Our son has been waking up every 2 hours, every night since the day he was born…he’s 16 months old this week. Some nights he sleeps better, some nights worse. Making things even trickier is his refusal to settle and sleep for daddy. This is obviously not an ideal way to be living our lives, especially when we both have full time jobs that involve big responsibilities and require a lot of focus.
In one of my very early blog posts, I wrote about coping with a baby who never sleeps. I shared an article that pointed to some things that are actually pretty cool about a baby who’s awake a lot (more snuggles, bonding time, etc). I wrote that post about a year ago when I was on maternity leave and able to take the odd nap and chill on the couch if we had a particularly rough night. I was super nervous about returning to work and losing my chance to rest during the day. My last post was all about how the back to work thing is actually going pretty well, but that’s not because there has been any improvement in our son’s sleep habits, it’s because I try my very best to do the following when the exhaustion and frustration are getting to me:
Go zen: My goal in dealing with unpleasant baby situations is always to accept what’s happening, remind myself he’s just a tiny person who wants his mommy, and observe my grumpy feelings without acting on them in front of my son. I epically fail at this multiple times a day. I frequently wake my husband up with my loud sighs of annoyance and sometimes I find myself stomping from our room to the baby’s room, but once the little guy is in my arms, my attention lands fully on his needs and how I can meet them. Trying to change/modify his habits hasn’t helped anything, so acceptance is the path I’m choosing right now.
Embrace the caffeine: From the moment a lady finds out she’s pregnant, she is presented with a lengthy list of things she can’t do and items she can’t eat or drink. I’m 2 years removed from those early days of pregnancy but since I still nurse my baby, I continue to feel nervous about any “unhealthy” stuff that I consume. A whole new reason to be anxious popped up as my maternity leave drew to an end and I started thinking about how my workday would look on a limited amount of coffee. So I was pretty pumped to come across research that says caffeine is not actually likely to cause any problems for babies who breastfeed. It’s not as though I’m throwing back coffee all day long, but if I need a boost to get through the next lesson with my students, I let myself enjoy a cup without allowing the mom guilt to get to me.
Remember it’s going to end some day: This is kind of a depressing thing for any parent to think about, but the time in a kid’s life when they want to hug, and cuddle, and be close to mom and dad does not last forever. I remember my husband once asking me when I was pregnant, “what are you looking forward to the most about being a mom?” I told him I just couldn’t wait to hold that snuggly little baby body all the time. I got exactly what I wished for: a little one who loves being held. Do I enjoy holding him at 4 a.m on a Tuesday? Not really, especially given that I need to be at work, alert, chipper, and prepared to teach children by 8 a.m. I know for sure that I am going to miss the sweet snuggles one day pretty soon though, and reminding myself of this during those exhausting middle of the night moments really can help keep things calm.
Believe in the superhero parent strength: If you had told me years ago that there was going to be a point in my life when I would be parenting a kid while working a demanding full time job on just a few hours of sleep each night, I’m sure I would have said “I can’t do that”. In fact, while on maternity leave, I became so convinced that going back to work would be disasterous that one afternoon I posted my concerns in a mommy Facebook group that I follow. I wanted to see if there were any working moms of kids who don’t sleep and I wanted to know how they coped. The responses I got were all pretty similar, most of the moms saying that you just find a way, that there is something inside of parents that allows them to face and tackle things that seem impossibly tough. Strong is not a word I ever use to describe myself (I’m a pretty soft, sensitive individual actually) but I’m caring for my kid, I’m working hard at my job, and at the end of every day I’m still standing, and honestly feeling super grateful for everything I have.