WE all know women are tired, so why are we surprised when they need a break?
When moms do an average of 98 hours of work a week, or the equivalent of 2.5 jobs, it is no wonder we are tired. But are we getting rest? No. Of all the new parents with kids aged 0-6 months, only 5 percent are able to get a full 8 hours of sleep. And nearly half are only able to 1-3 hours of sleep that is undisturbed! Ug!
And while modern heterosexual couples do share more equitable responsibilities of taking care of newborns at night, the overall emotional baggage and day to day tasks that come along with children are being completed by moms.
Traditionally our society has not been structured as it is currently: living apart from one another, handling all matters of emotional and physical needs for our children without help. We are folk who have survived because of our development of small clans and villages. Support, neighbors, family, and other nursing women around us to help nurture and yes, feed, our children. There is a reason there are "mama tribes" all over the internet. A tribe was a way to succeed in getting a small human to adulthood. The desire is still there for closeness and community.
More and more families are starting to get help for care at night by bringing in a postpartum doula, night nanny, or newborn care specialist during their child's first year. But for long term success - one recurring topic keeps getting beat home: Mom's need to take care of themselves.
Self care. Healthy boundaries. Rest.
Women on average need 20 minute more sleep than men because of our natural multi-tasking behavior.
Just let that sink in - for you heteronormative folks, that's already a deficit if we are going to bed and waking up with our significant other.
Moms are also taking more responsibility on by earning income (ie: Having a job). There are entire sites for inspiration on how to make money as a stay at home mom.
And let's not forget the article that made it's way around the internet opening up dialogue about the emotional work women do which is seemingly inescapable and exhausting. This work especially seems to be the silent resentment builder, and a reality that many men cannot seem to truly understand. (Author of that Harper's Baazar article has a book set to release this fall called Fed UP.)
Here is a brief yet accurate list of times women have claimed to get a "break" from their responsibilities:
With all this, it is no wonder more and more women are starting to take solo vacations, or vacations with their friends, and not their families. For many, they simply cannot separate from the responsibilities and mental work load that gets spent when around their most loved family members. And then...does the family vacation actually give you what you need? Many say no.
When women are not responsible for the needs of their children, a part of their brain that is always running, like open tabs on your computer, gets to rest. Her brain gets to reboot. She gets to breathe.
We know rest is essential for good mental health. We know every person, children and adults, need the same 6 things to thrive, one of them being autonomy. But getting that is hard once you become a parent. The adage that parents sacrifice for their children will always be true in more ways than can be imagined, but losing our entire selves is not a service to our children.
There can be smaller events that can become a part of a mom's self-care regime. But more studies are showing mom's need a break from Mom-ing. Going on vacation from your children seems an act of revolt when really it is an act of necessity. Mothers, we need to take care of ourselves because no one else is going to do it.
Consider a rest or a retreat. Retreat and start again another day.
Ariel Swift (she/her) does most of the writing around this blog, but we love having guest writers and visits!