Parents, Stop Waiting For Your Babies To Sleep Through The Night. I Haven't Slept In A Decade.

by Meredith Ethington
Originally Published: 
sleep-deprived parents
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I haven’t slept in 10 years.

Let me clarify: I’ve been a parent for 10 years. Therefore, I haven’t really slept in 10 years. Sure, I get a few consecutive hours here and there, but most of the time, I wake up looking like a swamp creature, or that octopus lady from the The Little Mermaid.

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If a woman needs her beauty sleep, then moms are screwed. At this point, I’d just settle for some sanity-restoring sleep, so I can remember to put my shirt on the right way when I head out to the store in a trance midday.

Why are we in a hurry for our kids to sleep through the night again? Remind me? I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, especially the ragged mom of a newborn who is just dying to sleep through the night just once, but really, kids ruin everything.

Well, most everything. They definitely ruin sleep.

My kids are 10, 8, and 5, and I still wake up surprised after the nights I actually don’t get disturbed by one of them. When you’re a parent, getting a good night’s sleep is about as rare as avoiding the stomach bug outbreak ravaging the tummies of all the second-graders in your kids’ school.

Here’s the thing though: I think I’ve ruined my own life by teaching my kids to call me when they need something instead of getting out of bed. And I’ve created little sleep-depriving monsters as a result.

My thinking was to avoid things like my kids saying, “I feel sick,” as they projectile vomit into my sleepy face, and to keep my bedroom more of an adult sanctuary than a place for my kids to come to seek refuge from an itchy elbow that woke them up in the middle of the night.

Don’t think we aren’t hopeful though. We always hope for sleep. We have noise machines, fans, and humidifiers in all of our bedrooms to keep from hearing each other in our little house. We sprinkle lavender around and calm ourselves before bed with stories, baths, songs, and prayers. There is lots and lots of hope — and lots and lots of shattered dreams of actually getting a good night’s sleep.

Without fail, I’m usually sleeping catnap style most nights. And I’m fed up. Because, frankly, I thought sleep would get better at this point in my parenting career.

Instead, it feels like I’m being tortured with sleep deprivation on my own personal reality show, and I’m that haggard, hungover looking character who can’t stay awake at the cocktail party.

Sleep in our house looks like a kid waking up three times moaning and thrashing so loudly you can hear it through the wall, only to race in sure that there is something terrible going on, only to find that it’s a stuffy nose.

In our house, sleep deprivation is due to various bodily functions like bloody noses, wetting the bed, boogers that can’t be flicked off so “Mommy, I need a tissue,” and of course, every parent knows that stomach viruses never start during the day. Never.

Nighttime in our house means being woken up because kids can’t get “comfy” or they suddenly need a different pillow.

It looks like kids who are too hot and need me — the mom who’s finally in REM stage for the first time in four days — to walk down the hall, two rooms away, to take their blanket off, or to put it back on when they get cold.

The midnight hours look like kids talking in their sleep so loudly I can hear it three rooms away and picking up stuffed animals off the floor because kids can’t possibly be expected to get out of their beds at night to help themselves.

It looks like “I heard a weird noise” and “I need a drink” at 1 a.m.

And any parent knows that bad dreams are the ultimate sleep-depriver, and kids have bad dreams all the time.

But if those things weren’t enough, the other night my 5-year-old woke me up just because he “needed me.” Excuse me, my precious child, you can “need me” between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., but not at 3:28 a.m. on a school night.

In our house, the sleep routine means being summoned exactly 25 minutes before your alarm goes off, so it’s impossible to go back to sleep because your child wakes up at the crack and is staaarrrving.

Or your child forgets their alarm is set loud enough to rival a nuclear bomb going off in your backyard. There is nothing quite like getting your heart racing to radio static set to full blast.

So, moms, stop pining after something that isn’t reality. Yes, that cute babe will one day sleep through the night, only to decide to cut four teeth at once or just randomly wake up every night for a random feeding because kids like to play mind games with their parents.

I’m sure at some point it gets better. At least, I keep telling myself that. Sleep training my children at this point looks a lot less like swaddling and teaching them how to self-soothe, and more like teaching them that they will not be eaten by a monster under their bed if they get out of bed to pick up their favorite lovey off the floor.

And I’m sure as they enter the teen years and I can’t get them out of bed in the morning, I’ll look back on these days fondly. But I doubt I’ll be getting much sleep then either because teenagers and curfews and all that.

But it’s okay. Sleep is for the weak, right? If that’s true, then I’m definitely the strongest freaking woman alive.

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