Since I was younger, I dreamed of starting a family of my own. I always said I wanted twin boys. As I entered my late 20s, my vision started shifting slightly. Did I want kids at all?
I was enjoying the freedom of being able to pick up and go without having to consider anyone else’s needs. But everything changed in 2014 when I learned that I was expecting my first child. A boy!
Let the Adventure Begin
I was overcome with joy, apprehension, uncertainty, but more than anything, an unexplainable love for a child I had yet to meet. I knew that motherhood would be an incredible adventure where I could pour my love into my child without any restrictions.
I knew I would make a great mother, but I did worry about how I would handle certain situations that challenged my highly sensitive person trait.
My first worry was how in the world would I get through nights where I barely got any sleep? Sleep is sacred to me! The first few months, I was waking every two hours to breastfeed my son.
The Reality Check
What people don’t tell you is that even though the baby needs to be fed every 2 hours, that doesn’t mean that the mother gets two hours in between to sleep. Nope! The reality is I was getting about forty-five minutes in between feedings if I was able to fall back asleep quickly. That wasn’t always the case, trust me.
Then people say, “Nap while the baby naps.” In theory, that makes the most sense, but life doesn’t always work out that way. Again, if my body would allow me to fall asleep, I’d do it.
But being a mother comes with so many other responsibilities that weigh on our minds: keep the house clean, do the laundry, have meals made and cooked, run errands, work out to reclaim our pre-baby bodies, make phone calls and answer emails/texts. The list goes on and on.
For some of us, we’re blessed with family and spouses that allow us to put some of these responsibilities on the back burner, but for others, this simply isn’t possible.
Baby First, Me Second
What I learned in these early months is, my baby came first. He was my priority. When he was awake, so was I. And often times, my son wouldn’t sleep well in his bassinet so he would fall asleep on my chest.
I loved the closeness, but it didn’t allow this mama to get the most restful sleep. But somehow, each day came and went and I was able to take care of my baby with relative ease.
Sleep is necessary for everyone, and for highly sensitive people, it’s CRUCIAL for us in restoring our energy. It’s also a way for us to quiet all the stimulation and sensory experiences we have throughout the day.
So, as I began writing this post, I asked myself, “What do I wish I knew going into parenthood as a highly sensitive person?” From my own parenting experience, here is a list of tips that I have found super helpful:
Tips for a Highly Sensitive Mother
- Sleep when you can. Sleep is so important for everyone, but for HSPs, we need to recharge more often than the average person. I agree that sleeping when the baby sleeps is wise advise. If that’s not possible, encourage your partner or family member to share the responsibility so you can catch some zzzs.
- Sleep train the baby: From day 1, my husband and I worked very hard to construct a consistent schedule for our son. Having routine and structure is a godsend. The baby knows what to expect and so do you! Trust me, it makes life sooooo much easier. My son is now 3 years old and we still operate on a tight schedule for everyone’s sanity.
- Enlist help. Try not to think of yourself as a burden to others if you’re asking for support and help. Most people jump at the chance to help others, so ASK for what you need. If you need more sleep, ask a friend to care for your baby for a few hours. If you simply need “quiet time”, ask your partner to take the baby out for a walk while you stay behind.
- Schedule quiet time: Having time to decompress is crucial for HSPs. Being “on” all day and night is exhausting! For me, taking a warm, slow shower was my heaven-spot. I haven’t always been good at making sure these opportunities happen, but I do think it’s something to be conscious about. If you schedule them with your partner or within your day, you’re more likely to actually take the time you need.
- Communicate your needs. I have learned over the years that people aren’t mind readers (too bad, I know). It’s important for us to communicate about how we are feeling, what we need, and how we want to get what we need.
- You might say, “I am feeling overwhelmed. I need an hour to step away from the baby and close my eyes without distraction.” BE SPECIFIC. Or you might say, “I just cannot think about making dinner tonight. Could you help me by cooking _____?” The more details you can give, the more likely your request will be carried out.
- Educate others about your personality. Educate your spouse, but also your child. As your child gets older, it’s important to help him/her understand his/her mommy.
- Recently, I have been explaining to my son that I’m a “quiet person”. I don’t enjoy talking or being talked to a lot. I prefer quiet time. He is at an age where he likes to talk and constantly be playing, but I can get easily irritated with all the stimulation. It’s okay to educate your child about different people’s needs. Claim your individuality!
- Don’t expect perfection. You will have PLENTY of days where things don’t go as planned, when you don’t mother as nicely as you’d like, or you don’t accomplish all that you set out to do in a day. My best advice is to go with the flow as best as you can. Forgive yourself and move on!
- Be a role model. There will be times when you lose your temper out of sheer frustration, exhaustion, or overstimulation. Mama, it’s okay! If you act out or do something you regret, get on your child’s level and apologize. Express that how you behaved was not nice and that you’re sorry. Then, ask for forgiveness. Teaching these emotional skills starts at home, so put your ego aside and make things right.
- Re-Evaluate from time to time. Not every HSP is cut out for full-time parenting. I happen to looooove being a stay-at-home mother even though it’s exhausting. I take great pride in being fully present in my baby’s life.
- However, there is NO shame in honoring yourself and recognizing that maybe having the baby around 24/7 just isn’t the best fit for you. Listen to your gut.
- If you need more time away to be the best parent you can be, consider other loving options. Maybe a family member or friend can watch the baby a few days each week for a few hours? The key is to be true to yourself so that you can be fully present with your child to offer all your love.
- Embrace your HSP qualities. You bring so much sensitivity, empathy, and curiosity to your child’s life. You can be a safe place for your child to cry, express worry and fear, etc.
- Because you feel the energy as if it’s your own, you are in a remarkable position to guide your child through the experience to the other side in a compassionate way. You’re also really great at anticipating and reading your child’s needs! You have amazing skills to pass down – embrace them and teach them!
- Discharge energy when you can. This goes back to taking time for self-care. There will be days when you’re absorbing your baby’s energy and it’s important to discharge energy that is not your own throughout the day. You could take a walk outside, meditate, use affirmations, journal, sage, or pray to release unwanted energy.
- Reclaim the energy you want in your body and move forward in your day. If you notice that you can’t seem to shake your mood, that’s a good sign that you’re holding onto energy that is blocked. Release it as soon as you can!
Know What is in Your Heart
The bottom line is, parenting is hard work for ANYONE. There is no one-size-fits-all method to making it work. There isn’t a how-to manual to follow. The truth is every situation, every family, and every highly sensitive mother is different.
While being a highly sensitive mother is super exhausting, it’s also incredibly rewarding. Don’t let being a highly sensitive person scare you away from having children, if that’s what your heart really wants. Know what your heart wants.
Just like me, you’ll figure it out as you go. And the truth is, I am still learning through every phase of my child’s development. The key is to love, love, love your child through your highest and lowest times. Love yourself, too. You have blessings to offer, so share those with your baby every day!
And remember, you’ve got this! Happy parenting, Mama.