You Are Still A Great Mother Even If Your Baby Doesn't Sleep Through The Night
You are sitting down at the end of a busy work day, feet up with a glass of wine in your hand. You feel happy and proud because you know today was a success. Your manager praised your work. A client wrote a glowing testimonial and your colleagues have given you a pat on the back. It feels good to know you have done a great job. Fast forward to that first year of motherhood. There is no manager there to encourage you along, to offer you training or to juggle your workload around. You are unsure how your performance is measured in this new role and your confidence has never been lower. One thing is clear -- you do not want anyone else to think you are not coping. You want others to think you are finding motherhood a breeze. Just like those moms on social media.
When people ask you how you are your response is automatically “I’m great” or “yeah we are doing just fine”. Yet on the inside, your feelings are so often the opposite. The transition from work to motherhood is arguably one of the most difficult changes in a woman's lifetime. The women who struggle the most with this transition are often those who have extremely high standards for their own work performance, and those who thrive on structure and routine. Having a baby means that those standards and routines go out the window. Often you have no idea what the standard even is or how you are going to create new routines that work.
Having spent the past 14 years in Human Resources, I have a key understanding of how to developing capability within the work force, develop job descriptions. and key performance metrics. I have run performance appraisals and performance improvement plans. When I became a mom it was a huge shock when I suddenly did not know how my performance was measured, even though I knew deep down that motherhood was not like any other role. I got so much satisfaction and fulfilment when I succeeded in my professional role, but this new role did not give me the same feelings. I constantly worried that I was a failure compared to the other moms I knew. They say that comparison is the thief of joy and I can absolutely relate to this.
The problem is that there is suddenly a whole new array of performance measures that are constantly talked about at coffee groups and online forums. Milestones such as when your baby first smiles or when they first roll over. How well your breastfeeding is going or how much milk you are able to pump. How quickly you fit into your pre-baby jeans.
And the most common measure: Whether your baby sleeps through the night.
When did whether your baby sleeps through the night become one of the most important measures of success for a new mom? I lost count of the number of times I was asked “how well does she sleep?” or “how is she napping in the day?” or “does she sleep through the night yet?” Each time I felt like a failure. Because no my baby was not sleeping through the night. Far from it.
So many new moms (or second or third time moms) end up obsessively focusing on their babies sleep. Beating themselves up when they have feel like they have failed to get them to nap or sleep through the night. Feeling like a failure sitting at coffee group listening to stories of babies who sleep 11 hours straight. This can be so detrimental to a mothers mental health and confidence. Pressure to “perform” coupled with sleep deprivation is a worrying mixture. So let's set some new performance measures for moms, that have nothing to do with how much weight you have lost or how much sleep your baby is getting. Here are a few lovely ideas to start with.
Today did you comfort your child when they cried?
Today did you show your child love and affection?
Today did you keep your child safe and warm?
Today did you take steps to look after yourself as well as your child?
If you can answer yes to these four questions at the end of the day then you are doing a wonderful job. Focusing on what matters is a great way to shift your perspective on your ability as a mother. Let's also focus on these topics at coffee groups. Let's start having conversations about self care and making sure our fellow moms are doing okay. Let's start asking how moms are coping with their own tiredness before we compare nap schedules. Instead of our conversations focusing around comparisons lets focus them around kindness and compassion. Let's build each other up instead of dragging each other down. If that means talking about ourselves and how we are feeling, instead of it all being about our babies, then maybe that’s a great start.
No-one goes into motherhood knowing all the answers. Every single woman doubts herself as a mother at some point. Perhaps having real conversations about the issues that matter is a vital step in looking after each other. If comparison is deemed to be the thief of joy, then going easy on yourself and trusting your instincts will hopefully bring back it back.
Hannah Hardy-Jones is a mother of two from Christchurch New Zealand. She is an experienced Human Resources professional and the Founder of The Kite Program, the world's first personal development app for mothers, which helps moms to look after themselves.