When you’re a mother, your life becomes about other people; or at least, you lose the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. You’re on call all the time, even if you work out of the home. This can be demanding, so mums often crave time for themselves (alone, child-free, or demand-free; even if you feel guilty for taking this time).
One way this often occurs is that when the baby or children go to bed, mums can wind up staying up late at night just to have this alone time; it can feel so precious! Alone time is much-needed, of course. The consequence of staying up late, however, is that you end up tired or sleep deprived. This then means you’re more likely to have a short fuse and feel stressed during the day. (Which can also create guilt if you have a short fuse with your family). However, when you feel stressed, tired, or irritable, you’re more likely to need even more alone time to unwind and decompress. See the vicious cycle?
We’re talking about two competing needs: the need for sleep and the need to have some alone or demand-free time. And all too often, it’s sleep that is de-prioritised, at a significant cost.
So what can you do to balance both needs?
1. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing; you can alternate between honouring both sleep and alone time. The easiest way to do this is by alternating nights. As in, every second night, you meet your emotional need for alone time. And every other night, you go to bed early to take care of your body and mind. This way, it’s more balanced, and you can disrupt the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation.
2. Reconsider your alone time and what you do with it. If you’re mindlessly scrolling or watching TV, does this fill your cup up? (Often not, which is why hours can be spent on it, at the expense of sleep). If you spend time doing something that enriches you and doing it mindfully(or at least just the one thing, at the one time), this is far more helpful. If this is watching an enjoyable TV show, then pour all of your attention into this, and cut out the second screen. If it’s reading a book, cut out the distractions, e.g., put your phone away or turn the alerts off. (Whilst I’ve used the examples of reading or enjoyable shows here, your enjoyable or enriching activities may be something completely different to this- so work to your strengths). Mindfully engaging with your leisure will make it more fulfilling, which means you’ll need less time on these activities to recharge emotionally – which then means an earlier bedtime!
Of course, there are other possibilities to address these competing needs, such as taking time for you when your partner is home with baby/children. Experience, however, has taught me that other options often raise other problems… such as mum guilt. If you have other ways to take to balance your needs, though- go for it!