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Just Me? Lack of Sleep Is Easier With Newborns Than Older Kids

When our daughter was a newborn, my husband marveled at how well I did with little to no sleep. He found it both amazing and somewhat amusing since, pre-child, I was a wreck if I did not get a full night's sleep.

He was particularly impressed with how functional I could be in the middle of the night. Of course, he went to work during the day and missed out on me sitting around in my pajamas in a zombie-like state, drooling on myself. I don't think I actually accomplished very much, but I did manage to keep the baby alive.

That is mostly a blur now.

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In those early months, sleep deprivation was the norm rather than the exception. And I did get through it. Sure, many days I was simply going through the motions. My brain functioned at the most basic of levels. But, in a weird way, I got used to it. My body adjusted to not getting sleep.

What my child needs from me today is more mentally challenging than when she was younger.

Six years later, I find a little sleep deprivation goes a long way. And not in a good way. A few nights of sleeplessness due to a stomach bug or an ear infection—both of which we have experienced in the past few weeks—and I am worthless. Coffee is not enough.

As I staggered around recently in a sleep-deprived haze, I was frustrated. And I wondered: Why could I function so well then but do so poorly now?

I think there are a couple of reasons. First of all, as my daughter has grown, a shift has occurred. Regular sleep has become the norm, sleepless nights the exception. I am once again used to getting good quality sleep and enough of it.

For which I am grateful.

Because sleep deprivation is less frequent, it seems to have a much greater impact on me. It comes on suddenly. I don't have the opportunity to prepare or adjust. Although, thankfully, it is short-lived.

Also, my responsibilities have changed. What my child needs from me today is more mentally challenging than when she was younger. When she was an infant, she needed to be fed, changed and loved.

While I believe there are many advantages to having a child later in life, they aren't physical.

Now, she has homework and after-school activities. She is more aware of, and connected to, her world. She has questions, big and small. Energy that would put me to shame on my best day. She tests me regularly.

Plus, I work. Not in the same sense that I did before my daughter was born. I don't have to get ready and drive to an office anymore. But I am freelancing and working to build my own business. I can still get away with being in pajamas most of the day, but I have to function at a much higher level mentally.

Last, but certainly not least, I'm an older mom. My daughter was born when I was 40. While I believe there are many advantages to having a child later in life, they aren't physical. I don't care what people say, 40 is NOT the new 20. Not even close.

Bottom line: Sleep deprivation just hurts more now. Or seems to.

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Perhaps it is simply that the most challenging phase of parenting is the one you are currently living. Memories of the past can fade or become distorted over time. And we never truly understand what the future holds. The challenges and joys we feel most strongly are the ones in front of us now.

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Image via Twenty20/jumboullard25

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