I recently started watching my friend’s little boy during the day. He’s just over 11 weeks old and as sweet as could be. Her maternity leave was up and she was returning back to work. Like MANY first time moms in that situation, she worried. Will I have enough milk? Will it be too much trouble for her to watch him? How will I handle my first day back at work? What will his day be like? Will I cry? Will he cry? Will he be okay? Will I be okay?
Before he started coming here, she and I had several conversations; many of which included the topic of sleep, or lack thereof. He is a VERY smart, alert, and active little boy and because of that, he fights off sleep – much like my son did around that age. He wants to take it ALL in – no breaks!
However, sleep is extremely important for babies and little children. Their bodies need the rest – especially if they are highly active. Plus, us moms need some quiet time too! (I don’t know about you, but after about 30 minutes of “peek-a-boo” and another hour or so of rattling toys and clapping and quietly saying, “Look at you,” “Great job,” or “Yay,” I’m beyond ready for nap time. I have to regain my sanity.)
When I had my son, I knew that sleep was important and did everything I could to make sure he got plenty of it. And I’m serious when I say I did everything I could. From spending and hour and a half pacing my living room while gently bouncing and swaying my screaming/fussy/tearful infant son to rocking for 45 minutes in the chair while I said “Shhh…” over and over or putting him in his swing or bouncy chair and sitting right next to it for 30 minutes while I stared at him and tried to will him to fall asleep… Those are things that would drive ANYONE crazy.
But when you’re a sleep deprived, determined, frustrated first time mom… I can’t even accurately describe what it’s like.
You become frantic and willing to do anything you can think of. The longer you listen to them cry, the more difficult it becomes to maintain your cool, calm demeanor. Then you start to cry because, dammit, you just want to sleep (or eat, or pee, or shower, or put the dishes away… etc)! But you can’t until this tiny person closes their eyes and drifts off into dreamland. Even when that happens, you still hold your breath for another 30 minutes because you’re afraid you’ll have to start all over if you accidentally wake them up.
I experienced all this and more with my son. It wasn’t until he hit 6 months that I finally realized that my sleep was important too. Little guy’s mom and I were talking about sleep again today and she said, “I don’t know how people do it with no support system.” I replied, “With medication.”
Okay, so that isn’t true for EVERYONE. Some of you out there just might be Miss Perfect Mommy and you totally had the hang of it all the second they handed you your tiny bundle of joy. If so, you’re not normal.
No. Seriously. You’re not.
The normal thing to do is question yourself. Wonder if you’re doing everything right. Question how one tiny choice now could possibly affect their lives later on down the road. Compare yourself to all the other moms you know…
Motherhood is one big mind game.
Honestly, I think motherhood has changed a LOT over the years but I’m not completely convinced it’s all for the better. Social media has a lot to do with that, in my opinion. So does television. It’s like society has placed some unreal expectations on mothers these days.
I see so many moms who try to do it all and they end up focusing on the mom they think is ideal. In reality, they spend so much time trying to meet the standard set by society and they lose sight of the mom they really are.
- Instagram – Thank you for showing us that all moms can be “photographers” and document every second of our lives and ensure perfection with just the right filter. Oh, and to the moms who have time in the morning to dress themselves well, do their make up, take a picture, and then upload it to Instagram, pleaseeeee stop! You’re making the rest of us wonder if you have a maid, a nanny, or if you place your children under some kind of magical spell while you get ready for the day. Maybe it’s all three.
- Facebook – Susan’s daughter can play Pachelbel’s Canon in D on piano at the age of 5? So what! Let me upload this video of my 3 year old solving algebraic equations while reciting the alphabet backwards. Let’s see her one up THAT! Oh! Looks like Catherine has been hard at work today! They’ve made pancakes from scratch, had a snack, built an intricate train track, chased butterflies outside, and created those… whoa! What IS that? Those must have taken forever! Wait… you mean to tell me it’s only 10 AM? But HOW did she get all of that DONE?!
- Pinterest – Ah, yes. Thank you a million times for shoving in my face how creative every other mom is, except me. Please. That’s an excessive amount of glitter and there’s no way I can get my kid interested enough in that.
- Mom Forums – You know… The Bump, Cafe Mom, etc. Those horrible places where moms go to post questions, in need of legitimate help, and then are shot down, judged, and belittled by their peers. There are even pages similar to this on Facebook. Usually they are run by a set of admins who post your question anonymously, but there’s almost always someone who walks into that post with a baseball bat – ready to send heads rolling, just because they think they are number one and screw your opinion (I’m very familiar with this. I am an admin on a Facebook page and we see a lot of this).
Whatever happened to it taking a “village” to raise a child? Seeing a struggling new mom and offering words of comfort? Putting the offer to help on the table every chance you get? Sharing the stories of your own struggles? Encouraging her or playing peek-a-boo with her baby in the grocery line while she unloads her cart? Us moms need those things too!
Call up one of your mom friends and offer to watch her kids for a few hours so she can get her grocery shopping done in peace. Talk with her about a time when you felt like you had failed as a parent. Offer encouraging and kind words. Give her a knowing smile and then offer to help unload her cart if you see she’s dealing with a fussy baby too.
When we become mothers, we are expected to become selfless and place the needs of someone else before us. It may not always come easy, but it’s a learning process and something that can be mastered. But who says that selflessness has to only extend to our children? Why can’t we extend it to those around us as well?
Say you see a mom at your child’s preschool trying to juggle a four year old, a two year old, an infant in a car seat, backpack, diaper bag, and find her keys in her purse. Do you sit back and watch her struggle with everything she has and think to yourself, “Well, I have my own issues to deal with. She will be fine,” or could you take 5 minutes of your day and offer to stand next to her van and watch the two little ones while she runs the older one inside to school? Personally, I would pick the second option. I can usually spare 5 minutes and if I know it’s going to make someone else’s life just a little bit easier, then it’s totally worth 5 minutes of my time.
I always try to think, “If I were in their situation, would I be glad someone had offered me a helping hand?” If that answer is, “Yes,” then I do it. Even if it means maybe my life gets a little more complicated.
I have applied that thought to countless situations. I’ve helped multiple women with their breastfeeding journeys. I could have easily given them a virtual pat on the back and sent them on their merry way, but instead I chose to keep in contact with them, check up on them periodically, send them articles I found that related to their issues, etc.
Why did I do that?
Because I was once a first time breastfeeding mom and had someone done the same for me, I would have been on my knees thankful.
So now I’m helping my friend out with her son. I watch him for her while she’s at work. Yes it provides us with some additional income, but that isn’t the main motivation behind it for me. I know how worrisome it can be to return to work and know that you are trusting your child into the care of someone else. I’m not a baby expert, but I have had two of my own and they seem to be thriving so far! She also breast feeds and uses cloth diapers. I am extremely familiar with both. I have also been giving her advice regarding her son’s latch and tips she can use for encouraging a strong latch and bond between them.
And then there’s the topic of sleep. She’s brand new to this and still learning the ins and outs. However, sleep “schedules” are something I mastered with both of my kids. I offered to work with little man on his and he’s been napping a grand total of about 5 hours a day every day he has been here.
I’m pretty sure she’s now convinced I use some kind of black magic.
I can assure you, it’s not black magic. And I don’t have him on a rigid schedule. But I already know what common sleep and hunger cues look like for babies his age and therefore, it’s much easier for me to recognize at what point he needs to be laying down. Because I know that, I have pretty much figured out about how often he naps and when we hit that “sleep window,” I know to keep my eyes open for his sleep cues.
Is it time consuming? Somewhat. But it’s far less time consuming for me than it is for her and if me taking some of my time now saves her time later on down the road, eases her life, and allows her to better plan her days, then it’s totally worth it.
That’s the kind of attitude I’d like to see more mom’s take.
“If I take minutes to help with , will it make them happy? Will it make their life easier in the long run?”
If the answers to those questions are, “Yes,” then just do it!
I’d be willing to bet not only do you put a smile of their face, but you will put one on yours too.
Pay it forward.