One of the things that terrifies me most about possibly becoming a mother one day is my intense love affair with sleep. I am not a doctor, midwife, or labor doula because I simply cannot imagine happiness in a life that includes fewer than eight consecutive hours of sleep per night. In fact, I had to take a break from writing this post just so I could take a nap.
It's in my genes, too. My mother is an Olympic Napper, or would be if they ever opened the event. After large meals we frequently take spontaneous family floor naps.
You probably have your own weakness, too. Perhaps yours also stands between you and your idea of the "perfect mother" like your maniacal obsession with clean countertops, your propensity for jet-setting, or your insistence on watching the Late, Late, Late Show. I have good news for you: so long as your weakness doesn't involve ritual sacrifice, you're very likely going to be a great mother. Especially if you know what that weakness is.
Steps to Being a Great Mother Even with a Weakness:
1. Identify your weakness(es). Determine which areas of your life appear to be inconsistent with motherhood and you're not willing to compromise. There should be one or two, or possibly three. More than three and you'll need to whittle your list.
2. Articulate ways others can help you (in writing). In my case, I would need people who are willing to come to my house to supervise mama nap time. I might also need someone to spend the night periodically/routinely to share the duties of night feedings. If you need someone who will help you learn how to travel with a newborn, or possibly babysit for a weekend now and again, it's good to know that now.
2.5. If your request sounds silly in writing like "someone must come to my house at 11:35 each night so that I can stay abreast of all of the celebrity antics," maybe sit with it for a week before you proceed to the next step. But if it will make all the difference in your life, perhaps sit down with someone neutral to have a conversation about your needs. Maybe there are solutions others can think of. If you decide it is still essential, proceed along.
3. Recruit your village. Are there people in your life who would be interested in helping in the ways you've outlined above? Now is a great time to ask them to get a sense of how much help you can get by cashing in favors. For instance, I have some friends who would likely do the nap thing, but maybe not so many who would do the overnight thing. Do you have friends who will clean your counters or help you stay caught up on the LLL Show even if it is now waaay past your bedtime?
4. Hire some village people. Maybe you think you want cute baby clothes or high-tech surveillance equipment, but in my case, neither of those things will help me much. A postpartum doula might willingly work with me to spend a night every week for six weeks for a not too unreasonable rate. Consider hiring a cleaning person to do an expert job once a week rather than cashing in every last favor for the sake of clean countertops.
Heed any inkling you have that something might stand between you and a mentally healthy postpartum period and address it now, preemptively rather than six weeks into misery.
I'm one of those people who loves making your life easier (and I believe in you). I am an experienced registered prenatal yoga teacher and a lactation educator.
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