To Nap or Not to Nap...That is the question. Thoughts from a new mom!
If you’re a new parent, you probably hear this all the time: ‘Sleep when the baby sleeps.’ It’s easy advice to give and seems like it would be easy enough to follow. But over the past 6 months, I have come to despise that saying, no matter if it’s coming from my loving father, an expert mom of four, my wise old grandma or a stranger trying to help. For me, it hasn’t been easy to nap during the day. I knew sleep would be a precious commodity once our baby was born, but I didn’t realize how real and how frustrating it would be. Don’t get me wrong… I certainly try! There are some days when the stars align and I too get to nap with our little one, but more often than not, sleeping while the baby sleeps just doesn’t happen.
People say to forget about chores - let the laundry pile up, let the dishes sit there, yadda yadda. Just sleep if the baby is asleep they say! Wait. Seriously? What kind of sane person can live like that – piles of dirty clothes and dishes and trash everywhere? It’s just not realistic. So when my precious girl falls asleep, I find myself literally running around the house trying to do everything. Running. Like a mad woman. Sure, it’s all part of being a mom but we had to find a way to make it a bit easier. Especially when we hit a sleep regression and started teething at the same time. Holy exhaustion.
Okay so here’s what we’ve done to try and simplify the everyday chores during this season of life so we have less to do and more time to sleep, hopefully.
Do the opposite – DO NOT let the laundry pile up for days. It results in massive, multiple loads. Then you have to find time to switch it to the dryer, fold it, sort it and put it away. It’s so much more manageable to do small loads throughout the week. (I personally think sorting while folding saves a lot of time and makes putting away much faster.) Additionally, I now leave a few hampers scattered around the house. – in our master bath, nursery, bonus room and near the laundry room. I couldn’t always (didn’t want to) make a trip up to our bathroom every time I had an article of dirty clothes. And I was so annoyed seeing little piles of dirty burp cloths and onesies and milk-stained shirts in every room. So now no matter where I am, there is a hamper not too far away to toss it in. Less piles = more sanity.
Use paper goods! Everyone knows that nursing a baby all day means you’re also (hopefully!) eating all day, too. I was going through so many dishes but had a hard time loading and unloading the dishwasher. (Bending down to that bottom rack with a sleeping baby in your carrier is not the easiest.) Then after we finally managed to eat dinner, neither of us had the energy or time to clean up, so every morning we’d wake up to a stinky kitchen! So we started using paper plates, cups and bowls. And yes, we created more trash and it isn’t very eco-friendly but it’s a short-term deal. And we’re saving water by doing less dishes!
Ask for help. This has been hard for me and my husband – we like to do things for ourselves. But we finally caved and now invite my parents over for ‘chore list night’ about once a month. It helps to get a bunch of projects knocked out so that during the day, if I do get the chance to nap, I don’t feel like I have a million things to do. And it helps free up weekend time for my husband to focus on quality family time instead of busting his tushie around the house. I even asked a trusty neighbor to come over and hold the baby one day while I folded tons of laundry (hence where I learned my lesson.) But – you can’t be afraid to ask for the help! No one will think less of you and if they do then they’re just jealous.
Use a grocery service. I used to love strolling the aisles and looking up recipes mid-trip, but now its ‘how fast can we get in and out?’ Shipt is a company that delivers them to your door and Kroger (select locations) just started offering Click List – you just go online, build your shopping cart, select a pickup time, and literally the groceries are in your car in 5 minutes! [If you do still enjoy grocery shopping, there is a super cool product out called the Binxy Baby Hammock - it alleviates the need for a stroller, car seat and baby carrier! And still leaves tons of room in your cart! It can even hold the cart seat if your babe is asleep.
Likewise, my father, who is full of life hacks, finally convinced us to start simplifying our food purchases for the time being. It was a tough selling point for me but it really has helped. So now instead of buying tons of produce to make smoothies and juices with, we buy premade containers of it at Whole Foods or Publix. It’s less time consuming and less wasteful. Other things we buy that save time in the kitchen include pre-chopped onions, garlic in a jar, frozen organic veggies, lunch-box sized snack packs, pre-cut fruit, and steam bag veggies to name a few. One day we’ll have time to cook like we used to but we had to realize that the most important, immediate need right now is the baby.
Accept that the house isn’t going to be tidy. This is my husband’s biggest pet peeve and I totally agree. (If it doesn’t bother you, bless you.) Blankets thrown across the couch. Pillows a mess. Play mats in every room. Drink coasters scattered. Bed unmade. You get the idea. (Our family sounds like slobs but really parenthood just knocked the wind out of us.) And while these all seem fairly insignificant, and don’t take long to reset or fix, combined they make you feel out of control. So we finally just said ‘Ok, for the next chunk of time, let’s just acknowledge that our house isn’t going to be the way we like it.’ And after we both literally said it out loud, it’s been easier to face. We now only tidy up little things at the end of the day, instead of five times during the day.
As a follow up to #5… Stop hosting company/inviting people over. Oh my goodness – when you have a baby everyone and their mother wants to come over for a visit. Yes, it’s nice to talk to another human during the day and we received so many delicious meals but you have to clean up when people come by! (At least that’s what our parents taught us.) You have to give them the illusion that you’ve got your $!*# together. Simple solution – don’t host dinner parties, don’t host book club, don’t have the dudes over to watch a game, don’t even say ‘let’s all meet here before we go.’ Plus, more people means more germs. Nope, not in my house.
This last tip is totally unrelated to the ones above. One of the biggest struggles I’ve had with being able to lay down and rest while my daughter naps is the fact that it’s hard to turn my brain off. Even when I’m sleep deprived and all I can think about is a nice snooze. I’ve laid next to my snoring baby countless times and just can’t fall asleep. Then I get so frustrated. Then I get up and start doing something ‘productive.’ If you face the same ‘busy brain’ challenge, here’s my advice: Before I even attempt to physically lay down – is say to myself, ‘Okay is today a chore day or is today a quiet day.’ If I decide ‘chore day,’ then after a little while I knock stuff out. But if I decide the latter, then I’m giving myself permission to just lay there – sleep or no sleep – and relax. Maybe I can’t sleep and I scroll through Pinterest. Or I write in my journal. I even soaked my feet in Epsom salt one day. But the trick is to know going into it that even if I can’t fall asleep, I’m going to do something self-care related. All mamas need some self-care, too, and this is typically the time I find to squeeze it in. It makes me feel rejuvenated and proud for being able to take care of two humans at once.
Best of luck if you’re suffering from any sort of sleep deprivation – we’re in this together!
P.S. – bless you if you have two or more kiddos that don’t nap at the same time. I realize this entire post revolves around the struggle of ONE baby.