I see you over there stifling a yawn during toddler story hour. I see you guzzling another cup of coffee during playgroup. I see you struggling to muster the energy to chase that little girl of yours (who might just rival the Energizer Bunny) around the gym.
I see you — and I get it.
See, there is this funny thing about parenting. Everyone expects you to be exhausted for the first three months. People assume you are living in a perpetual state of exhaustion and so kindly try to lighten your load. No one expects much of you during those sleep-deprived weeks of parenting a newborn. But what happens when those three months turn into seven or eight, or even 17 and 18 months, and your little one still doesn’t sleep? For some reason, once you’ve survived the “fourth trimester,” you’re expected to go back to life as usual. Unfortunately, some of our kids don’t get the memo and still want to party (AKA cry, eat, or actually play) at all hours of the night. That’s where the coffee comes in… and my empathy.
I can tell from your giant coffee thermos and heavy eyelids that we’re in the same boat.
You’ve read all the books. You have the Ferber Progressive Waiting chart memorized. You can list every kind of sleepsuit from Merlin’s Magic to Woombie and everything in between (because you’ve tried them all). You may have caved and dropped $200 on a DockATot or even gone all the way and invested a small fortune for a SNOO Smart Sleeper. (I didn’t get quite that far, but if you did there’s no judgment here.) Your baby’s room has black-out curtains, a noise machine, a climate-control thermostat, and every other suggestion you came across as you desperately searched message boards and mom groups at 2:30 a.m. And yet, here you are with an (insert age here) child who still doesn’t sleep through the night.
I see you. I feel you.
I do not claim to have a magic sleep solution for you. But I am here to tell you two things that those self-proclaimed internet sleep “experts” rarely will.
First, it is not your fault. I don’t know when sleep became a kind of metric by which to measure success as a parent. We don’t expect kids to perform at the same level in every discipline when they are older. I’m not sure why we expect the same of sleep. Some kids are great sleepers… some kids are not. It doesn’t mean your child will grow up to be any less happy or successful than your neighbor’s little bundle who sleeps a solid 14 hours a night. Second, you are not the only one. You might feel like every other mom has kids who sleep 12 hours a night and still take a three-hour afternoon nap. It’s not true. I have spent a lot of time texting with mom friends about our toddlers’ lack of sleep. My little guy is almost 20 months old, and we’re still celebrating every time he sleeps through the night (and even then, he never sleeps later than 6:30 a.m.).
I will offer some advice from one tired mom to another.
Sleep deprivation is real.
So make sure to take care of yourself too. If you need help (AKA a full night of sleep… or even an afternoon nap), don’t hesitate to ask. I have found there are almost always family members and friends who are eager to help; you just have to be willing to accept.
Stay away from Facebook groups.
Leave the 17 sleep-training Facebook groups you joined. Stay in one if you find it useful, but only post when you have a specific question. Trust me, you do not need a newsfeed full of other people’s sleep problems (or even successes) to lead you further down the rabbit hole.
It won’t last forever.
Remember that this too shall pass — just like all the other phases that seemed like the biggest deal at the time and are now becoming a foggy memory. Yes, this sleep-deprived phase is dragging on much longer than expected, but one day you will sleep again. (At least that’s what I tell myself.)
Until then, keep the coffee strong and remember, there is no shame in yawning at story hour.