Sleep when the baby sleeps. It sounds so simple.
So simple and so annoying. There’s no shortage of advice thrown at each new generation of breeders. Enter the title of my debut novel, “Breast is Best and Other Advice You Can Shove Up Your Well Rested Buttox”. It’s often subtle judgment dressed as advice like this that comes from people who truly believe they’re trying to help.
Sleeping when your baby is sleeping just isn’t as easy as it sounds. For a million reasons. Sometimes you can’t sleep when your baby is sleeping. You aren’t tired. You have x y z to do. And for sure you need time to worry about how you are going to pay for college. Plus sometimes, you just don’t want to sleep when your baby is sleeping!
We have been conditioned to believe that being a good mom is all about sacrifice. The real meaning of sacrifice is to make sacred.
When my kids were little I thought sleeping when your baby is sleeping seemed like a reasonable request. But like all requests, sometimes simply because they are so darn reasonable, you just don’t want to do them. Sure, there was the occasional time when I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open, that a nap in the middle of the day was totally welcome. Yet most days, it felt somewhat unnatural to me to close my eyes. The house was quiet, and I finally had some uninterrupted time to myself. If I slept, it was like it never happened!
Sometimes, I wanted to do something so ridiculous I would only admit it to my best friend. Or to lay there while my baby cooed (and stare into space only retrieving said baby from crib when she decides to go Defcon 1. Or you know, just check my email and then check out my ex’s Facebook and obsess for a minute. If he wished me a happy birthday does that mean he’s over me?
In other words, for those short hours, (or minutes) depending on what kind of “sleeper” you have, sometimes you want to pretend you aren’t what every ounce of your reality is shoving down your throat, somebody’s mom.
That’s right world, some days we want to pretend we aren’t now somebody who can only sleep when 8lbs of swaddled tyranny is sleeping. A tiny person who, by the way, hasn’t “learned” how to sleep yet. Why are the most obvious human rituals the hardest ones to master? And then, once I finally got them down the worry was able to creep in. Are they sleeping right? Did she flip over? When will she wake up?
That’s why I love the Sproutling Wearable Baby Monitor. I wish I’d had Sproutling when my kids were babies. How amazing that something like Sproutling exists for a new generation of worn out mothers. How nice to know that your baby is still sleeping safe while you are getting some crunches in, meditating, doing the dishes, or just plain goofing off. Talk about a procrastinators dream!
And who can really blame me for wanting to take a few hours for myself? We have been conditioned to believe that being a good mom is all about sacrifice. The real meaning of sacrifice is to make sacred. You know, as in Holy, or as I’ve learned Wholly. Which means that mom is not fractured into a million pieces. A mom can be whole. How can we be whole and make the home a sacred place if we are constantly being told what to do and how to do it? And when to do it? It’s a scary thought for a young mother. What has happened to our “me time”? The overall messaging is that a good mom gives selflessly to her children. All the time!
I can’t help but laugh and feel so much compassion for the young mom I was. Nervously tracking every kind of movement; head and bowel, and sterilizing bottles so meticulously we may as well lived in times of cholera. Sure, I used nap times for various tasks, but the best nap times were the ones I spent doing something, even a small thing, for myself. And by far the most productive and self sustaining naptimes were the times I didn’t spend them in judgment of whatever it was that that I actually wanted to do.
Permission to watch Bravo, granted.
I think “sleep when your baby is sleeping” is certainly well intended. I just think it would be better said, “Live while your baby is sleeping.” Or maybe “rejoice that your baby is sleeping.” Better yet, do whatever you need to do so that when you do sleep you will have peace of mind. Do whatever you want mom. You deserve it.
And yes sometimes living while the baby is sleeping means sleep. And sometimes it means chores. Sometimes you will do the laundry, or maybe you’ll pull a pair of pants from the dirty hamper and throw them in the dryer for a quick tumble. You’ll probably wash a diaper (or six) by accident. Some days you’ll pick up the toys like some sort of Mary Poppins on steroids and some days the toys will remain on the floor for someone (most likely you) to trip on later. You’ll always find something to eat for dinner whether it’s home cooked, reheated, store bought or delivered. What really matters is the love you give your baby and to master that you have to give love to yourself first.
I think “sleep when your baby is sleeping” is certainly well intended. I just think it would be better said, “Live while your baby is sleeping.”
Love yourself while your baby sleeps. That’s what I wish I’d heard from those well-meaning advice hounds. Take time to love yourself. If you can do that while you are doing laundry, checking your emails or organizing your baby’s socks by color, great! But if it means you need to meditate or take a shower or call a friend then the laundry will get done later.
The miracle for me was that in these cracks of time I took for myself, to make myself whole, I started to realize that as I was learning to parent my little ones, I was learning to reparent myself. I was a little sweeter, a little kinder and I gave myself a littler more permission to let the person I was before I had children be part of my life again. Even if it was only from 12 to 3 most afternoons.
So go on mom, you do you for naptime! But don’t let me be that annoying person who makes you feel guilty either. I know. The laundry really does have to get done. Just let me encourage you to take at least one naptime a week that’s dedicated to making you feel good. Watch the show, do the yoga, or lie on the floor and call it meditation. The world doesn’t need more perfect moms, it needs more happier moms, who live while the baby sleeps!
Check out our recent video featuring a few ways you could spend your time when you know your baby’s sleep schedule:
Andrea Levoff is a writer, speaker, coach, and creator of “Dope Ass Mom Tips”. Through her Masters in Spiritual Psychology, Andrea helps mothers find their purpose outside of motherhood. She resides in Chicago with her husband and young children Anna and Max. You can read more from Andrea here.