Do You Care for Yourself?

Sleep Tracking tells me why I’m a terrible parent….

The feature I feel most strongly about on my Fitbit is the sleep tracker. I got my fitbit while I was pregnant with my third child and was morbidly interested to see if I slept less while uncomfortably pregnant or with a newborn. However, I quickly grew dissatisfied because it would tell me I had been “restless” for thirty seconds when I actually got up and nursed the baby and was awake for twenty minutes. It claimed I got about 6–7hrs of sleep, a respectable amount and an insanely amazing amount for having a newborn.

Then I recently discovered the “sensitive” setting — THE RESULTS SHOCKED ME (see #3). Now I’m not sure this 100% accurate either but it claims I routinely get <5hrs of sleep. It says that last night I spent a very responsible 7.5 hrs in bed but only got 4 hrs of sleep (very understandable to me — I went to bed around 10:30, nursed at 1:30, went back to bed, brought baby into bed with me around 4:30, got up around 6). So now that I am recognizing my sleep something else is coming into focus.

So, sometimes I share pics of laundry piles or less than healthy meals or my kids looking a hot mess on facebook and those are funny, and it’s a light attempt to show I’m not a perfect mom. But I’ve never posted a video of myself screaming “JUST. GET. IN. THE. CAR.” and my son’s face falling into tears. For obvious reasons, because those are the raw parenting moments we (at least I) am deeply ashamed of and appalled by, whether I do it twice in one day or go weeks without *really* raising my voice. I LOVE my kids. It doesn’t stop me from having moments of shitty parenting that I know aren’t helpful, where I lose control of my emotions while expecting my kids to keep theirs together.

Sleep deprivation is REAL!!! It actually takes my emotional equilibrium down to their level — maybe lower than my oldest. A week of sleep debt will reduce your ability to regulate emotions by 91%. It will significantly negatively impact your cognitive skills and you experience a 90% loss in problem solving (This is from John Medina’s EXCELLENT book, Brain Rules for Baby— for real citations and science, read it). I’ve probably been sleep deprived for the last five years. Thanks to my kids, I parent at about 10% of my full mental capacity. I would be writing the next ‘Hamilton’ if I didn’t have kids (that’s a lie, I am tone deaf).

Why am I bringing this up in my blog on health and fitness? Because in all honesty, I can control what time I get in bed and what time I get out for the day, but I can’t control how much I sleep. I have a 4yo, 3yo, and 9m old. They wake up in the night and they wake up early in the morning. I can only control what I do with my waking time and I know I am a better parent if I am exercising and eating healthy food. Missing naps used to make me incredibly angry because I was so fatigued. Instead I have consistent energy. I used to use jolts of caffeine and sugar to get through my day resulting in blood sugar all over the map with lots of hangry lows. I can control what I eat (mostly). I can control whether or not I exercise (mostly). And since I can, I really, really, should.

Sometimes moms view healthy eating and exercise as this impossible gold standard of the super mom. Please, please, please let me tell you it’s not. It is caring for yourself, it’s helping you stay sane, it is LOVING YOURSELF in a way you actually have control over. Can you control whether your kids eat broccoli? No. Can you make sure you eat vegetables? Yes.

Moms and Dads of the world — do this for yourself. And if you can get more sleep than me, do that too!

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