The single most common piece of new parenting advice that I read or received while pregnant was “sleep while the baby sleeps.” So often did I read or hear this piece of advice that I actually took it to heart. Both Dawn and I agreed that even though we were truly not nappers — in fact, we both cringed at the thought of sleeping during the day (!) — we were going to listen to those who forged that path of parenthood before us and sleep while the baby slept.
So often did I read or hear this piece of advice that once the baby arrived, I felt this intense pressure to sleep while the baby slept. But you know what? I didn’t want to sleep. Sure I was tired, but mostly I worried a lot that I’d hit a brick wall at some point if I didn’t heed this obviously important “rule” of new parenthood. But ultimately I felt the best thing for me was if I got up and accomplished something while the baby slept.
I truly the love the idea behind the old “the dishes can wait” adage, and there is an extent to which that is true. Sure — I didn’t get to many items on my to do list today in order to comfort nurse or spend some extra cuddle time with Levi — those things will still be there tomorrow waiting for me. However, waiting dishes grow mold. Waiting dishes accumulate hard, crusty food that is difficult to wash off. Waiting dishes smell up a kitchen. None of these are things I can live with. I remember a story from my birthing class that a new mother told about just letting the dishes pile up while she, her husband, and her newborn laid around cuddling, napping, and falling in love. That is a lovely story. And obviously a good story for her. It made her happy. She was busy falling in love. For me, this doesn’t sound appealing at all. I like all the things clean. That is what makes me happy. Baby cuddles and family time in bed also make me happy, but I don’t think the two are or should be mutually exclusive. So for me, baby sleep time is getting things done time.
I use the dishes example somewhat metaphorically. For me, my pre-motherhood identity was made up of accomplishing many things in a day. For better or worse, I couldn’t completely let that go when I became a new mom. Meaning that I was happier, more sane, and more put together feeling if I did something (anything) while the baby slept rather than catching up on sleep myself.