Sleep. If you’re a parent, chances are you don’t get enough of it. I vaguely remember hearing about this phenomena in my pre-childbearing years and wondering what the big deal was? I had pulled all-nighters, stayed out at bars until 4 am and could not comprehend why losing sleep suddenly after having a baby meant that functioning as a human being could be nearly impossible.
If you’re reading this and thinking “EXACTLY! Why have all of my friends who have kids turned into such pansies?” Here’s your answer: From the time of conception to the moment your kids graduate from college (and likely even beyond that) you will NEVER get enough sleep. It’s for different reasons at different stages, but the lack of sleep remains a constant in your life regardless the reason. When you’re pregnant, you’ll be uncomfortable and have to go to the bathroom ever other hour (if you’re the spouse, you’ll be interrupted by your partner being uncomfortable and getting up to use the bathroom every other hour). With an infant, this is easy to understand, they don’t sleep and have to eat constantly, so you’re up then too. Then, once they do start sleeping they’ll decide that 5 am is a perfectly reasonable time to wake up every morning. When they’re a little older, they will never want to go to sleep at all, and then by the time they are teenagers you’ll be up waiting for them to come home late at night. By this time, you are conditioned by the previous 15 years to wake up at 5 o’clock and so you’re exhausted even though it’s a struggle to get the kids up before noon. Then they move out of the house and you spend the rest of your nights worrying about the choices that they’re making without you. And, unlike the days of yesteryear, there is no such thing as a weekend or a day off to catch up on sleep, NEVER. Parenthood.
My children are suddenly and simultaneously at the stage of fighting sleep at all costs. The more tired they are, they bigger fight they put up. This seems counter intuitive, but I’ve learned that children are, by nature, not reasonable people. Bedtime has now turned into an almost 2 hour litany of story-telling, song-singing, drink-fetching, cuddle-giving, potty-going, lovey-searching and general complaining. Our oldest looks like he’s preparing for a cataclysmic natural disaster with every item that he would want to take with him to a storm shelter at any given moment. This includes 5 blankets, 3 stuffed animals, his 2 favorite Hot Wheels, and whatever baseball cap he’s favoring that day. We’ve put an end to him sleeping with coins, and the cars are about to go as well since he will wake up screaming in the middle of the night if he can’t find one of them.
If this sounds nothing like your life, please, enjoy your sleep, it’s precious. However, while I would surely enjoy being able to roll over past 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning, I wouldn’t trade a single second of parenthood for it. Even when I’m exhausted and they refuse to go to bed, I take a deep breath, hold them and try with all of my energy to soak in every bit of that moment. I try and feel their smallness, knowing that they are getting bigger every day. I memorize the sound of their voice calling “Mommy” with the foresight that someday I will become “Mom” or, god forbid “Katie” to them. I know that there will be a day not so far in the future when I would give anything (even my full night’s sleep) to have those moments back.
For all of my fellow parent/zombies out there, know that you aren’t alone. Find your sleep where you can, take breaks when you absolutely have to and caffeinate yourself regularly. That’s the best advice that I can give, good luck!