“Sleep when the baby sleeps”
This phrase has been the source of some of my frustrations while on maternity leave.
There are, in my opinion, 4 types of people who think saying this makes sense: People who do not have children, people who have had small children but a long time ago, people who have a nanny and people who have a maid.
We common mortals who have children, do not have a nanny, much less a maid, I would say agree that things are not quite that simple…
We spend many sleepless nights with our little ones (Some also with older children adding to the chaos, with screams in the middle of the night because they are DYING of thirst, or have to pee or because there is a monster under the bed) and the next day when people see us, with our dark circles almost reaching our chins, they ask us if it was not a good night with the kids… And then comes the phrase. “Sleep when the baby sleeps, honey”
Now, this is easier said than done… At least by my way of being and my way of dealing with everything in life. To me there is always something to do at home and my brain cannot simply go into “snooze” mode, as tired as I am. Baby S falls asleep and I can only think about the clothes on the line, of the dishes to be washed, on the floor to be sweeped and even when I can overcome these thoughts and convince myself that I will not get up, that I have to sleep -baby S wakes up. And there begins the cycle again…
Now don´t get me wrong, I know that whoever says it really does not mean anything bad but try to realize that we, as mothers, are often exhausted and phrases such as these do not help us at all. We know very well that we should sleep when the baby sleeps, but life is full of tasks to be done and many of us feel that if we always slept when the baby sleeps our houses would fall to an abyss of dirty dishes, lack of washed clothes (Not even mentioning ironing), baths to give, food to be made, backpacks to pack and it is not easy.
So the next time you see an exhausted mother, going through the wringer, putting up with it all by the tips of her hair and the endless love for her children, do not ask about the dark circles under her eyes or tell her to sleep when the baby sleeps. Because things are just not that simple.
Rather say something like, “I know it seems like life will always be like this, but believe me there will be a night where baby sleeps for 4 hours, then 6, then 8 and when you least expect it- sleep”; “Believe me, the colic will pass”; “Believe me, your 3-year-old rebel will stop most of the tantrums when you least expect it”; “Believe me, you will sleep again one day”; “Believe me, life is not just about this difficult phase”; “Believe me, one day you will even miss when they are little”; “Believe me, you’re a good mother”
“Believe me, you will make it.”