Sleep is a vital part of our lives. When we don’t get enough, we often end up with short tempers, and poor cognitive function. Parents don’t need to add that stress to their already hectic days. Yet I can’t avoid waking when my daughters make even the tiniest sound in the night.
In my relationship, I have always awakened easily to the cries of my children. My husband sleeps through most of the night calls – and has since I used to wake him when the girls were babies and toddlers.
I spent a lot of time searching for articles about the whys. Why do I wake easier than my husband now that we’re parents? Any why is it still this way when I’m years past breastfeeding, and night waking?
This article on Motherly explores the brain changes of a new mother, and how it relates specifically to females, but it does not take into account why we can still hear everything in the wee hours of the night when we should be dead to the world.
My search revealed that no one is talking about this. About the changes in the brain that allow for the “ease” of waking up when you hear the tiniest sound that belongs to your child, long after the baby and toddler years are gone.
An opening door, a sneeze in their sleep, the smallest rustle different from the normal night noises. These wake me instantly, and fully, so I am ready to deal with whatever cause or concern woke up my child.
Of course it’s a holdover from those early parenting years, but my girls no longer need me to jump up from a dead sleep instantaneously. Can I “fix” my brain so I can get a full night of sleep, regardless of whether my girls are dreaming, or coughing, or getting up to go pee?
My spouse does not hear these sounds.
Often, he doesn’t know I’ve gotten out of bed to deal with the children and is surprised when I tell him in the morning. Other times he awakens enough, when I return to bed, to ask if things are okay. He’s not concerned (or awake) enough to have a proper conversation about it.
Is this a feature of growing these children in my womb? Does that rewire my brain specifically to hear the sounds coming from their movements? Or did breastfeeding connect me in a deeper way to my daughters?
National Geographic explores maternal instinct and brain chemistry in an interesting article. They found the same chemical changes happen in both male and female brains – the male brain just takes longer to get there. Read the article here. (They do ask for your email to continue reading – I gave them mine because National Geographic often has interesting articles to read.)
It could simply be learned behaviour, and the lack of me forcing my husband to get out of bed and deal with the girls in the early years. They almost always wanted to nurse in the night, so I got up. Why bother his sleep when he’s going to have to get me up anyway?
I’ve since learned this is the wrong way to approach this. Yes, he was getting up for work when we had babies but you know what? So was I. Just because my work was in the home, caring for our tiny, needy babies, doesn’t put any less value on it. (Unless you count the ability to pay for our home and food, of course.)
Am I working toward changing this dynamic?
No, I’m not. My girls are growing so fast that I have started to cherish these middle-of-the-night sounds. And my husband isn’t going to miraculously learn to awaken to these noises that I have allowed him to ignore for the last decade. I’ve “made my bed” so to speak, and I don’t hate getting up in the night. Especially now that my need to interact with them is much less frequent. Some weeks even go by without me having to get up at all!
Comforting my daughters makes me happy, even if they don’t remember it in the morning. My maternal instinct is strong, my mental state is directly connect to my girls’, and the wakings are much less frequent than they used to be.
Even if I could train my husband to wake up more easily, I would still lay awake wondering what was wrong, and being unhappy with whatever he tells me the problem was. I might as well get up myself.
Where are you in your parenting journey? Do you share the “night waking” duties? Or do you cherish the middle-of-the-night moments with your children?
Honestly, I don’t hate getting up in the night when my kids need me. As my girls continue to grow, I find myself appreciating the times they seek out my comfort. Though the odd time I would like my husband to get out of bed too.