7 tips for skipping the sleep competition with your partner

Today’s post is all about that awful (and often secret) competition we have with our partners once we have a baby to take care of. I call it: Who Sleeps More”.

 

You know what I mean.

 

I’m talking about the darkest part of ourselves that gets unleashed when we are thrown into a stressful situation. I’m talking about the competition you actually don’t want to win.

 

Remember when your biggest disagreements with your partner were about where to eat brunch, whose friends to see on a particular weekend, or how often to see the in-laws? 

 

You were the master of your own schedules. You went to the gym when you wanted, slept late when you needed, and parted ways to take care of yourselves and fill your individual needs.

 

And then came baby, and then came a pandemic (or the other way around.) And all of that free time dissipated into the air like steam off a pot of boiling water, slowly reducing to nothing but BURN. 

 

So what do you do? You go into survival mode. You do what needs to be done and hope your partner is doing the same. You try to get through the day without having a nervous breakdown or keeling over in exhaustion.

 

Having a baby during a pandemic (or anytime) is kind of like being thrown on a desert island with no food, no water, no way out, with a stranger you’ve never met before (that would be your partner). Oh, and you have to survive AND stay friends??

 

You are both so spent. Forget the island, you’re drowning. And when a precious sleep opportunity becomes available you inevitably ask – who needs it more?

 

It’s dangerous territory, that question, because what It’s really asking is – whose time is more important, or whose “work” is more important? And that scratches at the archaic roles that men and women used to have in society.

 

Despite the evolving we’ve all done it can still be so easy to slip into the roles of generations passed- mom minds the baby, dad makes the money.

 

After I had my first baby I remember waiting at home with the baby on my hip and the meal in the oven literally watching the door for my husband to come home.

 

I’m not just talking about women and men. The two mom or two dad families in my classes report that they have a similar dynamic  -there is a “mom” role, the one who spends more time with the baby, and there is the “dad” role, the one who spends more time at work and takes less ownership over the baby.

 

We’re smart enough to know now that whether you’re clocking in hours on conference calls or are spending your day trying to get your baby to nap, it’s EXHAUSTING. 

 

In fact, spending a full day with a baby is often a lot more taxing, physically strenuous and mind numbing than any other job. Not only that, your boss is RELENTLESS. They are demanding and refuse to give you breaks so you can eat lunch or shower. And forget about a raise. 

 

So what becomes of the sunny eggs benedict-eating duo?

 

The dreadful competition. Who does more? Who works harder? Who cleans more? Who soothes more? Who plays more? Who goes to the gym more? Who sees friends more?

And the mother of them all:

 

WHO DESERVES MORE SLEEP?

 

Once we’ve hit that point, there is no way back. There is no mistaking it. We are parents. We are in this. We will make mistakes. And we need to work TOGETHER.

 

So in the spirit of Valentine’s day, here are:

 

7 Tips for Skipping the Sleep Competition

 

1. Recognize that this is par for the course. We are the children of baby boomers who set the stage for equality of roles in a marital partnership. Now it is our job to figure it out. Paternal roles is one of the topics that comes up most in my classes. Most couples, if not all, deal with it in some way. So you’re not alone, and your marriage is not doomed. But there is some adjusting that needs to be done and it will take a little while to figure it out.

 

2. Divide and conquer. Some couples are able to have a silent agreement on who does what, but most need to lay it out clearly. For the tasks that repeat, like making lunch for the kids, cooking dinner, cleaning up dinner, straightening up the house, laundry or washing the bottles, DELEGATE ahead of time. It’s comforting to know that one of you owns the job. The other can take it off their list.

 

3. Communicate CLEARLY. The thing about the “who sleeps more” conversation is that it doesn’t communicate what we actually need and want. Instead of saying,  “I really need to take a nap right now, can you take over for an hour?” We say – “Are you going out for a run AGAIN?” and we hope our partner will understand the subtext. It won’t happen. They’re drowning too. So instead of letting the resentment build, state what you want and need. It may be granted, it may not. Either way, you were clear about it which will usually yield the best results.

 

4. Encourage INITIATIVE. The main complaint I hear in my classes is that one of the partners doesn’t take initiative with baby-caring tasks. Assuming you have the simple tasks divided, the next step is encouraging  initiative with positive feedback. But be sure to address the root of the action. Instead of saying “thank you for washing the dishes,” which never feels right because -of course the other should do the dishes too, Say -”thank you for noticing the dishes needed to be done and taking initiative to do it”. THAT’S the behavior you want to encourage. Give some props for that and it will be repeated.

 

5.  LISTEN. When your partner finishes their day exhausted  and wants to vent, try to find space to listen, even if you are exhausted  as well. Listening to each other without judgment will remind you that you are both drowning.

 

6. Get HELP. It isn’t easy, especially during a pandemic. Find someone who can relieve you. Even better, find someone who can relieve you both so you can hang out together.

 

7. REMEMBER that it won’t last forever. It’s easy to get so stuck in the daily grind or the diaper, rinse, repeat process that we forget the most important thing: this period will pass. You will not be fighting over sleep forever. And once you are both sleeping well, all of the other tasks will fall into place much more easily.

 

That’s it for today dear Tunie. I hope this brings you one step closer to celebrating Valentines Day with your partner. Hopefully your day will include a lot of sleep.

 

So how about you –  Do you have the “who deserves more sleep” compention with your partner? How do you handle it? Comment below and let us know!

 

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