So, the other night, I slept. Like, really slept. And it was wonderful.
I mean, it’s not like I got 12 uninterrupted hours of sleep or anything—I am a mom—but I got a solid 9. Granted, some of them were spent sleeping on the couch with my teething toddler, but we both actually slept, so that’s a win in my book. And did I mention the cuddles? The. Best.
Anyway, the next day, I felt rested for the first time in…honestly, I don’t know how long. I’d been particularly sleep-deprived for the previous two weeks, and it was getting ridiculous.
My preschooler had been on an insanely long spring break—2 and and half weeks!—and while we were having a fabulous time doing all sorts of staycation activities and day trips, it was still long. That wasn’t the problem, though: The problem was that I didn’t realize how much I’d come to rely on my toddler’s two-hour nap while my son was at school. I work from home, so I need those two hours. When I didn’t get them because my son was home or we were traipsing all over the tristate area, I tacked them onto the end of my already-late work night, which meant I was going to bed after 2 every night.
Oh, and did I mention that I’d picked up a bunch of extra freelance work for those 2 and a half weeks and that my daughter, who’s a terrible teether, was getting three molars at once?
Yeah, it was a fun week, especially when she demanded a Sesame Street viewing party one night between the hours of 2 and 5 a.m. I was too tired to protest. I tried to close my eyes, but she’d throw the remote at my head when I wasn’t properly paying attention.
Anyway, I somehow managed to make my deadlines, comfort my grumpy baby and keep my kids entertained, but then I caught sight of myself in a mirror. My skin was sallow. The bags under my eyes were massive and purple. The little wrinkles on my face suddenly looked deeper.
Oh, hell, no.
Enough was enough. I had to sleep. So I did.
Now, above, I said that the sleep was wonderful, but I didn’t explain exactly what was so wonderful about it. I mean, obviously I felt better and more human the next day, but I was also a better parent. I was more engaged with my kids. I was more fun and playful and imaginative. I was more attentive. I was a lot less anxious about everything, and as a result, I checked my phone less frequently.
I know this should have all been completely obvious (with maybe the exception of the anxiety/phone thing, which took me by surprise), but it’s so easy to get mired in the day-to-day craziness and busy-ness and to forget. I think that most moms forget this all too frequently, and then we can’t understand why we’re so cranky and so short with our kids. This is not the type of mom any of us wants to be—so let’s not be that mom.
Here’s what I want you to do the next time things feel like they’re spiraling out of control and you’re seriously abusing your body with sleep deprivation. I’m going to do it, too, so let’s be accountable to one another.
- Make two lists after your kids go to bed. One should have all the things on it. It’s going to look scary because you have a lot on your to-do list, so brace yourself. The other should have the things that need to get done in the next 24 hours. Now take a good, hard look at that second list. There’s something on there that needed to get done, like, yesterday. Put a little star next to it.
- Do that one thing, cross it off your list—literally, old-school with a pen so it feels particularly good—and breathe a sigh of relief.
- Now go to bed. Yes, go to bed and get some proper sleep. Take a shower first if you want to wash off the day’s stress, but really, be done with the day at this point. You have completed your one important, looming task, and everything else can wait till tomorrow. In fact, you’ll probably do it all quicker and more easily tomorrow since your brain will actually be functioning properly.
And that’s it. Try it, and try not to forget to do this regularly. Trust me when I say that it will make an enormous difference in every aspect of your life and that the pressing things on your to-do list will all get done eventually.
Here’s the thing: Being a mom is tough. We don’t have to make it tougher. Sweet dreams!