A new tooth (the next of many, I’m sure – he only has, like, eight, so he needs approximately eleventy-billion more in the next six or eight months), a bit of a cold, regular naptime at school, and a dog are conspiring to keep me sleep-deprived.
The thing is, giving up sleep as a parent is supposed to be mostly temporary. Like, your children are supposed to start sleeping again within a few months of birth. You no longer have to get up and shuffle your swollen, pregnant body to the bathroom every couple of hours to pee, and the babies supposedly figure out how to sleep for longer than a few scant hours at a stretch. As a parent, you sign on to stay up all night with a newborn or a teething baby or a sick toddler, you accept that you will worry about them when they are out late in high school, but for me, for us, for this family, sleep loss appears permanent.
I just… I have said all of this before. And yet the sleeplessness affects my whole life. It is a running theme in my interactions with my friends and my children and my husband and my employees and my psyche. It contributes to the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I look in the mirror and see the flab and the wrinkles and the black circles. It keeps me from eating well because I’m just so tired all the time and all I want is something warm and comforting and probably fat-filled. I think I drink a bit more (like, a glass of wine every night instead of a few nights a week) because I’m so exhausted by the end of the day. And it’s more than just fatigue because the fatigue feeds the frustration, which feeds he snappishness and resentment, which feeds the guilt.
And I feel, sometimes, like I just do everything for everyone and no one does anything for me, you know? Okay, so my babies can’t really do anything for me, but it would sure help if they would just let me sleep sometime! This morning, after Jamie woke up at 5:15 am and finally snuggled down to sleep with me again, Charles woke up. And after taking off his night time diaper, making a trip to the bathroom, and changing his pajamas, he crawled into my bed with me and Jamie… and proceeded to squirm and move and talk, despite my pleadings and scoldings for him to “settle down!” and whisper-yelling, “your brother’s asleep!” Finally, when it was clear that he had awakened his brother, I sent them both into Charles room to play while I tried to shut my eyes for a bit longer. It wasn’t even 6 am yet. I had been up three times with Jamie and once with the dog that night. But asking Charles and Jamie to play quietly is like asking Buster to please not eat the ground beef I just dropped on the floor. No matter what I say, they’re going to play loud and hard.
It’s the curse of a mother to feel unloved (I’m not the fun parent by a long stretch) and unappreciated (I do a lot of damn work for our house and our family and it is often taken for granted), and I am no exception. The lack of sleep makes the bad feelings worse.
And it’s such a terrible thing, really, because underneath it all, I’m a fairly reasonable person. I count my blessings. I try to treat my husband wonderfully because he is so wonderful. I love my darling imps with every fiber of my being. I think about all we have and all we don’t need. I am grateful for my life. But I am also very, very tired. And because of that, every day contains an element of self-pity, an element of frustration, an element of resentment.
I’m just stuck. Stuck between happiness for my life and anger for it. I’m stuck in a land of sleeplessness, a tiny house that gets tinier by the day, increasingly demanding jobs, and more and more guilt over my inability to balance anything well. I feel like I’m trying to turn left but there’s never a break in traffic. I can’t pull forward and I can’t reverse.