When Exhaustion Kicks In…And You’re Still Working

If the idea of an all-nighter fills you with excitement and gritty determination to see it through to morning with coffee, sugar and a big welcoming bed the moment the project is finally complete – you’re not a parent. Or at least you’re not the parent looking forward the 6 A.M. wake up call every morning of the week, every week of the year you’ve enjoyed for the last five years. That poor parent? That’s me, although sometimes we sleep in around her until say 6:30.

Of course it’s absolutely healthier to rise at the same time every morning and I can get countless things done by the time I go to bed, but that’s by necessity, not desire. It’s not like I’m taking brisk walks to welcome the sun and cranking out a few Tai Chi moves before sitting on the swing on the patio with a laptop. I’m lucky to make it out my pajamas if I’m not racing off to the classroom and more than a few times the kids in my house have gone a whole day without seeing anything resembling a real outfit. But, hey, relaxed motherhood has its perks. Unfortunately, the glamorous all-nighter isn’t one of them.

Working Days and Working Nights

In my universe I work days during the school year teaching the teens of the world, and I hang with my boys every second they’re awake and I’m not teaching. My (part-time) writing career takes place in the evening hours while the boys are supposed to be sleeping, and usually they are pretty good about sleeping hard for at least the four hours of the night, for which I’m eternally thankful.

The schedule I keep is tough, and knowing all day that I’m looking at four or five hours for a particular project at night makes it a bit tougher at times. Usually I’m very careful to split out work as I schedule it so that it never keeps me up past 11 pm or midnight, but it doesn’t always work that way. And for those nights when I feel like I’m on the verge of passing out over the computer, I’ve developed a few experienced tricks of the trade.

Chew gum. I’m chewing like a fiend right now and blowing bubbles because it’s hard to sleep at the keyboard if your jaws are moving overtime. I have about three flavors on my desk at any time, because variety is the spice of life. Bubble gum is fun and makes me happy because I can blow bubbles. Peppermint wakes me up and makes me feel minty fresh (despite the old pajamas I’m still wearing) and I pick one more random flavor because it seems odd or fun. I like the orange and lemon flavors especially. Sugar-free gum is a given, of course.

Play music. A quiet house with a fan going in the background and the stillness of the night behind me is a sure way to pass out. But if I can barely hear Garth or Trace jamming out in the background, it picks up the pace and lets me pretend I’m up working late by choice rather than necessity. It has to be low enough that I can hear my words in my head, however, which takes away some of the jam factor, but still – it’s better than sleepy silence.

Do Kegels. Sorry guys, but girls who have had babies or are old enough to worry about things like prolapsed uteruses and bladders or incontinence know about these bad boys. Basically pretend you’re peeing while your work (be careful to just pretend) and then “stop” the fake pee. Hold it, hold it, hold it for about ten seconds before relaxing and repeating. Kegels are great for keeping that pelvic floor in shape, and they also let you work while pretending you’re doing real exercises. In actuality, it’s hard to fall asleep with clenched muscles and you don’t lose work momentum to do them.

Rearrange the work
. If things went badly at the boy’s bedtime or I’m just fried, I’m not above rearranging my work a bit. I generally leave some lighter days in the schedule to accommodate off nights and I try to never procrastinate so that I have some flex time in schedules. This lets me push off the hard parts to another day and just rearrange things to fit again in the all-mighty schedule. I almost never take a whole night off if I haven’t scheduled it that way, but I might sort through research or outline some basic material before crashing early so that I’m a bit more refreshed the next day to actually do the hard writing work I’ve prepped for the sleepy night before.

Working late nights is a choice around here, but it’s one that works best for everyone. Like all things tough about parenting, I’ve gotten used to it. By far the best way to deal with the mental stress of waiting so late to work every day is to compartmentalize it. I might read emails during the day and reply to some, but I save the bulk of all work for after the boys are in bed. There’s no balancing or diverted attention during the day which lets me properly mother them without extra work stress and leaves my mind free of writing work until my evening job begins.

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Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

10 thoughts on “When Exhaustion Kicks In…And You’re Still Working”

    • How do I feel?

      Kind of dirty…LOL! Actually, I think I’ve thrown out a gauntlet. Half of the women reading this post are feeling guilty for not remembering to do those damn Kegels religiously and the other half are trying them out for the first time. Who’d have thunk it on a freelancing writing blog? LOL!

  1. Rebecca, there’s a similar exercise to the kegel for men that also involves tightening the muscles of the pelvic floor.

    Men, there are benefits, trust me.

    Do one right now — or ten…

  2. I’ll be thinking of you while my 8 yr old who’s the size of a 10 yr old flops around in my bad after yet another ‘bad dream’…which always happens the night before I really need to write something high-paying and utterly brilliant for a really demanding editor…of course once he wakes me up, I use the time productively by doing Kegels…

    Thanks for a needed laugh…

  3. Your posts are a gift, Rebecca. In needing (in my personal opinion) to work part-time when the baby is born has caused some confusion and stress for. I may be having thirl in November, but right here in June I am already taking care of her. Even if that only means napping and eating in constant cycles according to her demands. Your tips for working through the fatigue will definitely help, although my solution for now has been to put everything before writing. Won’t last forever.

    Also, men can and should do their kegels. Helps with incontinence, helps you last longer and have more control of your point of no return, and makes for longer and stronger Os. 😉


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