When my friends at Atlanta Area Moms Blog asked me to write about May being Better Sleep Month, I laughed. It was one of those raspy laughs that go on for a moment too long. It took me a minute to see they weren’t, in fact, laughing with me. When I realized they were serious, I collected myself as well as I could and told them I’d do my best. Oddly enough, they believed me, and here we are.
It seems that back in the Dark Ages (1985, for you youngsters) the Better Sleep Council designated May as the month for awareness and focus on the effects of sleep and how it pertains to leading a happy and healthy life.
Sleep: the thing that makes people happy & healthy, who knew?!
If you listen closely you can hear mothers everywhere collectively whisper, “Well, duh.” There’s a reason you can go to Instagram and find more than 27 million posts tagged as #Tired. People, and particularly parents of young children, know that talking about good sleep is much easier than actually getting it.
I can remember planning for my first child. I read all the books, attended classes and joined every online community board that would have me so I’d feel prepared to take on my new role as Earth Mother, Provider, and Super Caregiver. Those tips and suggestions I found were super helpful. All of the things I’d learned and the opinion pieces I’d studied on getting babies to sleep were of great comfort to me…to ponder around 3 a.m. when I was pacing the floor cradling a wailing infant who couldn’t be calmed.
With my second baby, I resolved to do the exact opposite and encourage him to soothe himself, which was extremely successful…all the way up until he was born. No co-sleeping that time, so at least as we both lay awake against our wills his cries were muffled by the walls. I’m sure my husband wishes he could say the same for mine.
By the time the third kid made her debut I was a professional at sleeplessness…in much the same way that the engine of an old beat up car continues to turn over, even though it’s best days are behind it.
I don’t mean to scare you. It’s just that sleep, in my house anyway, is elusive and magical. It’s something you have to work hard to catch – like a unicorn, or the ‘HOT’ sign at Krispy Kreme. You know it’s almost impossible, but doggonit it’s worth it when you do! All of my children were nearing (or just past) their 1st birthdays before they slept through the night. With 3 kids close in age, that’s almost 6 years of inconsistent sleep. If that sounds painful, it’s because it was.
I can remember a day not too long ago where I’d practically sailed through parenting. I made breakfast (in something other than the microwave), the kiddos and I did crafts. Heck, at one point I even watched an episode of Caillou without wanting to scratch my eyes out. I was the super-est of Super Mamas. And, I did not hesitate to pat myself on the back when my (slightly) better half returned home that evening.
I regaled him with tales of my 12 hours of awesomeness. When I paused for the applause I knew was coming, he hit me with, “Well yeah, you were sick the past few days and laid up in bed. You’re feeling like yourself again because you’re so well rested.”
Oh. Em. Gee.
Was I simply feeling the effects of a few medically induced naps?! I was horrified. It took a sinus infection combined with the flu to get me the sleep I needed to stop being a raging beast and parent happily. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the realization. The sleep struggle is real, my friends, and it is life changing.
If you’re barely making it through those lonely nights filled with late hours and early risers know that you’re not alone. There will be a turning point. And if you can help it, no matter what you need to do (short of exposing yourself to this year’s flu strain), prioritize getting the rest that you need. Your babies deserve sane mommies, but more importantly, you deserve a clear head.
Now, if anyone has tips on how to get these jokers to sleep past 5:45 a.m., I’m all ears. Happy Better Sleep Month, mamas!