My parents have said the first time my older-by-two-years sister stayed the night away from them was the night I was born.
I … did not wait that long.
I had no set date for when I would allow my son, my first baby, to stay the night away from us. I figured it would be awhile, maybe a couple years, like my parents.
The night he was born I insisted on having him in the room with me because that was what I thought I was supposed to do. It made no difference that I hadn’t had any sleep the night before, as I was writhing around in pain and, you know, laboring. No, I was a mom now, which meant sacrifice and, basically, torture.
So of course my new little bundle of joy was a screamer. He wanted to be held and refused to sleep in his basinet beside me. I was terrified to fall asleep holding him because of all the horror stories of suffocation and dropping and whatnot. And so I attempted to stay awake, upright, holding a newborn.
I think I gave up at 3 a.m. and rang for the nurse. She took him away and I was blissfully slumbering for at least a couple hours until she brought him back to eat.
That was my first guilt-inducing decision as a mother.
But still, after that, through the months of no sleep, I didn’t ask for the help I needed. It’s hard to admit you need a break from your children because so many people, even, unfortunately, other mothers, are quick to judge you as lacking in the parental skills department. But there it is.
I need a break from my children.
I need a break from the constant neediness, the behind wiping, the feeding, the cleaning up after, the arguing with, all of it. All of it.
But as a new parent, I felt guilty. And as I said, I didn’t ask for help until Sebastian was almost 1 year old. He stayed with my mother overnight, and was fine. Everything was fine. He was happy to see me when I picked him up but enjoyed his spoiling. And my husband and I were able to focus on ourselves for just a little bit. We were able to reconnect and talk about something other than dirty diapers and tooth development.
By the time my daughter was born I was an old pro. She was sent to the nursery the first night she was born so I could attempt to sleep. And I think she was around 3 months old when I asked my mom to watch her overnight.
I wanted and needed a break.
That’s totally OK, no matter what anyone else says. And while I might not approve of my husband’s idea of sending the kids off to grandparents every other weekend, I might consider every third week.
Being a mother is hard. Being a parent is hard. Let’s not make it any harder on ourselves than it has to be.
If you have someone or something available to make life easier, then take advantage.
And please, please don’t feel guilty.
*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on October 26, 2011.