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Ask Jani: “Sleep Deprivation & Parenting Pressures”

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Episode Synopsis

Young mothers have many issues to deal with as they raise their little ones. Jani and Heidi answer listener questions about sleep deprivation and family devotions.

Audio Transcript

Jani: Hello, everyone and welcome to He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund and

Heidi: Heidi Howerton. Hello, it’s so good to be with you today. I was just mentioning that, Jani, it’s been a few weeks since you and I have had the opportunity to podcast together.

Jani: And I’m so glad you’re back.

Heidi: And I’m so glad to be back. It’s nice. Jani recently kind of redid her office and we’re sitting in her office this morning and the sunshine is shining through the windows. And it’s just nice to be here with you.

Jani: And it’s so good to be with each of our listeners as well. We hear from many of you and we thank you for communicating with us. That’s an encouragement to us and also a guide. You help us know what is helpful. Today we’re going to do an “Ask Jani” episode (and Heidi is going to help me with this). So thank you for the questions that you send in.

Before we get started on Today’s Questions

Jani: There are a couple things we want to talk about before we get to the question though, Heidi.

Jani: One is, Heidi and I are wondering how you’re doing on your goals. Many of you have written in that you found this exercise of writing lifetime goals helpful. We hope so. It’s been helpful to Heidi and me. We wonder how you’re doing? Have you been able to go from your lifetime goals to writing goals just for this year 2021? I know Heidi and I both in January and this is a few weeks past January, but it’s not too late to do it for this year. From our lifetime goals we write year-long goals. Heidi, maybe it would help. If we just shared, we could each share one of our goals for 2021. It makes us a little vulnerable.

Heidi: Yes, but it’s good accountability, Jani. We all need accountability with our goals.

Update on one of Heidi’s Goals

Jani: Then you go first, girlfriend.

Heidi: So one of my lifetime goals is to, “Take care of the body that the Lord has given me.” I feel you know, the Bible talks about how our bodies are a temple and I want to take care of the body well that the Lord has blessed me with. And so one of the ways that I want to focus on that this year is to increase my exercise. And so my specific goal for the year and for this quarter is to exercise three times a week for 30 minutes. And I would say overall, I’m doing okay on it. You know, we got an, I don’t have a Peloton bike but we have we purchased one of my Christmas gifts was a spin bike. And so I’m starting to spin and I’m really enjoying it, Jani, can you imagine me spinning in our bedroom.

Jani: I can’t. I don’t even know what this is. Remember, I’m 71.

Heidi: So it’s a bike that doesn’t go outside. Like it’s a bike that is a stationary bike. And you stand up on it, and you can increase the resistance where it’s harder and it’s lighter.

Jani: Wow.

Heidi: And I love running but running can be hard on my knee joints. So I decided to try spinning this year, and I really enjoy it. There’s many different programs you can sign up for.

Jani: Okay.

Heidi: And so I’m taking a digital class, and I love it. I look forward to it. I think it’s a really healthy way to get my heart rate up. I will be honest, dear listener, and say that probably for the last two weeks, I have not achieved the goal of exercising three times a week. We were in Chicago, and spending some time with my mom. And then when we got back, we had family visit us and when our schedule is different it’s hard for me to stick with it. But I did another spin class yesterday and even though it had been a week or two I got back on that bike, and I really enjoyed it. So I’m aiming towards the goal, but I haven’t hit it perfectly every week.

Update on one of Jani’s Goals

Jani: Well, thanks for sharing that. Heidi, I know we’re all breathing a sigh of relief because for each of our goals, they’re goals we do aim for, but we won’t be able to achieve them perfectly. Maybe it would help if I shared one of mine.

Heidi: Your time to be honest, Jani. How are you doing?

Jani: Well, I’m doing pretty well. One of my lifetime goals is to keep myself attractive and appealing to Ray in different areas. And one of the areas I want to work on this year is in the area of intellect. The Lord gave me a brainy husband, who can read quickly and absorb it and remember it. My mind isn’t like that. I have a different mind. And so one of my goals for 2021 taken from that lifetime goal of keeping myself appealing to Ray, even intellectually, is to read six books that Ray has recommended or talked about or encouraged me to read.

Jani: So I break my goals down—my year-long goals down—into quarters, as you do Heidi. And I think my year long goal is to read six books. So by April 1, I want to have at least one of those read. And I’m nearly done. Here it is February. So that’s good. I am reading the Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. I’ve read it before, but I needed to review it and reread it.

Jani: So that’s one of my short-term goals. Listener, you can take your lifetime goals, and they can just sit there and do you no good. So we want to encourage you to use your goals to read over them to think them through, to commit them to the Lord. And then write out year-long goals. From those year-long goals, write a few short-term goals, so that you can know by April 1, “Oh, yes, I’m making progress.” And where you’re not making progress, you can regroup for the next three months. Heidi, remind me when we get to our April podcast.

Heidi: I’m going to ask you about your books, Jani.

Jani: Okay, and I’ll ask you about exercising. But we do pray that these discussions on writing lifetime goals have been helpful to you and your families and loved ones as well.

Update on Jani’s Book: Help! I’m Married To My Pastor

Jani: Now one other thing before we get into our question for the day, or if we have time two questions, is this. Many of you have emailed and written in or texted me if you know my number to let me know that you’ve bought my latest book. It’s called Help! I’m Married To My Pastor.

Heidi: And it’s amazing for both pastors’ wives and friends of pastors’ wives. So even if you’re not married to a pastor, I would still highly encourage you to purchase it so you can know how to love your pastor’s wives well.

Jani: Thank you, Heidi. I’m glad to hear that, because the pastor’s wife holds a little bit of a mysterious role. It’s very undefined. Is she a pastor-ette? You know, “What is she?” And she does need friends. So I so appreciate you being my friend, Heidi.

Jani: You can find the book. If you go to our website, herestoresmysoul.org. So feel free to check it out there. And may the Lord continue to use this book. Ray and I are praying that it will encourage many pastors’ wives, which in turn will encourage many pastors, which in turn will encourage churches and bring renewal. That’s what we’re praying for.

Jani: Well, Heidi, we want to thank our listeners for sending in their questions. Oh, we love to hear from you. Now, we want you to know, obviously we can’t answer every question in a timely fashion. But we do try. Some of you have mentioned how you’ve also enjoyed hearing Ray come in at times. So if you had a question for Ray and me, you can send it in and we’d be happy to think about it. Also you might have a question for Heidi. So feel free to send in a question for her as well. Again, go to our website

Heidi: At herestoresmysoul.org.

Question 1: Sleep Training & Sleep Deprivation

Heidi: Alright, are you ready for your first question, Jani?

Jani: I think so. Let’s see what it is.

“Jani, we have a three-year-old and a one-year-old. We recently moved our one-year-old into our three-year-old’s room. We have a tiny two-bedroom house. Our three-year-old who was the best sleeper as a baby has begun to have terrible sleep regression. She tells us she doesn’t want her brother in her room. She has terrible tantrums before bed. We have had to discipline her when she gets so out of hand. I’ve tried to give her special attention. I hold her and rock her. I’ve been reading Psalms to her before bed and we put a soft CD on which we’ve done for a long time. Once she finally settles, she’s up throughout the night crying for daddy. We are exhausted. What can we do? We’ve been praying for wisdom and trying to keep loving on her and encouraging her to love her brother. But we are so tired and frustrated. Do you have any suggestions? Can you pray for us? Thank you so much for loving the mothers and wives that you minister to.”

Jani: Oh my goodness. What mother of a young child can’t relate to this?

Heidi: Yes, sleep is such a hard thing, especially when they’re that age and they used to sleep well and they’re getting up in the middle of the night and everybody needs sleep. Mom needs sleep. Dad needs sleep. So it’s hard when the child isn’t sleeping.

Jani: Well, you know, Heidi, you are closer to this stage than I am. I wonder if you’d be willing to speak to this for our listeners?

Heidi: Yes. The first thing that comes to my mind is that my heart just goes out for you, dear mom, and I want you to know that we are praying for you moms. We will after this episode today. Just that the Lord would give you patience and help you endure.

1. Pray

Heidi: The things that come to my mind, Jani, are really the first thing is to just pray about it. I think there’s so many things in motherhood where the Bible doesn’t make a clear black and white answer on. The Bible doesn’t say, “When your child gets up in the middle of the night, you should sleep train, you should let them cry it out, you should immediately go to them.” And so I have found in my own journey of motherhood, when I come to those thresholds and I don’t know what to do, the best thing I can to do is to ask the Lord: “Lord, Mike and I need wisdom. We don’t know how to help this child. We don’t know what to do. Here are some things I’m thinking of God, will you help me make this decision?” And I often sometimes will feel like it’s just something on my heart. “Oh, I think we should try this. And I’ll talk to Mike about it. And he’ll say, yes, that sounds good. Let’s try it.” So first, pray.

2. Meditate on a Verse from Scripture

Heidi: My other encouragement would be to pick a Bible verse that you can meditate on. And so when your child wakes up in the middle of the night, if you’re anything like me, you struggle with anger and frustration and complaining, and the sin can just pour out of me, especially in the middle of the night when I’m tired. And so it’s helpful for me if I have a Bible verse that I can meditate on. And to just say that to myself, and say a quick prayer, “Lord, I want to please you with my attitude and my heart. Help me I’m tired, but I don’t want to complain.” And God has been so faithful to answer those prayers.

Jani: That’s so good. Specifically, pray and ask the Lord for a verse to meditate on.

Heidi: So Jani, as I share that, do any verses come to your mind that our sweet moms could meditate on?

Jani: Hmm, that’s a good question, Heidi. Well as I remember back, I should, I’ll tell the story in a minute, but as to answer your question first, as I remember back, my heart would just be so distraught, as you said it. You’d be a little bit angry and frustrated and just throwing up my hands: “Don’t you know, I can’t care for you tomorrow if I don’t get sleep tonight. How am I supposed to be able to produce milk and feed these other children, get the laundry done, the bills written, all the things I need to do.”

Jani: And the Lord has given me Zephaniah 3:17. It’s a wonderful verse with many phrases, but particularly the phrase, “He quiets you by his love.” And I’ve needed to remember, Lord, you love me. And your love is a quieting force in my life. So as I go in, quiet my heart, help me to quiet my baby, and would you quiet this dear child of yours, this baby of yours, with your love as well? So just speak peace and quiet over my heart and his.

Heidi: Oh, Jani, that’s so good. Thank you for sharing that.

A Real-Life story from Jani – “Our husbands can sleep through it!”

Heidi: So now I want to hear what was your experience like with sleep training and sleep regression?

Jani: Well, it was hard at times, we had our first three children in less than three years, and we were in a tiny house—like this listener—where all three children were in the same bedroom. The house was only 900 square feet, and that was with a front porch. It was so tiny. And so the three kids were in the same bedroom, just three or four steps away from our room.

Jani: I remember, particularly, a very difficult time when Dane (number three) had been sleeping through the night for a while; he was just starting on solid food. He was about seven months. And at eight or nine months, he regressed into waking up during the night again and crying and I was so frustrated. I was still nursing him and he just wanted a little mommy time, a little snorkel of milk and I thought for the first few nights, I thought, “Well, he’s just going through a growth spurt, needs more calories.” So I held him and but after a while, Heidi, I just got so tired. And I didn’t know what to do. And you know the most frustrating thing was my dear husband Ray could sleep through it all!

Heidi: Isn’t that how it always is? Our sweet husbands are so tired that they’re out.

Jani: Right! And my mama’s ear would just wake at the least little whimper and Ray would be sleeping so soundly beside me. And I remember one night I was really tired and Ray was sleeping through it and I whispered to him, “Ray, Ray.” He didn’t stir. So eventually I started crying. Now Dane is crying, Mom is crying, and he’s still not waking up. So eventually I shake him and I’m crying in his ear, “Ray!” He sits up, “Honey, what’s the matter?” You know, he think something terrible. I told him, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m exhausted and I need your help.

Jani: Well, he didn’t know how exhausted I was because I hadn’t been telling him. I hadn’t been sharing with him and he said, “Of course, darling, let me help. I’ll go get him. I’ll bring him to you.” And in the morning, when I was more rational Ray talked to me, he said, “Honey, I think you need a full eight hours. I want to send you to our friends.” He had called an older friend whose kids were in college. Her name is Jan Miles. And she was so kind to me. He asked if I could come spend the night that night. I said, “Well, what Dane do?” He said, “Jani, he will make it through the night. He was before he will now. I won’t wake up to his crying. So let’s just let him cry it out.”

Jani: Well, sure enough, I went to Jan’s house, I got a full night’s sleep, I came back refreshed. And very seldomly after that did Dane wake up in the middle of the night. It was just what I needed.

Jani: So how I want to encourage our listeners is to say, “You’re not alone. This has happened before it will happen again.” Talk to your husband as well as praying and asking the Lord for a verse, get him to help as best you can. I know he’s working very hard during the day. I know he can’t nurse your baby. I know that there are many things that you have to do as the mama and your baby might not even want your husband. He may fuss if your husband picks him up. But ask your husband for help. He needs to know where you are. And perhaps he’ll have a good suggestion as Ray did.

Question 2: “How do I get My Husband to Help Teach Our Children about Jesus?”

Jani: Well, Heidi, I think we have time for another question you want to try?

Heidi: Yep, let’s do it. Here’s the next one, Jani.

“Jani, can you please help me know what to do in the following situation? My husband is saved but he doesn’t live a life dependent on Jesus every day. He doesn’t pray, he doesn’t read the Bible, or help me instill biblical character or discipline in our children. When I do talk to him about something I would like to start doing in our home to teach our children about Jesus, he is fine with me doing it as long as he doesn’t have to do anything. How can I get him to help me parent and teach our children about Jesus and not leave everything on my shoulders? I feel so much pressure to do all the parenting on my own.”

Jani: This isn’t a new issue, is it, Heidi?

Jani: Yeah, I can think of just various women that I know who struggle with the same thing too. What a hard situation.

Jani: It’s very hard because you feel it’s a righteous longing. You want your children to be trained by the father in the home in certain areas. And yet you feel guilt for, in a sense, leaning on your husband so hard and finding him to fail in this situation. So it’s very complicated. And we just have a few minutes but let me speak into it this way.

1. Pray

Jani: To answer that question, “How can I get him to change?” I need to say, “You can’t.” And just put it right out there. It would be the same answer if you asked me, “How can I get my friend to change? How can I get my mom to change? How can I get my child to change?” We are trying to put over into someone’s heart motivation that can only come from within. We don’t want to so browbeat someone that they change their behavior. We want the behavior change to come from within. You want a heart change at the motivational level. And only God can do that.

Jani: So as Heidi’s advice in our first question, I believe you need to start with prayer. What is your prayer life look like these days? Are you asking God to change your husband, change the desire setting in his heart? God is the only one who can do that. And give your husband the motivation and also the confidence to lead his family in a way that you find more helpful and biblical.

Jani: You know, your dear husband might not have any idea at all how to teach young children. He might feel intimidated by this. I know Ray did at times. I mean, here he had his Ph.D. in Ancient Near Eastern Semitic Languages. His doctorate was in seven different languages. My education was in teaching young children. So I had a lot more experience and knowledge and just natural wisdom in this area than he did. He had to lean on me.

TIP: Nagging builds a wall rather than a bridge.

Jani: It wouldn’t have helped if I had nagged him. It won’t help your husband either. You see, whenever you nag, and by that I mean: persistently asking for something that the other person is not either willing or able to give at this time; you just keep coming back to it, hoping that this time the answer will be different. Nagging builds a wall, rather than a bridge. You want to build a bridge to your husband. You want to teach your children let them see how a bridge can be built between a man and a wife.

Jani: So in your prayer time, ask the Lord, “Teach me, how can I be a bridge to my dear husband in this area. I need his help I want it. Our children need him, help me, Lord.” And then I want you to thank God that you married a Christian, and that he will allow you to teach the children the Bible and pray with them. Some women, maybe some of our listeners, are not married to Christians. And some of them have to, in a sense, teach the children Christian ideals on the sly. It’s not something that their husband really approves us. So thank the Lord, dear listener, that you can, you’re allowed to do this.

2. Teach Them Yourself

Jani: And then secondly, after prayer, get busy and teach them yourself. There are so many good children’s books out there that can help you. Either with methodology or actually just, you can read the book to your child and teach them through that. You can teach them about prayer and pray with them. You can memorize scripture together, a verse each month you can work on. Put it around your house, talk about it, repeat it. You can rejoice that you have the privilege of passing on to little hearts, the beauty and grace and love of their Heavenly Father.

3. Draw your husband in GENTLY

Jani: So pray, then teach them yourself, and then finally, draw your husband in gently as you’re able. There is a way you can draw him in without nagging. Maybe you found a simple book that would take 5 or 10 minutes to read. And you could say, “Honey, would you be able to read this book I found to the kids while I clean up the dishes?” Or “Darling, would you listen to Eric and Krista say their memory verse to you?” Or “Sweetheart, Gavin has been having nightmares lately. Would you, as you tuck him in, would you pray for him about this?” Just gentle suggestions, not with any sense of “and now will you do it for the rest of your life until they’re married and on their own.” But just a gentle suggestion here or there every once in a while. If he’s resistant, you can try a different suggestion next month. But I would encourage you, after you’ve prayed, after you’ve spent time teaching your children, then draw your husband in as gently as you’re able to.

Jani: Now, Heidi, do you have anything to add right there?

Heidi: No, that was so good, Jani. I think the Lord has given you a lot of wisdom in that area. And that was really helpful. I love that you talked about gently encouraging your husband. I know anytime that I nag Mike, it is not helpful. But he always just says, “If you could just come talk to me about it with a kind and soft heart. It would be so much easier for me to receive it.”

Jani: Yes, yes. As Ray says, “We want all interactions between a husband and wife to be a win-win where both people feel accepted, respected, loved, cared for, thought of.”

4. Model Grace in your Home

Jani: I do want to say one more thing about this question before we close off for today, Heidi. And that is the important thing in all of this is you want your children to grow up in a home where grace is given to each other. Particularly between the husband and wife. So that tension doesn’t build up and the children aren’t being raised in a house filled with tension. The important thing is that someone is teaching them. If you are, praise God! They’ll learn from their Mama.

“What about the Pressure of Parenting?”

Jani: Her final comment, Heidi, that she feels the pressure to do all the parenting. That’s a big question. This dear wife and mom is burdened. And I just want to say again, we’re going to pray for you at the end of this podcast. I want to say just three things about this pressure that you’re feeling.

Reminder #1: Things aren’t always what they seem

Jani: First of all, is this a true picture of your home? Is all the parenting really on you. Ask the Lord to give you an honest appraisal of the situation here. You see, young moms often feel like this because the children are naturally more connected to her. They want their mama in the middle of the night. Their mama has been with them, feeding them, caring for them, playing with them, disciplining them, teaching them. And so they relate more to her. They feel a more natural bond with her in those early years.

Jani: Sometimes, in the early years of our marriage, Heidi, I would say, “Ray, can you help me tonight? Can you eat bathe the kids?” And he’d say, “Sure. Jani.” And he would do it and then I would correct him. “Oh, no, this is the soap we use for them. Oh, this is how I wash their hair so the soap doesn’t get in their eyes.” And I remember Ray coming to me one time Heidi and saying, “Darling, sometimes I feel like you’re trying to protect the children from me.” And it was because I was always correcting him.

Jani: So it could be that you feel that all the parenting is on you. Your husband might be willing to take more on himself but doesn’t know how and feels a little insecure because you’re so good at it.

Jani: So is this the true picture of your house? Are you helping your husband feel a success with the children? Do you tell him, “Wow, you really did that? Great. Thanks so much.” Do you praise him in front of the children? “Oh, isn’t that great? Don’t you love it when daddy reads you that book?” Is this the true picture in your home.

Reminder #2: Mothering is the Hardest Job on the face of the Earth

Jani: Secondly, as if you didn’t need to know this, let me remind you that mothering is the hardest job on the face of the earth. You will never do anything harder. It will demand everything from you. Your body, your heart, your mind, your energy, your money, your creativity. There is no way you can do this on your own. And the good news is, you don’t need to. God has brought you and your children and your husband to this very point in your life in order to lead you into a deeper and richer experience with a one who made you a family with just this particular group of personalities and giftings and hang ups. He is in this all.

Reminder #3: Go to God for HELP

Jani: Thirdly, go to your God. Ask him for help and strength, and the perseverance and wisdom and patience and love and all that you need. Heidi, will you read for us, these two verses are so helpful to me as a grandmother and they were helpful to me as a young mom when you read Isaiah 40:10-11?

Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
    and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead those that are with young.

Isaiah 40:10-11

Heidi: I love that verse.

Jani: Isn’t that beautiful? You see there, God tells us he is both a strong conqueror—he’s got the strength to conquer any difficulty you bring to him—and he’s a tender, gentle shepherd. He gathers your lambs close to his heart. And he leads you gently. You can lean into him. Let him quiet you by his love. Zephaniah 3:17.

A Prayer for Young Moms with Little Ones

Jani: I wonder Heidi, let’s wrap up today. Would you pray for those young moms?

Heidi: “Heavenly Father, I pray for all the young mamas out there God but especially the moms that are listening to this podcast today. The moms that are feeling weary and burdened, the moms that are exhausted and that they’re not sleeping at night, God. Mothering is hard. And so Jesus, I pray that you would send your Holy Spirit to each of these moms, that you would comfort them with your love. I pray that you would give them wisdom, Father, as they make all of these decisions day after day. What do we do about sleep? How do I teach my children about you? Lord, we need wisdom, and in you is wisdom and so I just pray that you would fill us and fill these mamas with your wisdom, God. And show us the way we should go. Thank you for loving us and being gentle with us. We love you, Lord. Amen.”

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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