Lately, I’ve been hearing from mothers who are experiencing issues with insomnia that lasts for quite a few weeks after they’ve had their baby. I, of course, gave them the static advice one gives–like turning off all electronic devices an hour before bedtime and not having screens in the bedroom, taking a moment to wind down before you actually plan to go to sleep, and creating bedtime rituals for mom and for baby. Some of this advice proves helpful, but I have had some time to ponder what I think the common denominator is, and from my experience and observation, it seems that many new mothers develop poor sleeping habits very soon after their new life as a mom begins simply by not insisting that they get proper rest in the early days after delivery.
This lack of quality sleep most assuredly affects the quality of our mothering. As mothers, we often try to do everything to perfection, but sometimes, we need to just sit still and rest–even if we can’t actually sleep. Resting helps us feel centered and calm and when you rest, it goes a long way toward establishing new expectations and norms around rest and sleep as a priority for your whole household.
Listen…anyone who doesn’t get enough sleep is not going to perform at optimal levels, let alone a new mother who has carried a baby around in her body for weeks into months–and then had to work like hell to deliver that very human into the world using the strength of muscles she didn’t even know she had! This is to say nothing about all the “other duties as assigned” that come along with the territory of learning how to navigate this new motherhood territory! And no matter how many children you already have, adding a new child into the mix brings about its own learning curve. So, who in their right mind would expect a mother to perform flawlessly in light of all that?! Well, we do, (even though we really totally shouldn’t).
In a time when Instagram and Pinterest set the tone for what we think our lives should look like, I believe we have created a society where mothers just don’t see the normalcy of their everyday lives depicted in the media enough to make them alright with what it is versus the fantasy. They never show what a real “NewMommyHouse” looks like on television shows, so they think of themselves as slackers if they aren’t DIYing something, changing the wallpaper in the nursery or running the sweeper during baby’s nap time. They don’t see or hear about the REAL reality of new motherhood enough to know that what they see isn’t real and that the almost crazy feeling they’re experiencing right now is likely to be the norm for some time to come!!
When I probed further into the issue I found that so many of these mothers actually HAVE supportive people in their lives who are willing and able to give them some time to rest or relax, but that the mothers themselves don’t know how to accept the help. I noticed that many of these mothers put overmuch pressure on themselves to be more “on the ball” than I think is healthy sometimes.They’re forcing themselves to tidy up more than should be necessary and look cuter than they want to be in order to receive baby visits from company they really don’t want to entertain! They said things like they didn’t want to seem lazy or “extra” or helpless, so they just keep pushing themselves to do more than they really should in their first few days at home. Which sets the tone for the rest of their mothering experience if nobody intervenes. This is how we become overextended and burned out on the job…stop it, just stop it!
We all want to be thought of as a Mothering BadAss in the eyes of all onlookers, but I say to hell with that, and I recommend reform at once! Listen, the truth is every mother wants to be the well-rested, bright-eyed and joy-filled picture of happy mothering, but many of us are just not there and we may not become her for quite some time. And that is okay! For now, your main job is to tend to the needs of your baby and REST, REST, REST! Mothers who are able to get a regular schedule of sleep nightly are better able to focus throughout the day, meet the challenges of everyday parenting and maintain overall feelings of parental satisfaction over the course of time. These are facts…so don’t be afraid to take an indulgent nap or even a few minutes to stare into space. You can always work on your BadAssery tomorrow!