Today, we have a guest post from Gervase Kolmos, a Certified Life coach and the founder of Shiny.Happy.Human. As we approach Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be a good idea to share some tips for how to manage sleep deprivation AND your relationship with your spouse at the same time. Be sure to read all the way to bottom to find out how you could win one of Gervase’s Rise and Shine Coaching sessions.
During our first days home with our newborn daughter, my husband and I weren’t really as exhausted as we anticipated. Terrified, anxious and enamored? Yes, yes and yes. But one thing we knew we were going to do right was sleep when the baby slept, just as we’d been instructed (over and over and over). I remember that first day, after placing the sleeping baby in her bassinet around 4pm for the first of many naps, my husband had drawn the curtains and turned out the lights. (No need for me to change because I had slipped into pajamas upon entering the house.) We “went to bed” with our little one and woke for a few hours around 8 pm and just repeated this cycle for a few days. It was Twilight-ish, but I remember thinking (quite pleased) how well-rested and in love with my little family I felt.
My husband and I languished in that surreal stage of parenting for those first few days. And then, he went back to work, and I had an abrupt realization: Adopting the sleeping cycles of a newborn was an unsustainable and unrealistic long-term solution.
Soon after, my warm fuzzies gave way to impatience, resentment towards my husband, and yes, exhaustion. “If I could just have 5 straight hours of sleep,” I started to think. Or, “if [my husband] would just offer to breastfeed at 2AM for once, I might get some shut-eye.” I’m kidding. But, seriously, sleep-deprivation does some crazy things to your brain, and it’s not uncommon to start resenting your other half for things he can or (in this case) cannot do.
Here are some tips to help you manage, assuage and, in some cases, even eliminate the negative effects sleep deprivation can have on your relationship:
- Preemptively Discuss: Lack of communication between couples is so often the source of unmet expectations. If you don’t know where your partner stands on taking the midnight baby shift, then that is probably a good place to start a discussion. Have the conversation about what you each expect your days and nights during those first 6 months to look like. That way, if you are on different pages, you can correct that ASAP. (As in, if he or she is NOT onboard with helping with midnight shifts, you can swiftly explain why they need to be.)
- Lean on Each Other: As mothers we tend to do the whole Mother Teresa thing and take all the parenting responsibilities on our shoulders because a) our husbands won’t do it right, b) we do it better than our husbands, or c) our husbands won’t do it right. Marriage is a partnership that is best maximized when you LEAN on each other. When you are stretching yourself too thin and the effects of exhaustion are really spilling over into your marriage, this is the time to lean on into your other half. Put him in charge while you take a nap, go out with girl friends or hit your yoga mat. He already feels helpless if you’re breastfeeding and/or doing the bulk of the parenting, and he is looking to you for his parenting cue. Give it to him. It will boost his confidence and practice and give you a much-needed break.
- Look at Each Other: This may sound crazy, but when you have a newborn, you literally spend HOURS staring at your new bundle of joy and no one else. (It’s weird. I know.) I remember when our little one was weeks old and I was having a rare moment alone with my husband. He leaned his face in to give me a kiss and I screamed, “Your face is huge!” This is hilarious, and also really quite sad. It had been weeks since I’d really looked at the love of my life with the same attention and affection I was lavishing on our newborn. Try to make even a few minutes each day to look at and really see your partner. It’s okay if he’s taken a backseat to the baby during this time, but don’t forget the (very normal) size of his face. Yes, you can go to sleep immediately following this exercise.
- Take Turns Sleeping In: When you’re awoken at 2AM, it’s acceptable to feel tired and groggy, but what about when you’re woken again at 6AM, and it’s time for you to start the day? Personally, I would rather wake up at 2AM and sleep til 8AM (if we’re getting wild). This is why my hubs and I started taking turns religiously on weekend mornings when our daughter was young. What was the point of both of us waking exhausted at 6AM, when one of us could just as easily do it and the other could feel the long-forgotten bliss of sleeping til the sun was up? If it’s your turn to wake with the babe, make it count. Let your partner sleep til 10 if they need to. Because guess what? It’s your turn tomorrow! YAYYYYY!!!
- Tapping Out: This particular technique developed when my hubs and I were in the throes of exhaustion. On those days when you are sleeping standing up and so deadbeat tired that you want to bawl your eyes out—tap out. Tapping out is an unspoken rule that gives you full permission to take a nap with zero guilt tripping, explaining or consequences when you wake. It should be reserved for very extreme emergencies and it is definitely reciprocal. It implies “it’s your turn next,” and also “I love you. I’m sorry. Thank you.” You will see positive effects of this free pass on your relationship, your parenting and your energy levels. The gratitude I feel for my husband when he “allows” me (because he has no choice, because like I said this is an unwritten rule) to tap out on a rough day, fuels my happy marriage and motherhood for far longer than another sleepless night.
What relationship tips do you have for how to survive sleep deprivation?
Gervase is a Certified Life Coach and the founder of Shiny. Happy. Human. She gets fired up about empowering new moms and newlyweds to boldly design THEIR happy. She is an excellent secret keeper and a professional cat-napper and believes her relationships are her best assets. Say Hi to her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!
Gervase is giving away a Rise & Shine Coaching Session to one Baby Sleep Site reader. The Rise and Shine Coaching Session is for you if you’re feeling called to RISE to a particular challenge—whether personal or professional—and lacking the luster (i.e. motivation & accountability) to get it done. We’ll polish you off and send you shining on your way with this one-time 75-minute session, designed to help you make progress in an area of your life that is requiring a wake-up call. (Value $90) Enter below for your chance to win! Accepting entries today through 11:59 pm ET, February 16,2015. Open to entrants worldwide.