Monday, September 12, 2016

Sleep Deprivation is Brutal

I have been sleep deprived for many years. I have had periods of good sleep, but every time a new baby comes, I enter the hazy world of sleep-deprivation, again. It's been the worst it's ever been the last 18 months. #7 has never been a good sleeper and she's gotten worse. Last night, she went down at 8PM. This is rare for us (although it would be the perfect bedtime for her age). She then proceeded to get up every 1-2 hours and awoke fully at 4AM. This wouldn't be excruciatingly bad if #6 hadn't been up twice in the night because he's not feeling well.

As I type this (at 8AM), #7 has finally fallen back to sleep. #6 is up, though, and because he's not feeling well, and I'm the mom, I don't get to nap right now. I have laundry going, a kitchen to clean, and a million other things on my list. I may try to nap after I write this, but I'm not sure it will work. My body is so used to very little sleep. I just wish my mind was. 

Did you know, dear reader, that sleep deprivation has been proven to be one of the biggest causes of mental illness and physical damage? Even maybe being a causation of fibromyalgia? And did you know that the people who tend to have the worst cases of sleep deprivation are mothers? And it's pure torture to our minds. Literally. 

No wonder I'm psychologically damaged.

If you are a mother and live in the United States (because I can't speak for other countries), not only are you supposed to suck it up and act normal, but you're also supposed to be super mom --you have to work part time (or from home, or full time), clean your own house, be the PTA president, serve in the community, volunteer in your church, be thin (exercise, cook healthy meals, do the grocery shopping), dress beautifully, and have a smile. We are also expected to live apart from our families (different house, definitely, but sometimes different cities and states), not put any undue pressure or burden upon them with our complaints, and never, ever, ever expect grandma, auntie, sister, or cousin to help us watch our children, clean our house, or do our laundry. Nor our neighbors and church members. Expect nothing, never ask for help, and be cheerful about it. You decided to have all these dang children, didn't you? Then why would you need help? Independence in a well-run home is Queen! 

In some ways, it's gotten better, but not really. Women who choose not to shower every day, who choose to nap when their kids nap, who hire a house cleaning service, or who say no to volunteering opportunities are left alone in their homes, whispered about at church/school, and are made fun of by the media. 

And sadly, when mothers finally start getting sleep (when their children are older), they're expected to go to work full time, because staying at home is lazy. 

We just. can't. win. 

Here's what mothers really need in our society: 

They need to be supported in whatever it is they're doing without these ridiculous expectations that only create shame and lead to breakdowns, divorce, suicide, and smaller families (or abortion or sterilizing). 

They need to know that it's okay to say no to everything while they're saying yes to raising their children. 

They need to understand that the markings of a great mother aren't found outside of her home and definitely not on her body. 

They need to know they are loved and thought about in positive ways. 

They need socialization outside of social media. 

They need friends and family members who aren't afraid to visit, to do some chores, to cook some meals, and to help them rest without feelings of guilt or shame. 

They need a society that sees motherhood as an incredible miracle --to see that those who raise the next generation of our species are strong, sacred, and, because of their work, our greatest asset. 

[And I have to say this, too --single mothers need even more help and support because they are running more ragged than the rest of us as they juggle everything (work, raising kids, bills, house, yard, etc).] 

But I don't even know how to go about solving it because I can't seem to even solve it in my own home. I get the least amount of sleep and yet I'm expected to do the most amount of work. I'm not negating the work my husband does to earn an income to support us --his work ethic is not in question. But nobody expects him to get up with the kids in the night (including myself), nobody bats an eye when he naps on a weekend afternoon (he never asks permission! How come I feel I have to ask permission?!), and nobody looks at his job or his side of the closet and judges his entire character as lacking. The way my kids behave, the way my home looks, the way I interact with other people, the way I look --that is judged all day long. (Well, and to be fair, women are judged no matter what they do. Or how they do it. A woman could just be standing there and the media would have something to say about every part of her. It's quite disgusting, really.)

And can I just say how tired (haha!) I am of hearing the words, "You look so tired." It's so rude, dear reader. It's rude, it's not helpful, and it just means I look gross. I know I look tired. I am tired! Of course I'm tired! How could I not be tired? Is that such a bad thing? Is it bad to look tired? Is it wrong to look tired? You know what would be helpful is:
"You look beautiful, today!" 
"Can I come hang out with you?" 
"I know this sounds so silly, but wouldn't it be fun to have a laundry folding party? Let's do your house tomorrow and mine the next day. We'll watch some Jane Austen or something while we fold and let the kids run amok." 

Maybe we could also solve this shaming, sleep-deprivation problem by implementing one of the following: 
1. Reinstate polygamy. Sister wives to share the burden of childcare, cleaning, and cooking! (Yeah, maybe not.)
2. Communal homes/neighborhoods where women live nearer to each other and could support one another (this is found very beautifully already in Amish communities).
3. Low standards of living (dust is our friend!). 
4. Free house cleaning for all moms! Paid for by all celebrities who make millions a year, anyway!

Anyway, sleep deprivation is brutal. This is why, dear reader, when new moms are told "sleep when your baby sleeps" by veteran mothers, it's not just a good idea. It's essential. Life-saving. So, listen up, brand new mothers! Follow that advice as closely as you can. 

And now I'm going to try to get a nap. Zzzzzzzzzz..... 


Mother of the Wild Boys said...

Pure awesomeness. <3

Handsfullmom said...

Right there with you, as Benji continues to wake twice a night at 14 months. I live for my daily nap and have a really hard time if I miss it.