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.
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?
The birthing experience is intense. Women’s recovery should be treated with the same level of sacred respect as the baby itself. By everyone, most importantly the mother herself 🙂 And yes, visitors and partners too. It’s not other people’s fault though, people come from a place of genuine love, support and happiness, and lack of knowing how you are feeling, because every mama is different.
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. I was so worried about this when I was pregnant.
What I did not 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 our first night at home with our little nocturnal bat, and definitely the second night at home after seeing me walk straight 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…first time parent mistake!)
Many, many mums I either coach or chat with deal with a nasty little presence in their lives which I think is born in sleep deprivation. Resentment. It is a sneaky, lurking, gnawing creature that is a mix of anger, and disappointment, and a sense of – if I am being totally honest – 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. There are mannnny situations we will be in during maternity leave that may produce resentment. Particularly towards our partner. And the thing is, it’s not our partners’ fault.
Resentment is purely self-created. It is the disappointment we are feeling over not getting something we expected, combined with the jealousy that the other person has what we so badly want / need / expect.
Today I want to offer you some coaching. One of the most useful (but difficult) skills to 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 and really wanted to share it.
Read on for a way to make requests that will get you a “YES”
I’m going to take my #1 cause of resentment during my 1st maternity leave and break it down.
SWEETIE, I REALLY NEED TO SLEEP.
(I WISH CAPS + BOLD CONVEYED THE DESPERATION 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. I request from a place of fear. That I am not going to get sleep that day. That my mental health is going to crash. And I am desparate.
There are several things that need to happen in a request:
1.) (You) need to be present and asking with intention, and not coming from a bad place (like fear.)
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. Have your energy be neutral. Nobody can negotiate or request effectively from an emotionally charged place.
2.) (Your Partner) needs to be present too. 100% focus.
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 may think it is easier to ask when they are distracted with something they enjoy, but it’s not… That’s a myth we have taken on.
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. What do you need to feel like your need is met?
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” (angry whisper that terrifies husband who answers in a somewhat noncommital ‘sure.’)
“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.” (bam super effective request that engages husband and gets a solid ‘yes’ and concerned nod of understanding.)
We need to provide the details and outline what a sleep means to us. Our definition of sleep is a fucked up one on mat leave. It’s “I desparate need the recovery I haven’t gotten yet, so at least 4 hours unbroken without the baby around.” Meanwhile, my partners’ definition of sleep may be a quick cat nap while the baby is crying somewhere in the house.
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 the person we are talking to, knows what we mean.
But is that a fair assumption for us to make?
Have they had the chance to reach a desparate level of desire for alone time or sleep? 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 and provide a bit of context to your current state.
Here’s a great analogy a coach once shared with me: 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. Set the context and clarify what you define your need to be.
I am giving you in this article the permission, the encouragement and the AUTHORITY to request what you need with power, clarity and context.
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 honouring your request helped you and them. You must be sincere and display that we did something with the gift we were given. They need to see that by following through on your request, everyone has benefitted.
After every sleep I go up and give my partner a huge hug 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.