Director Jewels: A Letter to the Mom Whose Kids Don't Sleep

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Letter to the Mom Whose Kids Don't Sleep

Hey, mama. Yes, you - wearing those pajamas coated in spit-up from last week, trying to peel the contact lenses from your burning eyes (because, yeah, you left them in all night), and wondering what on earth you will feed your starving kids for breakfast.

I didn't get any sleep last night either. My kids tag-teamed the whole night and I woke up to one of them climbing on our bed with an explosive, leaky diaper. The other sat up from where she had been curled in my arm and and projectile vomited all over me. I don't know about you, but these are not the moments I dreamed about when I saw a plus sign on a pregnancy test almost four years ago.

Nobody warned me that when they said "you'll never sleep again," they meant your body and soul will be so weary that you will not comprehend how you can make it through the next ten minutes, much less the next ten years. There is precious little anyone can do to help out a mama whose little ones don't understand, value, or even seem to require a reasonable amount of sleep.* One of my children does not sleep unless she is lying in my arms at night. It's not an exaggeration. On a good night, she stays asleep in her bed for twenty minutes - which in mom time is long enough to pee, take off your bra (if you were wearing one to begin with), and throw another load of laundry into the dryer.

When your child doesn't sleep, the work piles up so high you feel like you will never dig your way out. Your house may never feel clean again. But....it's okay.

When your child cries for you after ten minutes of uneasy rest, it's okay that you want to cry too and just bury your head in a pillow. It's okay that you sometimes (often) feel more frustrated than loving.

When people tell you that you "just need to let that baby cry," it's okay to ignore their (probably) well-meaning advice. Sleep training doesn't work for every family and that's fine. The moms who have successfully taught their kids to sleep have my absolute respect and I wish my kids would take a hint, but just because it worked for them doesn't mean it will work for me. And? That's okay.

People tell me that eventually my children will decide that they need sleep. I'm often warned about how "I'll never get them up" when they are teenagers. And honestly? I look forward to that time. I think I'll be fine with them sleeping past 6am more often than twice a year. But that doesn't mean I am wishing away this time, right now.

Because when they are teenagers - and shortly thereafter, grown and gone - they won't ask me to rock them to sleep.

They won't have to sleepily dig their fingers in my belly button and giggle as they push my skin until it feels like it's touching my spine, just to feel secure enough to drift off to dreams.

They won't crawl into my bed in the middle of the night and whisper "I love you, mommy." They won't need me. Twenty-four-hour-around-the-clock-always-alert care will be a thing of the past. A memory. And it's incredibly likely that I will cry just as many tears over missing those tiny warm bodies snuggled up close to me, where they feel safest in the world, as I do over all the times that they wake up too soon and disturb the sweet silent peace of my nights.

So, bring on the hazy mornings and the ever-weary nights. I suppose that someday will be here sooner than I realize, and I'll look back with a smile and tell some excited young pregnant first-time mom "say goodbye to sleep!" And she will have no idea where she's headed.

But she will find out soon enough. And like me, once her baby is grown, she won't remember the complete aching, tear-filled exhaustion - at least, not completely.

She'll end up in the same place as a mama like me. And I'll be busy recalling little arms wrapped around my neck and sweaty little maple-syrup scented fingers entwined in my hair and little voices that stole their way into my heart in the middle of all of these sleepless, sleepless nights.

I will wish with all my heart to hear, just once more, the little thump of somebody crawling out of bed and heading down the hall to find me in the dead of night. My eyes may be less heavy, but the weight will have transferred to my heart.

So bring on another night of less than enough rest with an extra side of snuggles. Sleep is overrated** anyway, right?


*reasonable, here defined as at least 4 hours of solid sleep with no waking, whimpering, coughing, and/or playing.

**this is a lie and we all know it - but if it makes us feel better, it's worth it.

30 comments:

  1. LOL - I have a 3 year old and I am still exhausted, but then I realize how grateful I should be in comparison to when he was a newborn. Sleep has a whole new meaning in my life ever since I had a child.

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    1. You really do get a completely new perspective on sleep when kids come along!

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  2. After 8 years I'm still dog tired. If only the knew!

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  3. LOL my oldest is 15.5 years old and I'm still trying to get sleep being her mom. But practices, games, parades, events yeah I never do.

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  4. LOL I PROMISE it gets better. Mine are 7 and 14 - they sleep more than I do now hahahaha

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  5. Don't hate me but all three of mine are great sleepers!

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    1. Jennifer, I only hate you a little bit. :) I can't imagine what I would do with great sleeping kids!

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  6. Love this post! And even moms with babies who sleep have disastrous homes, just to make you feel a little bit better. I have no excuse for my ten loads of laundry waiting to be folded from last week!

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  7. After having 4 kids in five years I have totally decided sleep is overrated!

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    1. Hugs, mama! Your nights are definitely crazier than mine!

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  8. I agree that although it can be hard, it's so important to cherish this time. My little ones are growing too fast.

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    1. Yep, that's why I'm trying to cherish! Even when it's 3am. :)

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  9. I had two babies that slept and then a third that loved to be up with me. It is hard. It is so hard when working full time but we made it and now I am thankfully that they are all in bed as I type this!

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    1. I'm kind of in survival mode for now - I know we'll make it, but it seems like it will take forever right now.

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  10. Totally overrated! :-) It drives my husband crazy sometimes but I always let my son come and snuggle with us when he wakes up.

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    1. My poor husband is squished all the time by our kids!

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  11. I guess I'm lucky because all three of my kiddos have been great sleepers. With that said, you are so right about cherishing the time with them when they are little. The time goes by way too quickly!

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    1. Definitely jealous of your sleeping kids! Haha!

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  12. In the blink of an eye, they're so independent. I totally hear you on this.

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    1. I know once we hit that independence, I'll miss the neediness. At least - I think I will.

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  13. I vaguely remember those days and I was one cranky mama. God must have taken pity on me because when our third baby arrived, she slept through the night from day one. She's 5 now and still an amazing sleeper.

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    1. Whoa, what an amazing baby. My third kid had better be like that! LOL!

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  14. I remember those nights too and I wish I would have had your attitude. For five years I was a walking zombie.

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    1. Zombie very definitely describes how I feel a good portion of the time these days!

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  15. I'm so glad sleep training worked for my kiddos. I love sleep! The days are long but the years are short.

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