Why read this? I teach you how to ask for what you need with power and confidence. I teach you how to avoid the slippery slope of resentment during your maternity leave.
Reading time: 5 minutes
I went into labour with my firstborn at 11pm. After a long hard labour, she was born at 6pm the next evening. That night, I was with her in my hospital room, EXHAUSTED and overwhelmed (my husband couldn’t stay overnight.) I was so hooped on fatigue and so busy with visitors the next day, I stayed a second night and again, not an ounce of sleep. Until a kindly nurse offered to take her to the nursery at 3am so I could get four hours.
72 hours without sleep fucks anybody up. AND labour AND giving birth?
One of my great passion buttons is this. The birthing experience is intense. Women’s recovery should be treated with the same level of sacred respect as the baby itself. By everyone. Visitors. Partners. Medical staff.
I came home wrecked with exhaustion, overcome with emotion and spent the first 3 months in a haze. If there is one thing I know, my mental health starts and ends with sleep. It’s a biggie.
What I did not do, or even have at the time was the power and confidence to ask for what I needed. Things like: No visitors, at least 2 days of rest, and support during the nights. Luckily my husband volunteered after seeing what the night was like with our little nocturnal bat, our first night at home and seeing me walk into the door of a local shoppers drug mart (after discharge from hospital we drove around to get set up with a breast pump rental…dumb dumb.)
Many, many mums I either coach or chat with deal with a nasty little presence in their lives. Resentment is this lurking, gnawing creature that is a mix of anger, and disappointment, and a sense of injustice.
I think this is one of the greatest enemies of women and one of the most important things we have to work on during maternity leave. Remember, I wrote about treating your mental health as a project. There are mannnny situations we will be in during maternity leave that may produce resentment. Particularly towards our partner. It’s not our partners’ fault.
Resentment is purely self-created. It is the disappointment we are not getting something we need, combined with jealousy that the other person is.
Today I want to offer you some coaching. One of the most important skills you must master on maternity leave is how to make requests with power and confidence. You need to step into your strength and self-respect and clearly outline what you need.
We haven’t been taught how to make powerful requests, so when I was trained in speech acts during my professional coaching, my mind was blown. I had never thought about things this way.
Read on for a way to make requests that will get you a “YES”
I’m going to take my #1 need / cause of resentment during my 1st maternity leave and break it down.
SWEETIE, I REALLY NEED TO SLEEP.
(I WISH CAPS + BOLD CONVEYED THE DESPARATION IN THIS SENTENCE.)
When we make a request, we are asking for our future to unfold in a different way. When I make this request, I am afraid that I am not going to get sleep that day, and I need to get it somehow.
There are several things that need to happen in a request:
1.) (You) need to be present and asking with intention.
You can’t be avoiding eye contact or looking at your phone or cooking. You need to put everything down. Make eye contact. Touch their arm.
2.) (Your Partner) needs to be present too. 100% focus.
You gain your partners’ attention by preceding this with “sweetie, I need your attention for a second here, do you mind just stopping what you are doing.” Don’t let them do something else, or eat, or fiddle physically with something. We think it is easier to ask when they are distracted with something they enjoy, right? That’s a myth we have taken on.
Think about when you usually need something. What are the ways that in a normal “ask,” both of you are not present/committed?
3.) To make a damn clear and effective request we have to clearly outline what we need using the background context of what led to this need, and what a condition of satisfaction would be.
When we make a request there is an invisible background. When I say “I need sleep” there is this movie loop of a screaming baby, my eyes rolling back into my head as I fall asleep rocking, the quiet desparation of lying on the couch, the bolts of terror with every snuffle once the baby wakes up. There’s some intense shit behind a request when you are on mat leave, because we often wait until we’re about to go bonkers.
“Sweetie I need sleep” RRROOOOAAAARRRR
“Sweetie, I am physically, mentally and emotionally shattered after 6 hours sleep in three days. I’m starting to make big mistakes in my driving, in my daily activities that concern me. I need to get some sleep in so that I can get a better grip on my emotions and get through tonight’s shift with the baby. I need you to go out for a bit with the baby so I can fall asleep for at least 30 minutes without waking to their sounds.”
We need to provide the details and outline what a sleep means to us. Because our definition of sleep is a fucked up one on mat leave. It’s anything we can get = super appreciated. Meanwhile, my partners’ definition of sleep is probably 3-4 hours.
Why don’t we provide details when we make requests. Why don’t we outline what “AAAARGH I JUST NEED TO BE ON MY OWN!” means?
-We always assume they know what we mean.
But is that a fair assumption? Have they had the chance to reach a level of desire for alone time? Have they been alone in the house all day with a baby clinging to their bodies? No. It is hard for your partner to imagine, so you must outline clearly.
When you ask a waiter for water – you mean tap water. The waiter has a different background of knowledge. Water could mean carbonated, non carbonated, tap or mineral. You have to be clear and never assume they know what you mean.
Or my own case, my partner probably had no idea how fucked up I was on 72 hours of no sleep because he hasn’t experienced that.
I am giving you in this article the permission, the encouragement and the AUTHORITY to request what you need with power.
4.) Think about what emotional place you make your request from.
If you walk into the room, anger crackling off of your body, or tears building behind the eyes, it instantly puts you in a disempowered situation. The receiver is going to instantly go on the defense, or be uncomfortable. The asker is going to compromise their request because emotion may take over.
Reset yourself. Walk into the request from a feeling of power and confidence and self respect. Not anger and resentment. It takes the wind out of your sales. Not only in your voice and the way you word things, but also in your physical presence, the vibe you are giving off and your posture. Nobody got what they wanted by asking from a defeated, curled up position.
I love this quote by the Chalmers Brothers “The right conversation in the wrong mood is the wrong conversation.”
5.) Follow up. In order to help our partners support us better and take our requests seriously, we must express gratitude, explain to them how their honouring your request helped you and them. You must be sincere and display that we did something with the gift we were given.
After every sleep I go up and give my partner a huge huge and explain a few ways I’ll be better able to cope. 🙂
Please take this article and deconstruct a request you need to make. Or perhaps, the requests you make that have led to no follow through and have created a situation of resentment toward your partner.