I do this too. All the time. I complain sometimes about not having enough time or money to care for myself the way I’d like to, but it’s because I’m spending all my energy on my kids. But a few weeks ago I learned this very important lesson the hard way. And I can tell you, it was brutal.
My teen, on top of having school issues, has messed up his sleep schedule in a massive way. It’s like he wants to be nocturnal. I know that can be typical too, but with more than a month of non-attendance, he had managed to keep a schedule of sleeping till 2 pm and gaming till 2 or even 5 am. And after making some changes to the school situation, and some added therapy, the importance of making a change became abundantly clear. Now, we live in tight quarters with family, so it’s not as simple as me just putting my foot down. This fight with him over sleep is one that I can't just choose to have. It’s a power struggle that can put everyone’s sanity in jeopardy. Not something I’m willing to do.
So I made the decision to gradually help him adjust, by staying up with him to get him to go to bed earlier and earlier each night till we could at least get him on a noon to midnight schedule. And I mapped it all out, and planned it for a time when his grandmother (whom we live with) would be out of town. The problem of course is that I have a 6 yr old who only sleeps 9 or 10 hrs and wakes before dawn almost every day. This was kind of doomed to fail, but I felt like I had to sacrifice my sleep in order to help my teen be successful in sleeping more human hours.
Boy was I wrong. I had been getting good sleep every night for months, (well almost every night) and hadn’t realized how important that had become to my functioning. After 5 nights of this, it became an emergency. I was so tired and cranky by then, it would take me another 2 weeks to recover. I realized that my sleep schedule was the one thing I couldn’t sacrifice. I can’t be a successful, mindful parent, if I don’t have enough sleep. I have no patience, my temper is shorter, I’m quick to react emotionally. None of those are good things.
As parents, we should not feel the need to be martyrs, but somehow we do feel that way. We sacrifice money, time, sleep, food, friends, everything for our little humans. STOP right now. You don’t have to sacrifice everything. You can make compromises, and adjust when things go wrong. What is your number 1 thing that keeps you sane? Is it sleep like me? Or having time to connect with adults? Or having a glass of wine every now and then? Go find that one thing. Start small. Take it back. Self care doesn’t have to take a lot of time, or money, and it doesn’t have to interfere with your parent responsibilities. It should be the thing you do to be a better parent, to be a better person.