Why I’m Sick of Applauding Sleep Deprivation
Yesterday I got off a call with a soon-to-be client. She was a brand-new mom and her baby was eight-weeks-old. The refrain was familiar, “What have I done? Why didn’t anyone tell me? I’m not coping.” It was sad. What’s sadder is this is not the first time I’ve had this call — this week even! My clients have been clear, no one has prepared them for how challenging not sleeping is and the fact that for some, without interventions, they could be not sleeping for some time.
What’s more, the support system around new parents applauds the sleepless nights that come with new parenthood. We make jokes that our new parent friends will never sleep again and we read blogs espousing the normalcy that infants wake several times overnight (this is normal) and the accolades we give new parents for doing it all (this is toxic). Oh ya – there’s a pandemic. Some babies are only just meeting grandparents for the first time, others aren’t ready yet.
The idea that new parents can do it all or are superhuman is toxic. And I know from personal experience.
Hands up if you’re the person in your group that can ‘do it all’?
Hands up if you’re the person who loves to ‘multi-task’?
Hands up if you take pride in never saying no AND NAILING it in the end?
This was me. For a long time. I have always been complimented on my work ethic. Bosses, teachers, family members and friends would always comment on my work ethic and would say things like, “If you can’t do it, no one can!’ And I believed them. I was that person. From the time I started working, especially in my teaching career, I’d take my work home and stay up to 10 p.m. making the BEST lesson plan or creating a new program. Didn’t have enough going on at work? I’d sign up for a course, professional development or create a new club at school. Not enough? I’d sign up for 5Ks and 10Ks to train for. Not enough? Why not learn sewing, and yoga and.. and… and.
Then I had kids and for a long time, I was coasting around being that busy mom. I landed my dream teaching job when my first daughter was four months old. I received accolades for my parenting and work ethic. I was applauded for having a small child and working. People were wowed that I pumped three times a day at work and taught. But guess what? I was exhausted. To my core.
I started to have panic attacks. Randomly. My hair started to fall out. I was worried about EVERYTHING. I was getting sick all the time. But on the surface, I was doing everything I usually did – I WAS GOOD at being busy. What the heck was going on?
Enter – my therapist, who basically nudged me into a couple of ideas:
1. The business was a way to mask feelings (spoiler alert, they always bubble up!)
2. I had, HAD, HAD to find ways to rest (really. She lovingly read me the riot act when I didn’t.)
3. And this is the kicker – the way I was living my life was destroying my physical health.
The short story is that I got it together. The long story is that it’s still a process of unlearning the lessons we tell parents (mostly mothers).
I am writing this today because I still see so much busy. So many parents doing it all. Moms bragging about giving birth while holding their cell phones writing work emails. I worry (I don’t judge) about those comments. We’re meant to rest after having a baby. We’re meant to have time not working. We’re meant to have eight hours of sleep. And doing these things doesn’t mean you’re lazy, or bad. You’re resting. And if you don’t make it happen for yourself – especially as a mom – it will never happen.
Heed my words.
Keep your hair.
Stop freaking out.
And go to bed – and if you can’t, call us, we can help!