When you bring a new baby into a relationship, you and your partner take on different roles. Maybe you always did the cooking, and now he has to step up in the kitchen. You might have both brought home wages, and now he’s the sole income earner. It takes some time to get used to these new roles, but after a while, they become fairly concrete, and life goes on.
But when your partner goes back to work, your chief role becomes the full-time mum, and it falls to you to do the bulk part of parenting while he’s away for 8-10 hours a day. You stay home with your baby and try to run the house as well as take care of your little one’s every need and demand. Occasionally you attempt a shower and eating some food, as well. It’s a long, exhausting day, and usually, when your partner comes home, this offers some relief. A chance for you to hand the baby over and take a quick break, before settling in for your second shift of parenting: the night shift.
Because that falls down to you, right? Your partner has to work in the morning and needs his sleep, so it’s you that gets up all night for the baby.
I thought it was my job too
I used to be like you. Back then, I thought that as the mother, it needed to be me who got up all night with the baby. My role was to parent, his role was to go to work. After all, I had the boobs, baby wanted me, not dad, so it made sense that the night shift was my job. Besides, he needed to wake up fresh and ready for a day of work. And, you know, there was no point both of us being up all night.
No, the night-time parenting was my job, just like the day-time parenting.
You know what I think about all that now? What a load of rot.
Both of us were parents to our baby, which made getting up in the night for the baby both our jobs. Sure, the baby might need to be breastfed at night, which made that part my job, but all the other aspects of parenting throughout the night – the nappy changing, winding and settling back to sleep – that could be done by either of us.
And hang on a second – was my very long and tiring day with the baby not as valuable as his work role? Of course, it was! Being a mum is still a job, and while it would be ideal if hubby could go to work feeling fresh-faced and rested, that didn’t mean it was okay for me to sacrifice sleep, and operate like a zombie day in and day out.
Read more about sleep deprivation:
- What NOT to say to a sleep deprived mum – and four things you should!
- 9 sure signs you’re a sleep-deprived parent (in case you were in any doubt!)
- PROOF! New study says mums are WAY more sleep deprived than dads
You need to rest too!
‘But he needs his sleep, he has to work in the morning!’ is what I hear mums say all the time, but you know what? You need the sleep too! You also have to function all day, not only that but you’re responsible for keeping a little person alive and well during that time – if that’s not a job that’s worthy of a bit of sleep, I don’t know what is.
You can’t be a new mum and go day after day surviving on broken hours of sleep, because by the time your baby is two months old you will barely be functioning, not to mention putting yourself at risk of burnout, and even postnatal depression or anxiety. Plus, the tension and bickering that will no doubt start occurring between you and your partner will leave you both strung out and emotional, and that’s worse than both of you being a bit tired.
Your job as a mum is just as important as your partner’s job, and should be treated with the same respect– by both of you! This situation – of letting one partner get all the sleep and expecting the other to get up all night for the baby – needs to change, because I’m telling you, the imbalance gets worse as the children grow older.
The job of caring for children gets more complicated as they grow, and if you’ve somehow elected to be the chief caregiver, guess who’s going to be feeling the full weight of the mental load in a few years time? Yep, you. It’s a pattern that starts early and doesn’t change unless you and your partner decide to do things differently early on.
Parenting needs to be shared 50-50
You both brought this baby into the world, and while it’s your job to care for baby while your partner is at work, when the two of you are at home, it should be both of you doing the parenting, even if it is overnight – and even if one of you does have to go to work in the morning! Although it will need to be you doing the overnight breastfeeding, your partner can still help you with settling baby back to sleep, which means you can get back into bed earlier. Besides, dads tend to make amazing baby settlers, so there’s a good chance he’ll do such a good job of it that the two of you will be back in bed in no time.
Mums, your sleep is just as important as dad’s sleep is, no matter what sort of work he has to get up and do in the morning. If you’re suffering from sleep deprivation, come up with a plan to share the overnight load a little so you can stay afloat. Your relationship (and your baby!) will thank you for it.