When I was pregnant, people advised me to get plenty of sleep, as once the baby came, I wouldn’t be sleeping much. I assumed they meant for a few months, maybe even for that first year. Twenty-one years later, I now understand what these well-intentioned friends and family members were really saying. They were warning me that mothers never get to sleep again.
Let me explain why.
Sleep deprivation during the baby stage…
This was what everyone should expect, after all, a baby’s sleep is unpredictable. They sleep when they want to, they demand to be fed when they’re awake, and they don’t really care about mommy’s needs. Even the baby who quickly got into a good sleep routine will, for no apparent reason, decide to wake up at five in the morning on any random day.
Eventually, most babies get into a routine, though, with a consistent bed time and wake-up time. This is when moms should be able to count on getting their own sleep too. Except….
Babies become toddlers…
Now many have given up their naps, they are mobile, and they are on the go! We tell ourselves that it’s ok that we’re getting nothing done all day, and we hope that they’ll tire themselves out and go to sleep on the early side. But when they do, then there’s all the stuff we didn’t do all day because we were following our child around; things like the laundry, dishes, responding to emails, catching up with a friend or partner. So while the child might fall asleep early, in some ways, a mother’s day is just beginning when the little one’s head hits the pillow.
Oh, and this lasts for years and years, especially for a mom who also works outside the house…
But what about elementary and middle school?
Yes, they’re gone all day, but now they need you when they come home. They want your attention, they demand your help with homework, they need rides, endless rides. Sports start at the crack of dawn on the weekends, and did I mention that you’re expected to volunteer for everything?
These children go to bed quite a bit later, and therefore so does the mom.
Luckily, high school is just on the horizon.
Teenagers are self-sufficient, right?
Now they’ve become independent—sort of.
The same teenager who is perfectly capable of making their own late-night snack and entertaining themselves long after the mom has gone to sleep is the same teenager who needs that same mom to be a human alarm clock in the morning.
Theoretically, a mom could refuse to get up before the sun and tell their teenagers to get with the program. But the reality is if they don’t get up on time and they miss the bus, and you live five miles from the high school, mom would be the one who then has to drive over to the high school, sit in the crazy long drop offline and have to get back through the center of town just as rush hour was starting to build up.
Then there’s also the curfew issue. Even if the teenager is respectful about keeping to a reasonably agreed-upon curfew, moms are often the ones waiting up, just in case they don’t come home on time. My advice? Just accept that this is the way it is before you waste hours trying to make yourself fall asleep before they come home and use the time instead to binge watch some Netflix.
An end in sight- empty nest time!
Then comes the day when the children are off in college. No waiting up, no early wake-up calls, no homework, carpools, and dinners to make. Now it seems like the perfect time for moms to catch up on that sleep they’ve been missing out on.
It’s amazing, though. Something happens to kids when they head off to college. Their whole time frameshifts. They stay up super late, and somehow their ability to tell time vanishes. For some reason, they think that just because they are awake at one in the morning, their mom wants to get a “hello, just checking in” text. Clearly, we’ve taught them nothing over the years.
(We also won’t mention that for many moms, becoming an empty nester coincides with all sorts of fun things nature has in store for women as they age, presenting a whole new set of reasons why moms, even moms of kids that don’t live there anymore, don’t get to sleep through the night. That’s a whole other story, though, and I wouldn’t want to scare off all of this new moms-to-be!)
So ultimately, what you need to know is, sleep when you can, treasure the sleep you get, and remember that a good night’s sleep is just a myth.