I hate those annoying "Helpful Tips for New Moms" lists that say things like, "Sleep when your baby sleeps!" or "The dishes can wait!" or "Give yourself a break!" or "Make sure to take some 'Me Time' each day!"
Pardonnez the français here, but that is such a bunch of bull.
Sure, you've got to take care of yourself. You've got to cover the basics. Sure, you need sleep and you need to eat and you need to get help when you feel like you're going insane.
But, seriously, you can't sleep when your baby sleeps unless you a) are home - i.e. not driving a car while your baby sleeps in the car seat, b) are not working - because when my baby gets to sleep, I still have hours to put in at my job; this is not optional, c) only have one child - because when you've got a toddler to chase around all day long, you'll just be grateful if the baby falls asleep at all, or d) employ a full-time cook, maid, chauffeur and/or nanny. Honestly, sometimes the dishes really can't wait, like when your toddler needs to eat and there are no clean bowls left and you've started serving yogurt in shot glasses, or when you need to make dinner and all the pots and pans are piled in the sink and you're left wondering if you could cook ground beef in a waffle maker. And no, you can't always just "give yourself a break" and order a pizza because you're already broke and that would be irresponsible and likely to put you in an even worse place of exhaustion and self-loathing the next time you balance your checkbook.
And 'Me Time'? Uh, it doesn't exist. It could exist, I guess, if I was completely self-centered and wanted to say, "Yeah, Thom, I know you are working 10 hours a day to provide for our family, but the minute you get done with that, how about you take care of the kids? No, really, it's fun...it's not hard at all." [Run out the door.] I'm sorry, but the closest thing to 'Me Time' in this family is the shared-responsibility hours between 5 and 7pm where Mommy and Daddy both continue to work at getting the kids fed, bathed, and in bed, but are just happy they get to do it together. This is our break.
Those annoying lists also usually include things like "Don't forget to cultivate your relationship with your partner - go on a date night!" and "Regular exercise helps fatigue!" So which one is it? Go easy on myself or try to fit more things into my life that I wasn't even doing before I had a baby? Great. Now I feel guilty that I haven't taken the time to plan a romantic night out with my husband. Let me just add that to the list of things I'm not able to do, right after 'clean food off of carpet' and 'change underwear'. And how's this for exercise? I lift and carry two weights - one about 15 lbs, the other 25 lbs - all day long. Sometimes both at once, sometimes add 10 lbs for the car seat, sometimes more for however many bags I'm carrying at the same time, grocery or otherwise. Oh yeah, and sometimes the weights are kicking and screaming and doing their best to get away from me. That'll just have to be good enough because I'm not going to even pretend that 5am neighborhood jogs are an option.
While I do understand that there's a possibility to over-do it, it seems to me that most of the time we know our own limits, and no one else better expect any more than that. In fact, I think most of the stress of having young children is simply realizing our limitations; not because we refuse to limit ourselves, but that it is unavoidable. Every day holds up a big fat sign that says, "You can't. Now go to bed." Perhaps we need more reminders to just keep moving, instead of one more voice directing us to call it quits.
What I really think these lists should say is:
"Helpful Tips for New Moms"
1) Feel sorry for yourself.
2) Okay, are you done? Get over it.
3) You need to learn to live on less sleep than you used to get.
4) You are not going to get anything done or enjoy your life unless you w-o-r-k. Sorry, there's no getting around it.
5) Don't feel like you have enough time? Try cutting out the internet and television for starters. Then say no to things that you don't want to do...and I'm not talking about changing diapers. Then stop shopping.
6) Love your kids and love your time with your kids. Being unselfish with them is going to bring you much more joy than any time you "take" for yourself.
7) If someone offers to help, by all means, take them up on it!
8) And for heavens sake, sleep, eat, bathe when you can.
This post brought to you by some selfish and irresponsible 'Me Time'. What do you know? I feel better.