This one little sentence has the ability to destroy confidence in new mums and cause, sometimes, long lasting damage to a once strong relationship! It is a phrase that many mums will have heard at some point, be it from friends, family, even strangers, but by far the most cutting moment will be if it comes from your partner.
Being a first time parent is hard, life has changed forever and no amount of books, blogs or classes can truly prepare you for the journey you are about to embark on. You know that there will be sleepless nights, but rarely are first time parents really aware of the kind of sleep deprivation they are yet to endure. And it isn’t just the sleepless nights, it’s the physical toll that breast feeding takes on your body – you are not just sustaining your own life, you are providing nourishment for your child too!
Trying to eat well with very little sleep is hard enough, but when the pure exhaustion kicks in and your baby just wont cut you a break by sleeping for more than 45 minutes at a time all the blocks start to stack against you. Menial household duties get put on hold to do anything possible to get your baby to sleep, whether it is long walks in the pram, baby wearing all day long, or the last resort of driving around the block so many times that you think you’ll go insane if the crying doesn’t stop. And here’s the kicker … sleep deprivation is a form of torture – the purpose being to break down every fabric of your will power and have you succumb to a state of submission. Bravo baby, you have done it! Mummy is completely in your control, she has long since given up vacuuming, doing any washing other than the absolutely necessary, cooking has been stripped back to the quickest and easiest for herself and daddy, and a shower is a luxury that has to be weighed up against the possibility of laying down for half an hour – and it IS a tough choice!
Daddy too is feeling the pressure. Unfortunately, there seems to come a point when daddy has had enough and the interruption to their lifestyle shifts to blame in some cases. Frustration at lack of sleep can often illicit those cranky tones in the middle of the night “Ohhh SHUT UP!” which are jointly thought by both parents, but rarely pass the lips of mothers – of course this also rarely proceeds daddy dutifully getting up to tend to the baby, rather it is followed quickly by “I have to work all day tomorrow” insinuating that mothers not having to leave the house for work are somehow less needing of sleep and calm.
Now, here is where the fabric starts to fray. Sure dad has to leave the house and start work at a designated time, he also finishes work at a designated time and has had 8-10 hours child-free. Mum has been on call since the second baby was born and don’t even get me started about the 9 months before and the excruciating labour that produced the little bundle of joy. The fact is that life is different, and it really DOES happen over night so it is understandable that there is some level of resentment coming from both sides – not always toward the change to the lifestyle, rather it seems to take aim at each other!
Those 6 little words (or some variation of them) thrown out at a moment of frustration and exhaustion cut the deepest for mothers doing their best at their new role. The reality is life would be easier if baby slept at night and was happy all day, but that is not reality. Baby does not adhere to our constructs of society. Don’t our partners realize that if we could get the baby to sleep all night uninterrupted that we would?! Do they think that we are some how masterfully planning to have the baby grizzle or scream in the middle of the night, demanding feeds and comfort just so we can laze around all day? The reality is far more complex and yet far more basic. Baby needs care, food, comfort, nappy changes and a whole lot more that just can’t be put into words., and this does not just happen for a few hours a day, this is all day – EVERY DAY!
Being a mother has so many beautiful moments, and equally as many crushing ones. It is a role that is impossible to truly be prepared for, one that requires you to retain confidence in your ability, so easily stripped away when you are broken down from lack of sleep. Every mother’s journey is different, every child behaves differently and every relationship will be strained by the extreme change in lifestyle that comes with starting a family. I hope that every mother knows what a wonderful job she is doing and how special she is! That these sleepless nights will pass and her baby will grow into a beautiful child, and an amazing adult!
And when then inevitable comment occurs “what do you do all day?” let it roll off your back and take no malice from it, remember in your heart and in truth that you are a mother ALL DAY, EVERY DAY!