How Being Tired Makes You Feel Like a Worse Parent

Does Being Tired Make You A Worse Parent?

It is 11:42 p.m. as I start to write this. I’ve been working some pretty late nights, lately (some of you know this because you have received some late e-mail from me in the Sleep Helpdesk), and over the weekend I started thinking about this article. I started thinking about how my late nights and 7-day work weeks (weekends limited) might be affecting my abilities to be a good great mom. Am I doing my kids a disservice pushing so hard? The mere fact I consciously thought about it actually made me persevere and be a better mom this past weekend than I probably have over the few weeks prior.

I am one of the lucky few that can function on less sleep than most, but still, it does affect me. Most of the time, I start out great on a Monday (Sunday is my day to sleep in, so that might be why. Ha!), but then here I am up late and by Friday, I’m exhausted again. It’s all worth it because although this is tiring, I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to help others with sleep after the rough road I had with my son (and NOTHING has been harder than waking every 1-2 hours with him way back when). I LOVE helping all of you and wouldn’t change it for the world.

We all have an idea as to why sleep is important for your baby, let’s look at how being tired makes me (and maybe you) a worse parent:

Fun, patience, and Energy

Besides the obvious, that sleep deprivation makes us CRANKY, being tired simply makes me less fun of a mom, sometimes. Even when I’m not cranky (I can fight through it much of the time, with a smile on my face), I’m definitely not as fun and I definitely don’t have as much energy. When my son wants me to play tackle or basketball, I just don’t feel like it all the time.

I might lack the energy to cook a really good dinner and opt for take-out. I sometimes don’t have the energy to talk in Toddlerease and use a timeout when I might have avoided the meltdown had I had the patience to work through the issue (not to mention that sensitive kids will pick up on your energy level, too). My patience level drops, sometimes. It takes a lot of energy to parent my spirited son!

When my son wants to play cars for the second hour, I have to admit, there has been at least one time I started falling asleep on the floor! This past weekend, I did make sure I played cars over an hour nurturing their imagination (without falling asleep), played hokey pokey with lots of energy, and refrained from turning on the TV to give myself a break (shows let me take a little nap on the couch, sometimes, and at least the kids are “learning” sometimes, right? :D).

Focus and Concentration

My absolute favorite part of the day is cuddling with my sons in bed before they go to sleep. My older son LOVES to snuggle (Daddy won’t do) and we chit chat about our day and talk about what our favorite part of the day was (I like to end the day thinking about the positive). It is a wonderful time of night.

HOWEVER, one of the main things my son loves about this time is that I tell him bedtime stories (that I make up). This, by far, is very important to him and some nights I am soooo tired. One night (I think it was 6 months ago) I kept falling asleep in the middle of the story! I pause, say “ummm”, can’t think of what comes next. He keeps saying “Tell the story, mommy!” and I stutter and take 20 minutes to tell a 10 minute story and I feel horrible. Of course, there have been nights I start dozing in bed with him, too, after I’ve said “Okay time to sleep.” and put an end to the chit-chat (because if I don’t, he won’t stop :D). It is very hard for me to focus when I’m too tired (don’t worry, I will edit this article one more time in the morning before I publish it).


Luckily, I work at home and don’t need to drive too much, but I do know of parents who run stop signs (with baby in the car) or need to pull over by the side of the road because they just can’t go on (if you need to choose one, choose the latter, and know your limits). I’ve had my husband come in and tell the boys not to do something that I was dazed and allowing them to do right in front of my eyes. I just hadn’t considered the “down side” of jumping off that big pile of pillows or whatever. Some days, I’m definitely happy to have another set of eyes helping me watch over the boys when I just can’t seem to snap out of it.


My boys are smart and I’m very happy about that (I won’t bore you but one was reading at 4 and the other could count by 2 and knew his colors, too). I attribute some of this to the fact that I’ve kept them getting enough sleep, even when I don’t. But, I know that I can do more, at times. Sometimes it’s my focus and concentration that doesn’t think about how I might add to a conversation about caterpillars and their transformation to butterflies, for example. Other times, I might not have the energy to do artwork because I know then I’ll need to clean it up and I’m being lazy. Whatever the reason, I don’t feel like I’m as good a teacher when I’m too tired.

All of us will have a different definition of what a “great parent” is, but I think we can all agree that being tired doesn’t always bring out the greatness. I had a mom e-mail me once that both her kids outgrew their sleep problems around two and she said that, to her, it is just a “season of sleep deprivation” that will go away, eventually. She implied there wasn’t much of a reason to “work” on it, if it will end on its own, anyway (even if it’s years later). My challenge to her is that yes, SOME will have kids that outgrow these issues, but tell that to the parents with a five year old in their bed. Yes, eventually, perhaps even that five year old will outgrow it. But, whether it’s 3 months, 12 months, 2 years, 5 years or 8 years, how many missed opportunities will you have to be a great mom or dad? Sometimes I look so forward to bedtime and I kick myself because I know they won’t be this little forever. One day they will be too busy with their friends to bother with mom (sniff sniff). I want to cherish it. Don’t you?

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17 thoughts on “How Being Tired Makes You Feel Like a Worse Parent”

  1. I am having one of those exhausted days: hence, the google search that brought me to this article. When I am tired my patience is very limited and I do not want to play or do things that will require a cleanup as well. I also feel bad like the author says, because it’s true that my daughter won’t be four forever, and I will miss it when it’s gone. It’s a double-edged sword. 🙁

  2. That’s right Kristin, a whole lot more was going on for me….post natal depression to be exact. To belittle my concerns is unecessary and shows a lack of compassion and understanding. Perhaps I should put your comments down to a lack of sleep also and extend a hand of comradery as we have all visited this site for the same reason. I too live in Australia, a very lucky country in many ways as our government provides much support in regards to new mothers having difficulties. Through my local child health clinic I was able to attend a day ‘sleep school’ which solved our daytime sleep problems. Then when my daughter was still not sleeping through the night I was lucky enough to attend the Ellen Barron Family Centre (Brisbane) for a 4 day 24 hr ‘sleep school’. By the second night my daughter was sleeping through the night and continues to do so (7pm to 6:45am). And it was all FREE! I do hope this helps in your quest for a better nights sleep for both of you. Simply contact your local hospital or community health centre for more information. So please try not to judge people for making comments that are truly meaningful to them and not label them as being ‘just so silly’. Truly it wasn’t to me. And I am glad I was confident enought to put forward my concerns to ensure no one else felt that way. Also, as you may have noted, Nicole apologised for the title and subsequently changed it. She too could see how such a title may not have been the best choice. I wish you all the best and hope you enjoy your time with your little one, as it is truly such a joy being a mum isn’t it!

  3. Nicole, firstly I want to say how much your site and your products (free & the ones I have purchased) have helped me. I am a first-time mum (in Australia) with no family support nearby and hubby works full time. My daughter had sleep issues from Day 1 in that she would not sleep during the day and the first few months were a blur as I spent most of my day cradling and trying to get to sleep an overtired, distressed and cranky baby. I too am a person that can function on little sleep as I was previously a registered nurse and have worked shift work for many years, and also have a chronic pain condition that keeps me from sleeping well. My daughter is a very curious and active baby and is also very ‘clingy’ so my days are essentially devoted to her until Dad gets home and takes over to enable me to cook dinner. I almost always don’t get to do any housework or necessary chores during the day. I have to do most things after she’s gone to sleep at night which results in me getting to bed around 2am, and then back up at 5am when she wakes. We are lucky if she sleeps for an hour twice a day, usually we don’t even get that long and she is extremely willful and will not resettle or go down for an extra nap. By 3pm I am dealing with an overtired child who won’t let me leave her side. This leads into other issues such as her then refusing to eat (becuase she’s too tired) and other problems. Without your site and your passion for gathering information and sharing your experiences, I don’t know what I would have done. Please keep up the good work. I’ll say this about Dee’s comments – aren’t we all getting a bit too precious about silly things??? If something as inocuous as the wording of a title of an article is causing you such distress, then I think there’s a whole lot more going on for Dee, and I don’t really think the Title is the real issue. I wish Dee well, worry about your child, your family, your future, an article title seems………just so silly.

  4. Wow, I just read about the 4 month sleep regression! It’s crazy. My son just had a growth spurt – he’s grown over 2 inches in 6 weeks – and his sleep only became erratic 3 nights ago. That tells me I’m in the thick of the 19 week growth spurt at 20 weeks? Still? Oh boy, am I tired. Luckily my son thinks it’s funny when we lie on our sides facing each other. He always smiles and laughs. But that’s about the only “activity” I’m enjoying right now. I emailed another mom this morning about how fun I don’t feel, so thanks for this!

  5. Hi again and thank you to all those who have given feedback regarding my earlier comment. Just wanted to reiterate that my comment relates to the TITLE of the article. Again, I feel a more positive title would be beneficial in promoting a more positive outlook on this important issue.

  6. @Lisa I agree that no matter how many times someone said having a baby would change your life, you just don’t really “get it” until you’re doing it every day. Thank you for commenting!

    @Allyson Thank you for being a loyal reader and for the support!

    @Maysa Thank you so much for the support! Hopefully prices haven’t gone up too much. I’m still trying to find that nice balance to help as many as people as possible and still be able to be a great mom by not killing myself. 😉

    @Nicole That sounds like a good plan to leave some laundry and dishes for the next day. I know it’s hard. A mommy’s job is never done!! And, I know all too well that we all need “me time” too.

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