Work Life Balance

Mothers Should Just Not Sleep To Balance Career And Family

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So this just in for mothers looking to have a career while also raising babies: Don’t sleep so much! Instead of hitting the sack for eight hours of rest and asking your partner to contribute a little more around the house, cut your Zzzs in half and pursue the career of your dreams! So says Jamie Rich in her piece on The New York Times parenting blog “Motherlode,” detailing her experiences working the graveyard shift as a journalist while also mothering her young daughter.

The family relocated from Virginia to London following the author’s husband job change. Rich writes that she wanted to keep working regardless of the move and considered working nights after reflecting on her routine schedule:

At first I had balked at an opportunity to work at a London newspaper from 7 p.m. until 3 a.m. and questioned how I would juggle such an unusual schedule. I realized, however, that I spent most nights on my laptop long after my husband and daughter had gone to bed, and getting home at 3:30 a.m.

Rich goes on to describe her own initiation into the “sophisticated subculture of mothers” who work professionally all night, sleep three to four hours, and then parent all day:

From writers and photographers, to entrepreneurs and even full-time moms, these women range in their professions and the severity of their work hours. They all, however, find balance by turning bedtime into go-time.

Rich recalls mornings at her home dressing her four-year-old with blood shot eyes while “muscle[ing]” through breakfast. She is relieved though while walking her daughter to school to know that many other mothers are working a similar schedule, as 20 percent of Americans are sleeping less than six hours a night. However, another Sleep in America poll reveals that the average woman in America (age 30 to 60) is only sleeping a mere 40 minutes more than that a night.

“No one needs me while they’re sleeping,” writes Rich when deciding to use her sleep time for work time — an observation that can carry a lot of weight for a mother of a small child. However, what’s most disconcerting about Rich’s piece is how she willingly trades much needed rest as a mother for a feeling of self-worth:

The sense of worth I gain from working after hours outweighs a few bags under my eyes. Women with full-time office jobs are reaching the same conclusion and getting busy after dark.

Many working women with children are indeed not sleeping, and the cost to their health and happiness is proving to be insurmountable. It was revealed a couple of years ago that women are more likely to suffer from depression than men. One of the primary documented reasons was work overload.

While Rich does admit to working nights only part-time, the piece alludes to many women who adhere to this schedule full-time — and are proud to do so. Placing women in a position where they must choose between self-worth and fundamental needs is exceedingly anti-woman, especially in the wake of motherhood. And although Rich has admittedly chosen this schedule for herself, the reality is that there are many women who don’t have luxury of making that choice and must work the graveyard shift simply to make ends meet for their families.

Touting the “bedtime as go-time” logic perpetuates the harmful myth that all women are superwoman and ignores that women have needs — the same needs as everyone else as a matter of fact — such as healthful meals, exercise, and a full night’s rest to be good parents and efficient employees. Bragging about how well you can prepare breakfast and dress your child on four hours of sleep does very little to change workplace policy to meet the needs of modern families — which is the conversation contemporary parents should be having.