This Is Why Parents Aren't Sleeping

by Joanna McClanahan
Originally Published: 
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Welcome to parenthood, hope you hate sleeping. We get the least amount of sleep and need it most, and yet we still have a hard time falling and staying asleep every night.

Even on the rare nights that my kids go to bed at a decent hour and don’t crawl into bed with me, I can’t sleep because I just can’t get my brain to shut down. Here are the reasons I toss and turn until early hours of the morning:

1. Anxiety

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“Did I say the wrong thing at the playdate today? Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. Why do I always do this? I wonder if she’s mad at me. Maybe I should text her. But it’s midnight and normal people are sleeping. But what if I forget to text her tomorrow? I should set a reminder…”

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the way anxiety makes me dissect and over-analyze every single interaction. So at the end of the day, my brain finds ways to make me believe I’m in the wrong (more specifically, that I’m an idiot) for all the things I did and said, whether it happened today or 20 years ago. It’s super fun.

2. Guilt

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“I really shouldn’t have snapped at the kids like that. They were probably just acting out trying to get my attention because I’ve been so busy. I don’t know why I yell so much. What if the kids all need therapy because I can’t control my temper…”

Mom guilt. All. Of. The. Mom. Guilt. I am constantly feeling like I failed because of something I said or the way I acted with my kids. My rational mind knows that I’m only human and bound to make mistakes, but the guilt wins out every time.

3. Work

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“Did I reply to that email or just reply to it in my head? I need to make sure to update those spreadsheets tomorrow. I have those deadlines coming up. God, summer is killing me. I need these kids to go back to school so I have time to get stuff done…”

I am passionate about my work and I make no apologies for that. I’m lucky enough to work from home, but that presents a new set of challenges during the summer when my kids are home all day, every day, expecting to be fed and entertained. I still have the same workload I’ve always had, but I’m more likely to keep myself awake on warm, summer nights worried about anything that might have slipped through the cracks.

4. Current events

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“OMG, how long is Trump going to stay in office? It feels like it’s been 500 years. What is taking Mueller so long? Why haven’t they reunited all the children with their parents yet? What if people don’t turn out to vote in November? What if Russia hacks those elections too?…”

As if there’s not enough to worry about, the world is a shit show right now. It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when our country’s democracy is at stake and our president is cozying up to maniacal dictators. I’ve never had to worry about being on the brink of nuclear war until recently. Turns out it’s not super helpful for insomnia either.

The mental load of motherhood is strenuous and our to-do lists never seem to end. Working moms have the additional stress of wanting to be a good mom and a good employee. And sometimes it feels like we sacrifice our own rest and peace of mind to make sure everyone else is happy.

I’m hopeful that in time it will get easier and I’ll be able to catch up on some sleeping. But until then, I’m using sleep meds and a noise machine to get some much-needed rest. Because the alternative is tossing and turning until 3 a.m.

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