asking for help has shown me how lucky I am, in my friends, family, resources, connections; just everywhere.  There are downsides or costs to everything, but if you think it through beforehand, you can manage them all.  You won’t always get the response that you hoped for, so do try asking without expecting the ‘ideal’ response, and remember that you can always ask again or ask someone else.  If I hadn’t have asked for help, I would definitely be sicker, and possibly in hospital as the only real fix has been lieing down.  Now the cost of a showing a bit of vulnerability, paying some money, and learning how to ask for the simplest things to be done for me, has paid off.

So don’t feel guilty about asking for help.  Think about the people you ask and your family will gain from it.  As they say ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get’; so this isn’t rocket science, but I thought I would share anyway!

(p.s. remember to say ‘thank you’ though, and look for times to reciprocate in the future, otherwise, you might not get such helpful responses another time).

Another Question: Why Feel Guilty About Needing Some Help

You might have guessed, that my theme this week is questions!  Plus, my blogs have changed a little, as I used to blog when I had resolved a problem of mine, or for someone else’s situation.  Whereas now I’m blogging in the midst of a problem.  I’d be interested to know what you think about the change, as the blogs develop!

My question today is ‘Howcome do I feel guilty, that I really could do with some help for the last 2 hours of the day before the kids go to bed?’.

These hours tend to consist of the baby deciding she would like to be permanently held (but not in a sling, obviously, because that would be too easy!), whilst the generally well behaved 4yr old, gets tired and cranky, thus losing all ability to think rationally.  Recently, the dogs have helped out with a weeks worth of puking, and now the odd pee incident, for no apparent reason.  My husband’s job suddenly changed the day after the baby was born, and he now doesn’t get home at the time he used to, which means he can’t even help with the juggling a windy screamy baby, whilst reading a story and putting a bedtime nappy on the 4yr old.  So the task of cooking a quick meal, feeding the dogs, tidying the house, putting the washing away, and getting everyone ready for bed, has become a new form of very noisy torture ;o)

So howcome, do I feel guilty, when I realise that I could do with some help?  I didn’t feel guilty about getting a cleaner, because I could feel I deserved one as I was working.  I didn’t feel guilty about her being expensive, because otherwise I had to clean after the cleaner went, which kind of defeated the object.  I didn’t feel guilty about buying myself some clothes.  But for some reason, there is a tinge of guilt that suggests that I ‘should be able to cope’, especially as I’m a born coper!

One of the reasons that my stress levels are exasperated is because I don’t have a Mum to complain to daily in order to let off steam (this is my fantasy of what a Mum would be willing to put up with!), and there isn’t any family locally to help out.  All the Mums nearby are of course very supportive, but also going through the same thing, or just escaped the same problem.  The difference is, that I don’t have the carrot of a regular potential visit from a Mum, who would put a duvet on me and take away my responsibilities for an hour (again another TOTAL fantasy, as loads of people don’t have Mums or Mums with duvets).

Now the importance of the question, is because when you ask it, you can face it and see it’s basically daft, whereas before it was an internal niggle that wasn’t getting me anywhere.  What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Well, people will find out that I’m not perfect, and that my only solution was to bring in an extra pair of hands.  That’s not so bad.  After all, I’m luckily not selling myself as a perfect Mum, so it shouldn’t put people off.

Potentially, people could dislike me because they don’t like to be reminded of their fallibility.  This is very likely, and could affect friendships and work.  However, in life, there are always going to be as many people liking you as disliking you, so it will be balanced out.

Some people will criticise me for having the money to be able to do it, and throw at me the fact that they don’t have family, or a partner, and they can manage.  But in fact what I’m doing is swapping my cleaner (that I didn’t feel guilty about), for more hours with a mother’s help, so ironically it would be purely how I was spending my money that was the issue.  Plus this way, I’m going to be helping out another local mother/grandmother financially, which is I think a very sensible way to spend my money.  However, they would be right, because I’m not great at these last 2hrs of the day.  I LOVE being a Mum, but notice that I do also work part-time because I couldn’t be a full-time mum.  If I was advising me, I would remind myself that we are all great at some things, and not so great at others and that there is a reason that I work part-time.

Some people might criticise me and ask how can I help other mums with my blog and business, if the only solution I could find to this problem, was to pay for help?  Which would be a valid comment too.  But, it wasn’t the only solution.  Actually, I’ve been tackling this issue for 9 weeks now, bit by little bit.  I’ve helped the 4yr old with his insecurities, and added in a star chart, which is really helping him.  I’ve taken the baby to a chiropractor to reduce the screaming in the car and enable her to sit comfortably in a bouncy chair.  I’ve changed my priorities, so that there is as little as possible to do in the evening.  There have been lots of little steps.  In fact last night, I interviewed someone for the job, and the house seemed calm, so I wondered ‘maybe I don’t really need help?’.  But just as she walked out the door I discovered the dog pee in a corner, realised I hadn’t emptied the tumble dryer, was shouted at for not playing by the 4yr old, the baby woke up and screamed, then the internet shopping arrived late, and I still had dinner to cook, a 4yr old to get to bed, and then a sick husband walked through the door!

So what I need to do is remind myself that I’m a great Mum in my own way, and my little boy would prefer I spend the money on someone to be an extra pair of hands, so that I can give myself totally to the job of being the best that I’m able to be.  Meanwhile, I got an email today from a master practitioner of the methodology that trained in, asking for help with finishing a self-session.  It’s made me feel great to be asked, and in no way have I judged her.  In fact it made me realise, that I could then swap a session with her, and pay the mother’s help to cover me, in that way making me even more fun for my son to have around.

If you are feeling guilty today, try these questions out too, because they might make you feel better …

  • What are you feeling guilty for doing/not doing?
  • Why do you feel guilty for it, is there really reason to feel guilty about it when you look at it?
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen: face the fear and guilt, it might not be so bad.
  • How could you and your family gain or benefit from it?
  • If you are judging yourself for being rubbish at something, what are you great at, and why does it suit your family that you are the way you are.

Thanks for listening, it helps to sort my squashy brain out when I write it all down! I’m also not going to feel guilty about the fact that I’m going to eat a chocolate bar now, because since I ate one yesterday my milk has been back on form ;o)