“Sleep when the baby sleeps," new parents are advised from almost everyone who’s been there. This is actually the advice most often given by well-seasoned parents (based on my own experience, no stats here).
The trouble is the best time to get things done IS when the baby is sleeping. Especially to an obsessive-compulsive, perfectionist workaholic, this advice seems counter intuitive.
And then the mini meltdowns/breakdowns start to hit. At first, you might just be cranky. A couple of outbursts, short-tempered moments, inability to laugh at misgivings.
That’s not so bad right? Manageable?
But if you let this go long enough, you are causing longer-term problems, both physically and to your relationships. You see, getting enough sleep is non negotiable. Once you accept this fact, you can start prioritizing it, strategically planning for it, and flexibly working around it.
So you can be a happy mother, partner and business woman.
I’m not kidding.
After having my first baby in 2003, I disregarded this advice as “optional” and not for me. A few years later, I succumbed to a nervous breakdown in 2008. Lack of sleep was a major contributing factor. Now that I’ve had a second baby 14 years later, I realize my memory has grown dim of how bad it was the first time around. Our brains are good at smoothing things over or deleting those hard times and difficult experiences — otherwise there would be no second children! (Arguably, that’s why there was no second child for me sooner.)
I need to explore how I can both follow this advice and also have time available each week to work on my business.
Getting others on board
I find that the fathers/your partner may not fully understand the importance of helping to ensure you get enough sleep. Right now, my 10-month old’s daddy has to get up at 4 am on weekdays and go to work. Hence, he rarely has had to deal with any night-time wakings, feedings, crying, teething, digestion issues, dirty diaper explosions, etc. Therefore, he doesn’t always get how urgent it is when I say, “I need to sleep. Right now,” handing him the baby and face-planting onto the bed after securely barricading the bedroom door.
At this point, I am OVER tired. This is exactly where I don’t want to be. — suddenly exhibiting desperate and demanding behaviour with the people around me. I want to be in control of my sleep and know that I’ve scheduled in some rest time between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm when the baby is napping and I can function until then knowing I’ll be able to fully rest.
The way to get other people on board is to discuss things calmly and rationally with them, explaining the why’s and how’s, and being open to listening and negotiating. Your partner, parents and other older children may have some great suggestions and ideas. They will be much more cooperative and supportive if they believe in and agree with your plan, schedule, and tactics.
How To Get Enough Sleep With A Baby And Get To Work On Your Business
I am a stay-at-home mom and I run a web design business out of my house. Web design projects are fairly involved and I need to ensure I have regular uninterrupted work time. Additionally, my child is “highly sensitive” and experiences separation anxiety from mommy, so scheduling work sessions has been extra challenging and need to be in shorter bursts. Here are some things working for me right now in order to get enough sleep and get my work done.
Create A Work Schedule
I suggest creating a couple of weekly work sessions where someone else is watching the baby during his awake time. Some sessions need to be set in stone and some should be flexible/“nice to have”. I am currently working on my business in 4 types of work sessions.
- Mandatory: My partner watches the baby for 2 hours a day from Monday to Thursday, and I leave the house and work on my laptop at a coffee shop. (This took negotiation and it has to happen no matter what, which means I need to keep my assertive hat on.) My partner gets Fridays and Saturdays off from this step so he can have some downtime too, which make having additional times as per my points below important. With a highly sensitive baby, it’s important I leave the premises; My baby knows I’m gone and will get used to me returning a couple hours later. Total work time = 8 hours per week.
- Mandatory: My partner gives me 4 hours of work time on Sundays.
- Mandatory: My parents watch the baby one weekday morning a week for 4 hours. My parents have resorted to walking him in the stroller to minimize his symptoms, like out-of-control, crying-bloody-murder screaming. (I’ll write about how to with a highly sensitive baby in a different article!) It’s just a phase… right?
- Optional: When I feel up to it, and when the baby actually falls asleep easily at night, I’ll work from 10 PM to midnight or early morning from 4:30 am until 7 am. (This was working, and then it wasn’t working, and now it seems to be working again. It depends on your baby’s sleep schedule. If you decide to try this out, be sure to sleep during baby’s naptime.) I would only aim to do this once or twice a week unless it is working consistently.
Count Up The Work Hours
This gives me between 16 and 24 hours (approximately) of work time per week. On a bad week it’s more like 16. On a good week, I am extremely grateful and lucky. I just need to remain flexible and do the best I can with what I have.
Count Up The Sleep Hours
I aim for 8 hours of sleep per day. With this work schedule, and depending on baby’s night sleeping schedule, I should be able to get a minimum of 6 hours of sleep at night, and more like 8, with an additional 2 hours of sleep at the baby’s nap time. Definitely manageable. I savour how good it feels to get enough sleep, which enables me to be excited for my day with baby, prepare delicious meals, and be in the present moment with my family.
Other Tips & Outside Resources
Babysitting, day home and daycare solutions are also available, if that works for you. I frequently utilized these options with my first child. 14 years later, I want to make things work while raising my child myself. To complicate things, getting help with a highly sensitive baby takes more energy than having someone watch your super-friendly baby who gets along with people, like my first one.
I work on the household chores with my baby as much as possible, and delegate when I can — which doesn’t come easily to me. I can get it all done, but I need to be strategic and conserve my energy. I find that being physically exhausted is similar to being mentally exhausted. If I need help with the vacuuming, I ask for it.
And the rest of the time, I sleep as much as possible. By setting out a work schedule, where I have other people watching my baby during his or her waking hours, I don’t even have to worry about missing my own well-earned nap time. Wait a second — it’s nap time! See ya!
What about you? How do you manage getting enough sleep and working on your business as a stay-at-home parent?