Today’s guest post is from Graeme Seabrook, mom of two and Pregnancy and Postpartum Coach from Charleston, SC.
Thank you Graeme for your powerful message for the new mom.
Sleep when the baby sleeps.
I hear this all the time. I hear it because I have a ten month old daughter and because I work with moms. We hear it from well-meaning friends, neighbors and family members. I’ve even heard it from doctors, nurses, babysitters and nannies.
I think it’s crap. Yup. Said it.
First of all, it doesn’t work. I could sleep when the baby sleeps if I could also work when the baby works, do laundry when the baby does laundry, clean when the baby cleans, cook when the baby cooks, and shower when the baby showers.
It’s also not physically possible for a lot of us. She finally goes to sleep. I toss and turn for 45 minutes trying to get my body to sleep at 10 am and by the time I’m drifting off she’s awake.
One day I was sitting in my therapist’s office talking about a relative who had given me the ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps’ advice and how I was so sleep deprived that I literally laughed in her (stunned) face. It occurred to me right then – Why didn’t she offer to come watch the baby so I could sleep? Why am I not allowed to sleep until she does? Why is my rest not as important as hers?
Driving home I had an even more radical thought: What if the most important person in my life was not my baby? What if the most important person in my life is me?
It feels wrong to say that out loud. Even now, over two years into this journey. It feels selfish and greedy and horrible. It also feels powerful and freeing and joyous.
If I am the most important person in my life then my duty is to keep myself healthy, keep myself sane, keep myself happy. I do these things not so that I can be a better mother, wife, daughter, or sister. I do these things only to take care of me. The fact that I can take care of others so much more is an added bonus, but it is not the point.
I don’t fill up my cup because “You cannot pour from an empty cup”.
I fill it because I cannot drink from an empty cup.
Self-care can be hard. It can be saying no to things. It can be asking for help. It can be admitting a weakness. It can be asserting a strength. Self-care can also be keeping your favorite CD in your car and having 2 minute concerts just for yourself. It can be lighting candles and taking a bath every Wednesday night. It can be taking a walk every morning before the world is awake so that you can enjoy your own company.
I am learning how to center myself in my life. I am learning to care for myself because I am me, and not because of any relationship I have. For a long time it was a dance of one step forward, six steps back. And then I had another idea. Just because this journey is about me, that doesn’t mean I must take it alone. And so I formed The Self Care Squad. SCS is a group of women on Facebook who are all on this journey as well. We support each other and cheer for each other, we brainstorm our way through problems and we challenge each other.
Now when the baby sleeps I check in with my Squad and they remind me to put myself at the top of my To-Do list.
Are you a new mom? Do you put yourself at the top of your list?