To Sleep, Perchance to Clean

By Sonja Fitz Special to the Planet
Tuesday April 04, 2006

“Sleep when the baby sleeps” 

This is perhaps the most basic, most oft repeated, most bogus piece of advice I received in the never-ending, well intentioned (largely unsolicited) tsunami of advice that swept over me during my pregnancy last year. My first son was born the day before Christmas and I’ve had two months to try and heed their advice, to no avail. 

Ostensibly, catching 40 (or at least five or six) winks whenever the baby naps will keep the blurry-eyed, mildly delusional crankiness of newborn-induced sleep deprivation at bay. 

Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it? 

Unfortunately, a handful of catnaps cannot take the place of a deep and luxurious full night’s sleep, and in fact, for someone operating on 2-3 hours sleep a night, a tiny interrupted daytime doze is like a sadistic amuse bouche—a gourmet canape offered to, then snatched from the grasp of, a starving man. 

Besides which, how can I think of sleep when there are half a dozen undone chores waiting, and now—(ssh... ssh... his eyes are drooping ... one last flail of teensy arms ... and he’s asleep!)—suddenly there’s a ten minute to two hour window to get things done. Clear the decks! Batten down the hatches! Take no prisoners! I will clean every last dish before he wakes!  

Admittedly, forgoing sleep to sort mail or tidy the living room is partly the product of a personality tinged with mild-to-moderate OCD, but in my defense, the pervasive encouragement to let the laundry and dishes pile up is kind-hearted but unrealistic. 

My little bundle of bodily functions goes through a third of his stash of outfits, blankets, and burp cloths every day, and if they aren’t laundered at a jaunty pace, he’ll have to go naked as a jaybird and I’ll be forced to wipe his spit-up with a souvenir tea towel, the only hygienic scrap of fabric in the house. 

Alas, sleep is second—or third—priority for now. I’d rather have clean undies. 

And then there’s the big taboo for new moms—wanting to keep other interests alive, interests that preceded my new addition by, oh, three-plus decades or so? Prior to getting pregnant, I visited a parenting chat room online and vented my concern that, post-baby, I wouldn’t have time for any of the hobbies that have meant so much to me for years. One of the moms promptly told me that if I was worried about my hobbies, I wasn’t ready to be a mom. 


Okay, my bad—“hobbies” was definitely the wrong word. What I’d meant was, those soul-fulfilling, self-defining passions that have infused my existence with joy, pleasure, challenges, and learning my whole life. Yes, I know (personally, now!) that parenthood gives you that soul-food a thousandfold, but I’d rather not eat the same food at every meal, whether it’s a meal for my stomach, or my brain and heart.  

So while caring for my perfect little snuggle bunny mini-me and hanging on his every sound, gesture, and expression happily occupy the bulk of my days (and nights—oi!), when he naps, I’ll be damned if I’m going to lie down and close my eyes. If the laundry and dishes are done, I can actually crack open a book! Or draw a little, do some yoga, blog-surf, or write this little ditty, for whatever it’s worth. 

Sleep shmeep. Sleep is for suckers. I’ll sleep when the baby starts pre-school.  

Er, kindergarden?