The Catch-22 Of Motherhood: Why Don’t You Sleep When the Baby Sleeps?

I recently had a chat with a friend about motherhood and the profound, earth shattering, and indescribable lack of sleep that had accompanied the joy and delight of bringing a small human into the world. He asked me the classic question that often comes in the form of well-meaning advice from doctors, the childless, and perhaps those who have revised sense of history of what it was like to have small children:

“Why don’t you sleep when the baby sleeps?”

Ethan not asleep

It seems so obvious, right? The kiddo takes 2-3 40 minute to 2 hour naps each day.  If I’m so tired, why wouldn’t I just take naps when he sleeps?

It has something to do with this a strong desire to feel like a human being, not just a mom.  As Ethan’s primary carer (sidenote: I would love to find an alternative term to stay-at-home mom, but this one is too clinical. Any suggestions? Homemaker? Domestic Engineer?) I spend the vast majority of my day either entertaining him, or feeling guilty for not entertaining him while cleaning, taking care of the chickens or garden, or performing any other task that is required during his waking hours. (sidenote 2: mommy guilt. It’s real and it’s brutal, at least for me.) When he’s asleep, the last thing I want to do is take a nap myself, as it’s the only time I have to write, read, or simply be by myself. 

Ethan sleeping

Especially considering I am working very hard on putting my phone and computer away when he is awake, this is the time to feel connected to the outside world and engaged with life outside the farm.  However, this is problematic as when I am exhausted, it’s doubly difficult not to zone out and scroll through instagram when he’s feeding, or even be able to enjoy playing with him and seeing the world through his remarkable, fresh eyes.

A friend recently asked me if I miss using my brain. While this stung (I feel like my brain is put to good use raising a baby, as well as taking care of my family, as well as starting a small business, but thanks so much for asking!) I do know that more sleep would absolutely help the fuzziness that surrounds my every day interactions. However, right now, even with the fuzziness, connecting to others and my personal pursuits is worth the sacrifice.