Thoughts on Sleep from a Tired Mom

I both hate and love sleep. I crave more of it but wish I did not need as much. It is elusive, like a mirage that I can never grasp. Not enough sleep turns me into the jabberwocky, as my husband can attest to. No matter how much I bribe and plead with the Sandman, he does not listen. I’m left waking in the morning trying to pull myself together after a night of broken sleep.

Coffee and strong black tea serve as a band-aid for my sleep deprived state. After nearly two years, I no longer remember what a full night of sleep feels like. “Sleeping in” is a phrase that has gotten dusty in my vocabulary, sounding very foreign if it slips off my tongue in conversation. Staying up late means in bed by eleven, worrying about how the extra sleep I’ve lost will come back to haunt me in the morning.

In my group of close-knit mom friends, we have a rule about sleep. We can complain about it, but we listen without judgement. Unless asked for, no one is to offer advice. Nobody says, “You should do this…” Because we understand that sleep is its own beast.

Sleep is a beast.

Do not cross a mom who is lacking sleep. “How do I manage that?” you may ask. Here are some tips:

  • Do not ask if her child is sleeping through the night. What does that even mean? This is a particularly silly question if the child is an infant. Small children are not adults, thus they do not sleep like adults. Yes, there are those magical children who sleep ten uninterrupted hours, but chances are the mom you’re talking to does not have one of those.
  • Do not give unsolicited advice. We tired moms have read the conflicting literature and the thing is, every child is different. What works for one kid isn’t going to work for every single one. Chances are we have already tried your sage wisdom before. Giving unsolicited advice can make you come off as self-righteous. Just don’t.
  • Do not brag about how well your child sleeps. I had a friend who had another mom comment on how tired my friend’s child looked. My friend said, “He hasn’t been sleeping well.” The other mom replied, “Oh, my daughter sleeps great. Actually, she has been a great sleeper since she was born.” This is probably one of the quickest ways to get on a mom’s shit list.

One of the best things I have heard is this: How a child sleeps does not correlate to parenting. Meaning, if your child is a good sleeper that doesn’t mean it’s due to good parenting. On the same token, if your child is a bad sleeper that doesn’t mean it’s due to bad parenting. Children all have their own temperaments that they are born with, and that includes a temperament when it comes to sleep. So please do not feel like a failure if your friend’s child is a champion sleeper and yours thinks sleep is for chumps.

To all of you tired parents out there, I raise a hand in solidarity and say these famous, utterly frustrating but true words: This too shall pass.

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