by Elizabeth Horn
One universal, undeniable factor about being a working mother is that you are tired. I mean really tired, but, you have to go to work anyway.
As you find out when you return to work after having kids, it's a whole new brand of tired, too.
While all mothers are usually tired at some point in their lives, when you are employed outside the home, the added layer of having to get yourself ready, a baby ready, and, get out the door by a certain time each day, can exact quite a toll on your energy level.
I remember when I had my first child and I went back to work about 12 weeks later. I did all the things they tell you to do: start your routine before you have to go back to work, make a practice run of your route, start the baby with the caregiver before you have to go to work, etc.
Yet, when the time came, I was organized, and, on time, but, all that advice didn't do anything for the way I felt. I was completely, and, utterly exhausted, and, I have just been off for 3 months.
I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out which bathrooms at work had the narrowest stalls, as they were easier to lean against to rest while in a seated position. Some days, I even called into work late, dropped the baby off at daycare, and, went to my parents' house nearby to sleep for about an hour just to be able to make it to lunch without falling over.
I tried my best not to call attention to the fact I was dazed, and, confused half the time, but, I was sorely tempted on more than one occasion to try to figure out how to lie down under the desk, a la George Costanza, where no one would notice.
OK, maybe when I had an office with a door, I did actually lie on the floor for a bit, I'll never tell.
It can be challenging to go about your work when you are exhausted, I know. As for advice on how to combat it, I'm afraid there's not magic formula other than the treatment for common variety tired: drink water, have some coffee, get up and move around, etc.
Try to complete your most challenging tasks during the part of the day you feel the most refreshed. It's also good to leave yourself plenty of notes about your work so that you can remember what you're doing. I still have to do that, and, my kids are older. It's also helpful to take a few minutes at the end of each day to prepare for the next day, so you don't waste valuable time in the morning trying to figure out what you have to do.
Make sure you have a pen and paper at meetings, since the lack of sleep can affect your memory. Even if you can't manage to write notes, you can at least hold the pen, and stare intently at the paper as if deep in thought while honing your sleeping with eyes open skills.
As the kids got older, I got more rest, and, the type of tired changed a little bit, but, make no mistakes, it's still hard to get everything done in the evenings and get to bed on time, and, there are still occasions where I'm up all night with a child and have to go to work just the same.
It's strange how some co-workers, parents and non-parents alike, really don't believe you when you tell them you've been up all night. They respond with something like, "Yeah, I had trouble sleeping last night, too", and, you want to scream, "No, really, I was up all night, as in, I haven't been to bed yet!"
Not that working mothers have a monopoly on “tired”, but, someone's always got a tired story to top yours no matter how old your kids are. You quickly learn that there are no winners in the tired Olympics at work, and, someone else is always "way more tired" than you.
But, that's OK, it gets better, and, you always have the bathroom stall to support you.