Why ‘Sleeping When Baby Sleeps’ Really Isn’t As Easy As It Sounds
Today has been another tough one and I have spent the past few hours thinking about sleep, longing for sleep, craving sleep, desperate for sleep.
I think about sleep more than anything else at the moment, I’m convinced I even think about it when I’m actually sleeping because once your baby is here your quality of sleep, no matter how much or little of it you’re getting, will simply never be how it was. You’re always in Mother-mode, even when you should be resting, unable to switch off the natural instinct which is a beautiful thing to have but tiresome all the same. Much alike when you’re downstairs trying to relax but constantly thinking you’ve heard a stir or cry on the baby monitor, up and down like a yo-yo even though nine times out of ten little one will be fast asleep. See it’s no different when we finally drift off, our bodies at ease but our subconscious in standby, not wanting to completely switch off for fear of something happening through the night or, of course, awaiting the next feed.
As I sit here in absolute tranquil silence, surrounded by the flicker of a candle, a rare luxury I must say, that and a steaming hot large-sized coffee (foolish at such a time but such a nice treat regardless), eyes sore and red, worsened by the light projecting from the screen of our computer, I am well aware that what I should be doing right now is sleeping.
Kaiber is asleep after all and it’s a deep sleep at that- his routine now consisting of absolutely no daytime naps despite my best efforts, over-tired crying at half past five with me trying to get him changed after his bath whilst he screams and distract him until six which is a slightly more reasonable time to be boobing him to sleep. He will then be flat out until about twelve/one-ish, usually when Carl returns from work and the pair of us drag our feet on our way up to bed, where I climb in next to him to give him his next feed and hope I can switch off before the inevitable up, down that follows until morning. Hypothetically speaking, if I was to go to sleep when baby did I would get a solid six hours before that broken sleep later on and most definitely feel amazing for it, but if you’re in the pre-one-year-old period, I’m sure you will relate when I say it just isn’t that straight forward.
Now that I have taken on my role as full-time, first-time Mam, I’m suddenly faced with the stark reality that my time is now my baby’s time, like pretty much every second of every day and most of the night. I often sit and reflect on the many occasions I’ve sat in the house feeling bored and wondered why on earth I wasn’t making the most of having such a luxury of being given the opportunity to experience boredom or actually filling that time with something worthwhile. My days now are full steam ahead, maximum effort, baby filled roller-coasters and sometimes I wonder how I find a moment to even breathe. I know there are Mother’s out there who seem to have this thing on lock-down, absolutely smashing it and managing to do so in an immaculate house, completely on top of everything but that just isn’t me.
As Carl would say, I care too much and I’m more than a little guilty of giving more of myself than I have available to hand out, this has been something I’ve done for as long as I can remember and now that I have my little man to think about, I’m exerting myself more than I ever have before. I want every tiny moment of his life with me to be amazing and full of happiness, gummy smiles and giggles even though I know it simply isn’t possible to maintain such a thing. Babies cry, it’s what they do and it’s good for them to find their voice yet it breaks my heart all the same so I find myself sore-cheeked from exaggerated facial expressions and smiling through exhaustion, losing my voice from all the cooing and singing and achy-legged from rocking and pacing back and forwards for hours on end or walking for miles with Kaiber in his pram to calm him. Then, because men were given useless nipples, I’m in charge of settling him to sleep as well and he won’t let anyone else do that job even if offered an expressed bottle.
I wouldn’t have it any other way, truly I wouldn’t. I love being hands on and thrown into the deep end with a little man who can be full-on sometimes, it keeps me busy and on my toes and makes me feel like I’m actively trying to do the best job I can and I adore the fact I am lucky enough to spend all of this time bonding with him as a stay-at-home Mam but I have next to no energy for anyone and anything else, including myself from the second I sneak out of the room once he goes to sleep. It’s that amongst other factors that make those hours late at night so necessary and valuable but in order to appreciate them, I need to be awake.
So why do Mama’s not go to sleep when their baby does despite complaining they’re tired all day?
We must be out of our minds, right?
Wrong, so so wrong.
The truth is, that bit of time to ourselves is essential for our sanity and I am not being over dramatic, I swear. There is so much we can squeeze into that short period of ‘baby-free’ time while they sleep and it can often mean the difference between a good mood or a bad the following day and sometimes I find myself quite looking forward to it which I have now learned is completely justified!
See, when Carl is at work, this time is Mammy’s time and I try to make the most of it. I catch up on my housework instead of trying to squeeze it around my baby like I did in the first few weeks meaning my quality of time with him has improved massively and my home is clean and tidy on an evening ready for me to relax in. I can usually manage to get a hot bath on a good night when he isn’t waking up for a snack and if not I get a nice shower which is often just as lovely. If I can be bothered I will cook a nice tea, something that can be microwaved for Carl getting in and then I have an hour or two for me. The thought of this for me at first felt selfish, why would I need me time when I have this bundle of joy to care for? But it is incredibly important I now realise and I have utilized that time productively by starting to write which has given me a deeper sense of purpose and something to take pride in. When he isn’t, we can finally have some alone time to catch up and chat the hours away like we do so well and that is just as important as anything else.
If I spent this time sleeping, I would never have started blogging and I now couldn’t imagine my life without it. Not only does it help me to unwind, it’s also somewhere to channel my thoughts, reflect on the day or week just gone and talk about anything that comes to mind such as why I’m not sleeping right now!
I’ve been told since my baby was born to ‘sleep when he sleeps’ and I thought it was advice I would take but there are more opportunities for sleep at different times like when the other half has time off and there will be ample opportunity when my children are fully grown. So next time someone is about to roll their eyes at a new Mam for saying they’re tired but not sleeping when they can I hope they remember that we have needs over than sleep. I hope they think of all the things they like to do on an evening: binge watching their favourite shows, reading, browsing, spending time with their partner, having a glass of wine and register than we may be parents but we are still human. I don’t desire to be much more right now than a fantastic Mam yet I want to inspire my children to reach as high as they can and follow their dreams or do what makes them happy, for themselves and I would be a hypocrite not to do so also even if that means I miss out on a few Z’s!