August 27, 2007 by Stacy McDonald

Hard Work, But Good Work

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Last post we discussed the frustration of hearing unhelpful advice from well-meaning friends who advise us of our need for a time of quiet seclusion with God each day, while we’re surrounded by little ones who need us. Yet another “helpful” suggestion that always got me was, “You look tired, you need to try to get more rest during the day.”

As a young mom, there were times when I was tempted to reply to this type of advice with a tearful, “What time will you be over to read to my children so I can take that nap and have that “quiet time” you’re teasing me with?” I would have loved a nap, but there seemed to be so much to do; and when the baby napped, many times I scurried to do all the things I was unable to to do while he was awake.

However, there are times when some household tasks can just wait. Especially when we notice we’re functioning in a fog from too little sleep. Here are a few ideas for getting more rest during the child rearing years:

If you have little ones who take naps, try to nap when they do. Carefully plan your day so that your resting time is protected. If something has to give, let it be something besides your nap. The closet you wanted to clean out can wait until a day when you have some help, and the garden may need to wait until next year when the baby is sleeping better at night. Guard that time of rest.

During nap time, consider using a white noise machine of some sort to drown out the commotion of the day. It can help everyone (including you) to get a longer sleep. If you don’t have a white noise machine, perhaps a fan, soft classical music, or a clean air machine may work just as well. Also, don’t hesitate to turn off the ringer on the phone during nap time hours, or whenever outside calls can wait.

If you discover that you are too tired to make it through the day without feeling haggard and grumpy, try getting to bed earlier. If your husband is a night owl, explain to him your situation. Ask him how he would recommend ensuring that the two of you have ample intimate time alone and still allow enough time for you to get the sleep you need. He may choose to join you in getting to bed earlier (he may even find he feels better in the morning because of it), or maybe he would prefer to come up with another creative way for you to spend some alone time each day, without compromising your sleep.

Though the child rearing years can be difficult, remember that sometimes we bring frustration on ourselves. One of the worst things we can do, when we have little ones who still wake up at all hours, is watch the clock at night. Turn it around, unplug it, keep it in the next room, throw it out the window, but whatever you do, don’t look at the clock before it’s light outside!

I remember lying in bed one night while my heart raced, thinking, “Surely the baby will wake up any minute and so far, collectively, I’ve only had 2.2 hours of sleep and it’s time to wake up in 1.5 hours. Even if I go to sleep right now, how in the world will I function on 3.7 hours of sleep? (My math skills are sharpened in the middle of the night.) How in the world am I going to get through the day? How in the world am I going to have a quiet time in the morning?”

Guess what—I never did get back to sleep that morning. Word to the wise—it’s much easier to peacefully trust God to provide the sleep we need if we’re not “checking up” on Him by watching the clock.

A Note to Older Women and Others Who Can Help

Rather than teasing a tired mom by reminding her of what she isn’t getting, a better way to encourage her would be to thank her for obeying God and joyfully serving her family. Remind her that this is a short season and that she is doing a good work. Explain to her that while motherhood is hard work, her home is her mission field, and generations will be affected because of her obedience. Remind her that with God’s help, “she can do it!”

Better yet, instead of telling her she should “get more rest,” volunteer to go to her house and read to her children while she takes a nap! Wash her dishes, do a few loads of laundry, bring her a meal—put some loving action behind your well-wishing (James 2:16). And if you are the one needing rest, ask your pastor’s wife if she could enlist a few unmarried ladies or older Titus 2 candidates to give you some help! There may be some women with time on their hands who are wondering where they fit in – how they can serve the Body of Christ! What a wonderful thing it would be to bring the two of you together!

But remember that if, despite your efforts, God still has not allowed you to have as much sleep as you think you need, trust Him – trust His sovereignty. Continue to cry out to Him for the strength you need to glorify Him, knowing that He is faithful to give us all we truly need.

He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But those who ? ?wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)

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