How important is sleep for a mom? Just ask my crying daughter

I think this past week may have been my worst week of sleep ever.  I’m talking in my whole life, excepting of course the months when I had newborns (there isn’t even a word for that kind of chronic exhaustion).  In the past four nights I went to bed once at 4am, twice at 2, and once at midnight, and was awake around six each day.  This would have been salvageable if I’d been able to just get the kids to school or camp and then go back to sleep, but this is a weird week.

Jake is going to a week of science camp that’s an hour away from us, and it’s only a half day (9-12).  So, it makes absolutely no sense to drive out there, drop him off, drive home, and leave again in an hour.  Instead, Fiona and I have been hanging out on Long Island and having some fun mommy-daughter time (pedicures, the mall, lunches, tennis, and one morning spent in the car that we’ll just skip over).  That part’s been great, but by the time we all get home at one I’ve been absolutely exhausted.  It doesn’t matter what I tell them, what I bribe them with, how much I yell or beg, they haven’t let me nap for more than an hour a day.  So I’ve been exhausted, and digging myself in deeper with every late bedtime.

It all came to a head this evening.  I was up on the third floor folding laundry and the kids were watching TV on the first floor.  It was just about bedtime.  There had been some stupid fighting at dinner, but other than that it had been a good day all around.  Then I heard the screaming: blood-curdling screeches from Fiona that traveled up the stairs and in the windows on both sides of the house.  I called on the intercom phone and yelled for Fiona to get upstairs.

I was tired.  She was tired.  They’d been fighting over the remote.  She just needed to go to bed.  But she felt the need to try to explain to me, over and over, why she was screaming (it was all Jake’s fault, of course, in her mind).  And every time she tried to explain I tried to drill into her head that it just didn’t matter.  That screaming was not the answer and not OK.  We were both being incredibly stubborn and one of us needed to just back off, which is what I’m always telling them when they’re fighting.  Someone just needed to be the hero and say “Fine.  Let’s agree to disagree.”  But being completely sleep-deprived I was unable to see it.  I was completely unable to recognize that I just needed to give her a hug, tell her that we were both tired and tomorrow will be another day.  That’s all I needed to do.  So simple.

And yet I couldn’t.  She kept making excuses for her behavior and I kept pushing back.  I was on automatic.  And eventually she was in tears and I was near my breaking point.

Sometimes I think I pride myself in my weird sleeping habits.  I’m way more creative late at night, when the house is quiet and phones aren’t ringing and emails aren’t flying in every few minutes.  And gee, look how busy I am.  I’m so important to be up and tweeting in the middle of the night when all the lazy people are in bed.  Wow, she’s so busy, when does she sleep?

I stay up until I get shit done.  But at what cost?  I know from experience that what I gain from plowing through work at 2am I lose again by having a disorganized day when I wake up after 4 hours of sleep.  Even when I am free to nap, it’s just not the same as seven or eight solid hours.  I know this.  But I can never see it when I’m tired.

I think the answer may be tattooing some reminders on my arm, like in Memento.  Something like “You’re an ineffective parent when you’re exhausted.”  Or maybe more to the point: “Get more sleep or your children will grow up to be assholes who also hate you.”

Originally posted on Selfish Mom. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information. Amy also blogs at Filming In Brooklyn, Behind the Screen, Momtourage, and podcasts with The Blogging Angels.


  1. says

    I need to follow this advice, I have had to many of these days recently. Way too many. In fact, I am going bed right now. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. says

    Sometimes I am up till the wee hours of the morning doing – nothing. I can’t even say I am being productive. I just can’t seem to go to sleep. And the next day is horrible. The kids, even though THEY got enough sleep, just seem to be as cranky as I am! I guess Momma’s moods do rub off on the family….

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