I did a lot of things before I became a parent that I don't do now that I have three kids.
For example, I often stayed up until whenever I pleased because I could just sleep in the next morning and wake up as rested as I needed to be.
Those days are gone. Sigh. A newfound source of stress in my life has become getting into bed early enough—because those kids are waking up at the same time no matter what I do, and there is only so much coffee I can respectably drink before 9 am. Right?
Pre-kids, in my totally well-rested and well-intentioned state, I also used to give the advice that now makes me laugh, cry and cringe, all at the same time: "Sleep when the baby sleeps."
And then I had a baby.
Sorrrrryyyyyyyyy about that one.
In my defense, and the defense of everyone out there still saying this, the premise is sound—you need and deserve rest, so whenever you get the chance you should take advantage of the opportunity and sleep.
But I quickly discovered that "when the baby sleeps" is the only time that is mine—and sometimes I don't want to sleep through that.
I love being a mom. I love my children with all my heart. I am also a person—with needs and wants that quite frankly don't get addressed when my kids are awake.
Now, I am working on that. I believe strongly that self-care should be woven into the tapestry of our daily lives, and is not achieved through one relaxing bubble bath or glass of wine. But with young children who rely on me for almost everything, I seem to fall to the bottom of my priority list over and over again.
But not when they are asleep. That time is mine.
For me, I think the hardest part of transitioning into motherhood has been the loss of control. The uncontrollable love part is is great, but the lack of control I feel on a daily basis can be pretty overwhelming.
I try to plan my days out well, but it's amazing just how quickly a fever, tantrum, snowstorm, or the infamous fever-tantrum-snowstorm-trio—can throw everything off course. And when life goes off course, it's my job as the mama to pivot—and provide snacks while doing so.
There are some days where it feels like I am losing touch with myself among the beautiful chaos that is motherhood. I need little pockets of time to check in with myself and make sure that I am doing okay, too.
For me, that's when my kids are sleeping.
Sometimes the very thing I need in that short window of time is sleep. But sometimes it's not.
So my new advice is this: Be intentional with your time when the baby sleeps.
It took me a while (ahem, three kids), but I finally learned to ask myself one simple question before putting my kids into bed: What will make me feel best during this window of time I am about to have?
Whatever my answer is becomes my priority.
This sounds simple. But all too often I fall into the "let me just…" trap: "Let me just check Facebook real quick," or "Let me just call my mom first," and before I know it nap time is over and I'm more stressed than I was before it started.
Because I lost control of that time—the little piece of time that was meant just for me.
So instead, I just try to be really focused on one thing that I know will make me feel better.
Sometimes, even though it is not even a little bit fun, what makes me feel best is crossing off the most annoying thing on my to-do list—the thing that's been hanging over me all day—er, week—consuming way more brain space than it deserves. Getting that handled feels so good. (Call insurance company to fix that claim error ✅.)
Sometimes I need to call a friend, or empty the sink, or watch TV, or sit in quiet. And sometimes, I do need to get lost in the void that is social media.
Ultimately, it's about taking the time to put your needs first once in a while. Self-care comes in a million different forms. You are allowed to be intentional with getting it.