Tag Archives: Sleep deprivation

Which is tougher – pregnancy or motherhood?

Mums to be expect to enjoy a glowing pregnancy but the reality is fatigue, information overload and a sagging sex life, according to this report from Lisa Power  in the Daily Telegraph today

Ladies, wait til that kid gets born!

According to the report, 60% said fatigure was the hardest to deal with.

I can’t imagine what the other 40% said.

My theory is that pregnancy fatigue is nature’s way of getting you ready for months, perhaps years, of sleep deprivation.  I suspect if you went straight from your pre-baby life into the reality of life with a newborn, there would be even more post-natal depression around than there is now.

Did pregnancy meet your expectations?

Which was harder for you – pregnancy or being a mum?

Kirsten

Advertisements

Five ways working mums can take better care of their mental health

Guest post from Leilah Nelson.

Following the birth of my first child my greatest fear was suffering from depression. And being a psychologist I was always quick to self- diagnose!

My family and friends were my lifeline and since then I have never taken my mental health for granted and neither should you.  Yet statistics show that many of us might be ignoring the symptoms.

Of the two most common mental illnesses – depression and anxiety, women will experience them both in higher rates than men.

One in five women will experience depression while one in three will experience anxiety.

While genetics plays a part is determining your risk, others contributors include chronic health conditions, personality factors and stressful life events. Life events that can create major stressors are pregnancy, motherhood, menopause, and caring for elderly or unwell family members.

Women are at increased risk of experiencing depression during pregnancy and post child birth for up to a year. Nearly 10% of pregnant women will experience antenatal depression (during pregnancy) increasing to 16% experiencing postnatal depression in the 3 months post birth.

Working mums, while busy caring for others,  must be careful not to dismiss the signs and ignore the symptoms of mental health problems.

My tips for maintaining good emotional health while working and caring for your family:

  1. Cut your TO DO LIST in half. By reducing the daily tasks we expect ourselves to complete we can reduce our stress. Stress is a symptom of anxiety and depression. It can also be a catalyst for many physical related health problems. Remember your brain is an organ too and deserves care and attention.
  2. Maintain your SOCIAL NETWORKS, especially mothers group and playgroup. Consider the girls night out as sacred. Women, generally speaking, enjoy social communication, be it chatting with girlfriends or going to the movies or theatre. These exchanges allow us time to express our worries and fears and to reach out for support from the group.  Statistics show that you are less likely to suffer from depression if you have a strong social network to rely on.
  3. Prioritise YOUR TIME to do things that MAKE YOU HAPPY. Basically give yourself the permission and the freedom to do things you enjoy, FOR YOURSELF. Working mums are quick to prioritise the needs of their children, their partners, the housework, etc.  and often leave little or no time for themselves . Include regular EXERCISE into your routine. Maintaining exercise has been proven in reducing the affects of mental health.
  4. Take SHORTCUTS and don’t feel GUILTY about it. Often Mums feel pressure to be wife, chef, housemaid, cleaner, nanny, teacher, in short order. We can’t be all things but we can find more efficient ways of doing things (for me that involves employing a cleaner once a fortnight!) Finding a Work/Life BALANCE can help reduce our risk for mental illness.
  5. Don’t be AFRAID to SEEK HELP. GPs are becoming better trained at diagnosing mental health problems and quicker at referring to counselling services. Medicare will rebate up to 10 sessions with a counsellor if referred by your GP under the banner of mental health. Some employers have an employee assistance program (EAP) with free access to telephone or face-to-face counselling. A lot can be done to improve your mental health through life style changes but for some the answer is medical intervention. Simplified, anti-depressants assist with bringing a chemical balance back to the brain which then allows for counselling to be affective.

For further information on mental health, I have found the following sources useful:

-beyondblue 1300 224 636 (beyondblue.org.au)

-Lifeline  13 11 14 (lifeline.org.au)

-SANE 1800 187 263 (sane.org.au)

-Australian Psychological Society Referral line 1800 333 497 (psychology.org.au/findapsychologist)

Leilah Nelson

Thanks to Beyond Blue for references

This working mum co-sleeps. Do you agree?

You may have seen this piece last weekend on why the Victorian Coroner has recommended against parents co-sleeping with their children.  Yet millions of mums continue to do so.  Why?  Today, working mum Angela Humphries shares her story…

To us, co-sleeping is a natural choice. We just did what seemed right, and it is an easy solution for time-poor parents. Our three year old daughter has slept with us since she was born, in the early days on a built up pillow next to us and thesedays she has her own pillow and a well-worn groove in the mattress.

I adore sleeping with my child. She is physically next to me, hand in hand or she snoozes in the crook of my arm. Often in the middle of the night, I open my eyes to stare at her perfect chin or feel her warm breath on my face. Of course there are issues; which we can easily resolve with a warm hug, a reassuring pat on the back or some soothing words. Sometimes these are even for our daughter when she wakes mid sleep. We don’t have tear infested nightly rituals with her, it seems to be a treat for her to go to the ‘big bed’ and one that she enjoys so much that bedtime is a special time for her. Not a drama every night with cold threats or as one friend refers to as ‘her daily worst nightmare time’… really… maybe try changing something around? Who wants to cry and feel fearful every 24 hours? Isn’t life too short to have your bubba being upset as their final memory at the end of a long day?

It is also a simple maths equation. We are given our precious children for such a short time. I doubt she will still want to co-sleep with us when she is 14. So I want to use every minute we have, and to choose to separate from her for up to twelve hours every single day seems absurd. That’s 300 hours a month! Over 3500 hours per year! I want that time. I demand it. I will never get it back with her. It is the ultimate in multi-tasking for busy families, I am gaining over 141 extra days with her per year! All while sleeping. No activities, no pressure – just time for us to be together in comfort and doing something that needs to happen anyway. Bonus.

I don’t think I need to justify my parenting decisions, but if you complain to me about the lack of time you have with your child try using the ten hours when you lock them away from you in their cell…..every night.

Angela Humphries is a mum to Sydney, aged three.  You can follow her on Twitter here.

Guilt, motherhood and a return to work. Guest post from Leilah Nelson

The word motherhood, for a great many mothers with infant children, is synonymous with the word guilt. Two weeks ago I returned to work part time following the birth of my second child. I’m no stranger to returning to the work environment as this was, after all, my third return to work in the space of nine years with my employer.

I felt no more prepared than the last stint two years before that.  My first return to work had followed a year’s leave without pay to travel the globe. I remember it was difficult to return to the drudgery of the nine-to-five grind but my Mediterranean tan and Spanish moccasins were a reminder of the possibility of further travel!

So returning to work was a means to an end.  Little did I anticipate that subsequent leave would still be unpaid and the return to work infinitely much more painful.

In anticipating returning to work for the third time, I weaned my eleven month old baby and instigated the process of settling him into childcare. His cries of distress could be heard from as far as the childcare car park. The feeling of guilt at leaving him in the care of people that I did not know was so overpowering, at times it left me immobile, paralysed and unable to process what actions I had to take to get on with the day.  Sometimes it was hard to tell if it was his cries that echoed through the grey pillars of the underground car park, or mine. His runny nose and tear-stained wet cheeks when I picked him up at the end of a day is gut- wrenching.

Guilt is also manifesting itself in my work. It is no longer possible to put in the long hours I once did, and as such the quality of my work is in direct correlation to the hours of sleep I get the night before. My enthusiasm has diminished as I realise that there is very little career advancement for those working part-time. Not to mention that maternity leave is still viewed by some employers as a career dead end, and is met with varying degrees of intolerance when providing reduced or flexible working conditions for mothers.

The freedom to make myself a cup of hot tea, gossip around the water cooler and to take numerous toilet breaks is far out weighed by the pressure of the morning routine which often takes three hours before I even arrive at work. I’ve barely cleared my inbox and it time to rush back to do the afternoon pick up and cook dinner.  I work twice as hard to achieve half as much. Lack of sleep and energy means less work efficiency and accuracy which equals, you guessed it, guilt!

Returning to work has resulted in greater number of takeout meals for the family. The guilt of not providing healthy meals for the kids has led me to spend more time in food planning and preparation, namely the loss of my Sundays to cooking a few extra dishes for the week. Guilt equals loss of free time.

Last Sunday while in the kitchen my three year old said to me, “Put on your happy face Mummy”. Maybe she should have said, “go to your happy place mummy”. Then the thought crosses my mind that I have failed to give her quality time and to be the positive role model she needs. Guilt equals less free time which equals more home cooked meals which equals less quality time which equals MORE GUILT! It’s a vicious cycle.

My marital relationship is another source of guilt. While it is widely accepted that post-children, most couple’s sexual lives take a battering, loss of sleep, lack of time, loss of libido and stress/tension all play a role. It’s the dent in our emotional relationship that has me feeling guilty. What I perceive as an over burden workload has lead me to be less kind and generous, less affectionate, and less willing to communicate in a caring and respectful manner.  A recent study found that martial longevity was not related to sexual equality but rather to altruistic acts and genuine generosity couples show each other. Interestingly, Society has had to rephrase the “seven-year itch” to the “three-year-itch” as couples don’t seem to be making the seven year milestone. Great! Lack of attentiveness equals increased chance of divorce equals GUILT!

It leads me to ask the question does guilt equal failure? My parents, both teachers, believed in encouraging their girls to obtain an education, become professionals and never stop challenging female stereotypes.  My sister is an accomplished architect and I am a psychologist.  We have travelled, achieved professional milestones in print or publication and somehow found time to fall in love.  We have both married and in my case produced beautiful offspring.  Yet, all in all we are not so different from our mother.

She migrated from India at the age of 30, got a full time job while looking after two children under the age of five with no support such as mothers group, and maintained a household. She worked, cooked and cleaned. How is it that not much has changed in 30 years? Did all that my parents encouraged me to achieve still bring me back to the same point in history- primary carer, part-time worker, full time cook, un-paid cleaner, lover, friend and daughter?

Statistics show that women still perform a majority of the household chores, maintain the family calendar of social events and ensure that basic needs of the family (from buying shoes to making paper mashie school projects) are met. So much for beating the stereotypes!

I question, why we are so afraid to fail? While on maternity leave, I read a lot of articles about motherhood written by women. Simply put, I needed affirmation. Guilt and motherhood, as it turns out, is universal. The stress of organising Dora the Explorer parties, attending weekend work conferences on the same day as your child’s first little league game, loss of libido, lack of adult time and the list goes on, is broadly felt by mothers at one time or another.

One article stood out from the others and believe it or not it was written by a male. He hypothesised that women are more stressed than men because we strive to do everything, and to do it all perfectly. He stated that a man would prioritise his day and would feel accomplished if he completed only one task well on that list.  A woman however would take that list, attempt to complete several tasks well and then feel like a failure if she only finished two or three. His suggestion for reducing stress in women was to learn how to prioritise only one thing and to do that well or to do several tasks meeting only the minimum requirement to complete the task.

My biggest fear is failing as a parent. I asked my father what makes a good parent? “Time”, he replied. Following my look of surprise he explained that the longer we spend with our children and, as time goes by, they grow and learn, and therefore we grow and learn as parents.

Mistakes happen in the beginning because no one gives you a handbook, but the more time you spend being a parent the better you become at it. His theory goes a long way to explaining the amazing relationship most children have with their grandparents.

So, other than therapy, where to from here? Giving up my job is not a possibility and nor should it be. Motherhood is a juggling act, and while I realise not all of those balls have to be juggled by me, it seems that it is I who put them there in the first place. My resolution is to delegate and then let go. My aim is to pass some of the balls and the control to others and then to be more responsible for myself. It might result in a less perfect, less accomplished me, but, it should equal a happier and more content me. Guilt-free might be pushing it!

A final lesson learnt is that while I will encourage my daughter to believe she can do everything, I will ensure she understands she has the choice not to, and there is no guilt in that.

 

Daylight saving. Is there a mum in Australia that doesn’t hate this week?

Lazy summer nights eating fish and chips on the beach.  A barbecue outside following by a backyard game of cricket finishing around 9pm.  These are my memories of daylight saving in a happy Australian childhood.

As I got older, daylight saving presented new and even more exciting opportunities, like Friday night drinks and cocktails looking at the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

No-one told me that once I became a mum my lifelong adoration for daylight saving would end.  Completely.

The media debate in Australia often focuses on those parts of Australia who are disproportionately affected by daylight savings. Western Australia and the impact on business.  Our northern and southern friends who naturally experience daylight at different times at the rest of us and our latitude biased time systems make their lives difficult.  It makes farmer’s lives harder somehow. Kids are catching the bus to school in the dark. It fades the curtains. Or something.

In the many years of enjoying daylight saving before becoming a mum, I don’t think I ever read about the massive sleep deprivation and chaos forced on millions of Australian households when the clocks are changed back at the end of summer. Small children, naturally early risers at the best of times, start to wake up at what is – let’s face it – their usual time. Like 5am.  At The Latest.

This week there are thousands of mums and dads trudging to work having risen at 4 or 5am.  Some of them are also up at night with little ones who don’t sleep through reliably.  They are already tired because they are working mums, so it comes with the job description.  That exta hour matters to them.

For at least two weeks a year, as the little ones get used to the New World Order imposed by Time Bosses, mums and dads are paying the price of our arbitrary time system.

What is the cost to business of this exhaustion?

Let’s consider the fact that more than one in three mums with what the government calls an ‘infant’  – a child under two – has a job.  By the time our youngest child is at school, more than 60% of us are working.

Mums with kids under two work an average of 20 hours a week, but by the time our youngest is 4 or 5, this increases to 25 hours a week.

If we are even spending an extra 10 minutes getting one extra coffee to help us get through the day, and the rest of our 25 hour week is spent working more slowly than ever, then our sluggish economy is in real trouble indeed.

In my heart I do still love daylight saving, and those long summer nights.  I do know that these early wake ups will lessen each year.  But for now, I just need a sleep in. Until something like 6am.  Is that too much to ask?