A text from a new mom this past week led me to a simple but truthful epiphany.
This mother was trying to get her young ones to sleep, and in the midst of training them to be on a schedule, they all came down with a cold. Now there were two wee ones with no schedule, runny noses, coughs, exhausted and miserable with a momma who hadn’t slept in months who was in desperate need of a routine and sleep for all of them to recover.
And here she was struggling with letting them cry. Feeling like all the progress she had made in a routine was for nothing because now the children were sick. I could sense the downward spiral of “this-is-never-gonna-work-and-my-life-is-a-mess” sucking her in.
Been there. Done that.
Since she was struggling with whether to let the babies fuss at all in learning a routine because they were feeling under the weather, I assured her that the quickest and fastest route to recovery was to maintain that routine. Stay the course.
I explained it to her this way: ”Keep marching. Routine will make them better faster and get you more sleep sooner. It’s ok to put your needs first in parenting. Otherwise it becomes martyrdom and/or idolatry…neither of which are acceptable or healthy.”
Now, let me qualify this by saying…this is not your NEED to go get your nails done in the middle of the day or your NEED to go play tennis four days a week. Those are not the needs I am talking about. Not that tennis or manicures in and of themselves are evil, but they are low on the list of priorities. Sleep, however, ranks right up there with eating or breathing. Sleep deprivation is a dangerous, mentally scary, unhealthy place to live. By NEEDS I mean sleeping, eating healthy, showering (I’ll even add doing your hair and in my case copious amounts of makeup to that…), exercising, and getting some time alone. When we place our children’s tears consistently above our need for sleep, time and intimacy with our husbands, or a healthy physical shape, we are making a martyr out of ourselves (“see what a good mommy I am? I have gone three years without sleep and not even been able to exercise because of this child!”). Or worse, we make an idol out of the child, placing everything in our lives at their whim and desire. “I CAN’T sleep because junior won’t let me, I CAN’T get junior out of our bed because he will cry….” Meanwhile, the one person we covenanted with (our husbands) to love, honor, and cherish is left to play third fiddle in an off-sounding orchestra.
True, we can plan and cook our meals during nap-time, and we can exercise before they get up, with them in a jogger, during naps, or in the evening. But we can’t plan or count on any of these time slots if at first we do not establish some routine and priorities. We cannot even function without sleep!
So for all you mommas out there sleep deprived and scared of letting junior cry, let me again encourage you that a week or so of tears in learning a healthy routine is well worth your sanity and marriage. Keep marching. Because neither martyrdom or idolatry is a fun place to live.