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
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.
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
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.
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.