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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How does being tired make YOU a worse parent?
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