This Is Why Moms Don't Sleep

by Mary Katherine
Originally Published: 

It starts at 7 a.m.

The baby cries, my feet hit the floor, and my very first thought is “Oh, man, I didn’t get enough sleep. Again.”

I rub my eyes, check the clock, and yep, a grand total of five hours last night.

This sucks, but I can’t complain. That’s par for the course these days, and most of it is my own dang fault. I have a few gray hairs; I know better than staying up past midnight, playing on Facebook, and binge-watching my favorite show. And yet, here we are.

I yawn like a lion, instantly regretting that last episode of Outlander. Time to hop on the Struggle Bus, where visions of sleep will play through my head like elevator music for the next eight hours.

Go go gadget, Big Girl Panties.

I start a pot of coffee, pack up lunches, and the day is now barreling forward like a freight train. At this point, I’m not sure if I’m on the train or standing in front of it. But here’s hoping that some caffeine will help a little.

My kids are in fine form: tugging my clothes, dropping bacon all over the floor, and arguing over whether we should turn on Moana or Sing. I want to pull my hair out already, but instead I smile and pull those Big Girl Britches up a bit higher.

I can’t take my exhaustion out on them. It’s not their fault I stayed out past curfew with Jamie Fraser.

In this moment, I swear to myself (again) that this is the night I will go to bed early. This will be the night that I close Facebook, close my eyes, and fix the last four years of sleep deprivation. I need my rest. My kids need me to be rested.

I mean, as someone who looks forward to bedtime literally all day, you’d think when the opportunity presented itself, I’d take it. You’d think that when the kids were finally quiet, I’d drag my tired body into that squishy bed, turn off my phone, and go the hell to sleep.

You’d think, right?

Well, you’d be wrong.

I don’t know what’s up with me. Who the heck lives this way? What kind of human being fantasizes about sleep like a long-lost lover, only to reject it harder than a pre-coffee phone call from the mother-in-law?

*Mamas everywhere raise their hands*

Mamas know.

We know that when the kids are in bed and the lights go out, that’s when a magical second wind finds us. Bedtime is when our brains start firing on all cylinders. That’s when our bodies energize, and the midnight oil begins to burn. Sure, we joke and complain about how tired we are. But most of us own the fact that, even when sleep is an option, we take a hard pass.

Because nighttime is our time, baby!

The house is quiet, Mama Llama is all alone, and the world is her oyster. So, we choose to stay up a little too late. We watch just one more episode than we probably should. Why? Because mamas want to think grown-up thoughts and enjoy grown-up things, without the blessed little interrupters who need apple juice, or butts wiped, or help putting on a tiny shoe.

We need sleep. But we also need alone time. And really, there aren’t enough hours in the day for both.

Perhaps it’s hard to understand, but there are two voices inside every mama’s brain: one that desperately cries for her blankie, a back rub (and just a back rub…), and a nap. The other who laughs like Regina George, rolls her eyes, and yells “Sleep is never going to happen. Stop trying to make sleep happen!”

We are all exhausted. But that exhaustion is physical, mental, and emotional. And sleep only solves one of those problems, doesn’t it? Parents need to emotionally recharge, so we stay up late and take a quiet moment of consciousness for ourselves. We have to mentally unwind. So we grab those peaceful waking moments whenever we can. For most of us, that means we will be up after bedtime — for however long that takes.

Yes, I’ve been thinking about sleep literally all day today. But come bedtime, I’m probably gonna stay awake. Again.

Why? Because I’m a freaking mom. I’m allowed to be perpetually sleep-deprived and choose to remain that way. I’m allowed to simultaneously be exhausted and still love my exhausting, chaotic life. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

Mombies everywhere raise their venti latte up and say “Amen.”

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