Sleep when the baby sleeps. They always say. Well, this actually kind of worked with my first baby. There were many wonderful sleepy days where I put the house and my phone on lockdown all day and acted as if it was night. I slept when she slept. It was irregular and a little odd sleeping for a couple hours here and there a few times throughout the day. But hey, it worked. I could feel somewhat normal and rested. We managed pretty well with this.
Now having baby number two was a whole different story. You can’t leave a toddler alone in the house to fend for themselves for a few hours a day here and there while you’re napping with your new bundle. You could probably get reported for that stuff! No, you have to be up when the toddler is up during the day. And, of course, up when the baby is up during the night. Which leaves you about 4 hours of sleep give or take at 1.5-hour intervals at times.
Personally, I have a really high threshold for lack of sleep when I’m nursing. When I’m not nursing it’s like 8 hours straight plus or I’m a crybaby slash angry bear. It’s weird. I don’t know why it is. But with my second I went for a solid 8 or so months with about 5-6 hour sleep times, 2-3 hours at a time before I broke.
So, what do I mean by break? I literally mean break. I fell a few times pretty badly and pretty well just bawled all day trying desperately to keep my kids alive till my husband came home. This happened only 1 more time before I finally decided to stop harboring the self-inflicted guilt of always needing to be the one staying up all night.
It’s so common in many marriages. The stay at home mom feels that because her husband works outside the home, he needs the sleep. For me, it was really my martyr side coming out all that time. It was my job. I’m the Mom. I’m the all night on call person. Me and only me should do this. It wasn’t until I really really broke that I dropped my martyr crown. My heavy, ugly, stupid martyr crown.
I finally had a talk with my husband about my need of sleep.
I realized what I had been doing was walking a tightrope without a safety net. There was no backup for when I fell and because of this, I had the additional anxiety and stress of knowing there was a 60-foot fall onto pavement if I messed up my walk. I needed to know that he could be the safety net when it got too much. That I could nudge him when the baby started crying and he could care for him as I slept. In this though, it had to be clear that we could tag in each other at any point. Otherwise, I’d nudge him, he’d have a crying babe, and I would lay awake in bed listening intently for a cue for when I was needed. If my husband knew he could tag me in at any time guilt/rage free I could sleep rest-assured that if I were needed he would come wake me up.
In actuality it was really rare after that talk when I did nudge him. What I really needed was just to know for myself that it was ok to let him have a sleepless night every once in a while. That I had a safety net, a backup plan for when my mind and body were bordering breakdown. So I could refuel back to where I needed to be a good mother again.
I needed to know that he could be the safety net when it got too much. That I could nudge him when the baby started crying and he could care for him as I slept
My husband and I are partners and in this and we both have to let go of our pride in letting the other step in. It’s assertiveness to me, which really keeps the marriage equal and nurtured. Telling the other what the needs are in a kind respectful way and how they can help fill the holes in the family boat.
Every marriage and family circumstance is different, but if this is something you struggle with, I urge you to have an open and caring discussion with your spouse. I wish I had dropped my pride sooner and let my husband in.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.