Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Working Mum: More on Working with a Baby Who Doesn't Sleep Through the Night

I realized as I read the comments on my earlier post on being a working mother with a baby who doesn't sleep through the night that all of my tips were about how to get more sleep. I completely neglected the equally important topic of how to function on far less sleep than you'd like.

Pre-Pumpkin, I prided myself on my memory. Sadly, memory is one of the first things to go when you're sleep deprived. However, I still pride myself on my follow through, particularly at work. If I say I'm going to do something, I make it a point not to forget to do it. I have two main methods to help me maintain follow through with a memory that has turned to swiss cheese: lists and processes.

I have always been a list writer, so it was only natural for me to turn to lists in my newly addled state. Pre-Pumpkin, I had a to do list at work and sometimes, when we had a lot going on at home, one at home as well. Now, I have an extensive, categorized to do list at work. I have a column on my white board for each project, and I write everything I agree to do under the appropriate label. I also make a note of any due dates. At home, we keep a Google Document to do list and also usually write a paper to do list for the weekend (we agree on our "goals" for the weekend Friday evening or Saturday morning- really, the romance of parenthood blows me away sometimes).

The processes I use to handle my forgetfulness are new. Businesses define processes to deal with the fact that not all employees are brilliant. If you have a good process, even an average (or below average) employee can follow it and contribute (or at least not create huge problems). It occurred to me that on my sleep deprived days I was like a below average version of myself. So I started to define and follow processes. Here are some examples:

1. I never close an email before I either answer it or write an item on my to do list. I do a lot of work with people on the East coast, so I often come in to three hours' worth of "urgent" emails. I need to read through and answer the most important ones first, but I also need to be sure I don't forget about any of the less important ones.

2. I always put new pump parts into my bag when I get home. I had to drive home to get various parts twice before I came up with this one. Duh.

3. I schedule reminders for recurring tasks in my calendar. For instance, every Wednesday I have to email some of my plans for the next week to one of our administrative assistants. I used to just remember to do this. Now, I have a reminder in my calendar.

Using my lists and processes, I manage to hide the fact that some days I can barely remember my office number. Now, if anyone has any tips for how to fake mental quickness when you've only slept three hours the night before, I'd love to hear them!


For those who tune in hoping to read cute stories about Pumpkin (Hi, Mom!), I'm pleased to report that she is well and truly into the "role reversal" phase. It started with her attempts to give me a drink from the water bottle she was playing with. Now she also tries to give me bites of her crackers when she's eating. (Yum. Mushed up cracker.) And just tonight, while I was bouncing her in my arms trying to get her to sleep, she kept reaching up and trying to give me her binky to suck on. I couldn't help but laugh, which made her laugh and greatly hindered the whole going to sleep process. I can tell that these are great days, and know I should document some of these things, but what would I put this under in her baby book? First time she delayed doing something she didn't want to do by making me laugh?


  1. Oooh. Clever. Looks like I"m going to have one of those 3 hrs of sleep days ... in a couple of hours. I rely on lists, too, but you're very very organized. I'm impressed.

  2. Great ideas. I also try not to depend on my memory because it is SO unreliable anymore.

  3. Great tips! I can't survive without my lists! I like the idea of processes and will have to start creating some.

    I've got another tip for pumping moms. I put all appointments and meetings in my Outlook calendar and set my reminders to alert me an hour ahead of time. That way, if I haven't pumped yet I will have time to do it before the meeting. Too often, I was forgetting to pump early enough to make meetings, and the standard 15 minute alert was just enough time to clean up and get to the meeting, not to finish pumping.

    And how cute is that baby!

  4. Mimi, I hope you get more sleep soon! Functioning on three hours just sucks.

    Caramama, I like your idea for remembering to pump. I never had a problem until I switched from pumping 3x to pumping twice during the work day. Now I have almost been late to meetings twice because of a sudden realization that I needed to pump!


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