Confessions of a Tired Mom: Why I Decided to Sleep Train

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture.  Deprive someone of sleep for long enough and they will be willing to betray their country, confess to crimes they didn’t commit, and forsake every family member they have.  After nine-and-a-half months without a full nights sleep, I am positive that the key to taking down al-Qaeda is to have their top general care for a baby that refuses to sleep. In a few short weeks his brain will be so addled that he won’t remember to inform his operatives that the secret password was switched and he will leave the blueprints for the next terror strike on the table at Starbucks while he is waiting for his triple-shot latte.

Irritability…check. Memory lapses…check. Decreased reaction time…check.

Before you all judge me, I realize that Benjamin’s sleep problems are my fault.  They are the same problems that David had with sleeping when he was a baby.  Instead of letting them cry a little when they were infants, I picked them up, rocked them and nursed them to sleep.  At first I would be able to lay them down once they drifted off, but after a few months, both boys decided their favorite place to sleep was on top of me, and I accommodated them.  It wasn’t out of some strong maternal need to be in physical contact with my children at all times, but because it was the easiest way to get the most sleep at the time.  You would think I would have learned my lesson the first time, but I didn’t, and holy crap am I paying for it now.

Let me paint a picture of what I typical night is like for me now.  At 7pm I go to lay down with Benni in my room.  Since my husband gets home around 5:45 that means we say exactly three sentences to each other (“How was work? The kids are driving me nuts. Dinner is on the stove.”) before I have to get Benni to sleep.  Once in my room, I lay with Benni while he flops around, tries to climb over me to get out, and (on really fun nights) crams his fingers in my eyes.  Eventually, he settles down enough to drink a bottle and then falls asleep, my arm acting as his pillow.  I then spend about 30 minutes trying to get my arm out from under him without him waking up before I give up and resolve myself to a bedtime that even senior citizens would laugh at.  And then Benni wakes up.  At 11:00. And 1:30. And 3:30. Around 4:30am he feels pretty perky and tries to get up for the day.  I know that because he hits me in the face and then giggles as I scream “It’s time for sleeping!” I then repeat the process of getting him to go to sleep which takes about 45 minutes.  If I’m lucky, he will stay asleep until 6:30am, but I’m not usually lucky.  On a typical night, I estimate I get around four to five hours of sleep (cumulative not successive), which is nowhere near enough.

Given that I sleep less than an insomniac on a 5 Hour Energy binge, it’s pretty remarkable that I am still able to do all the things required of me as a wife and mother and remain fairly pleasant and coherent.  But if I am being really honest, while I do the things required of me, I don’t do them well.  Things slip by me, emails go unanswered, calls go unreturned, paperwork, bills, appointments are all forgotten.  Relationships, like my marriage, like the one with my oldest son, start to show the wear of too little time and attention.  And it’s all just too much for me anymore.  Something has to change. So I am going to let Benni cry it out.  You can think I am selfish or cruel if you want to (I obviously have had those thoughts about myself as well) but I have to get my life back, even if it’s just a free hour in the afternoon and a few consecutive hours of sleep at night.

While I know this is not going to be easy, I think it is the best thing I can do for me and for my family.  And when I feel my resolve start to slip, I will keep this quote in mind:

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Dear Universe

Dear Universe,

We have had our ups and downs, you and I, throughout the years.  Sometimes you have given me more good fortune than I deserved, (remember that time I found $200 in the bottom of the dirty clothes hamper when I was working at the dry cleaners? That was pretty awesome.) and sometimes you have seemed singularly focused on effing up my day (like that time my hoopty Cadillac windows stopped rolling down at the exact moment the radiator started spewing rotten fish stink into the car while I was on my way to work.).  And sometimes it seems like you, dear Universe, have stacked the cosmic deck with more bad luck than one person can bear.  This is one of those times.

Yeah, I’m talking to you
photo courtesy of
discoverystudentadventures.blogspot.com

It began when the car we purchased last year started to shift hard. I took it to AAMCO for a “free” diagnostics check, and agreed to the $3000 repair, just wanting the car to be safe for my children.  “You’ll have it back by the end of the week.” I sort of knew that was a lie when the manager said it, but I hoped for the best.  This was FOUR WEEKS AGO. Four weeks.  Now Universe, I don’t know if it is fair to blame you for the mechanics incompetence, but that is what he wants me to believe.  He said the parts he used were defective, and then the new parts were also defective. Then he said the wrongs parts were sent to him.  Then it wasn’t the transmission but the computer causing the problem.  And he received the wrong computer. Twice. See? All of the explanations for the never-ending car repair seem to be your fault.

But the car is only the tip of the shit-that’s-gone-wrong iceberg.  The sofa is broken.  It’s actually the third sofa to break.  Each time it breaks, the store we bought it from refuses to refund our money, and instead gives us a new version of the same over-priced crap couch, which then, within two months, caves in on itself and gives anyone who sits on it the sensation of sinking into quicksand.  And the microwave died.  Just died in the middle of cooking dinner.  It was also the fan to the oven, so now every time I cook I also get to play amateur fire marshal, waving a kitchen towel frantically in front of the smoke alarm before it wakes my sleeping husband and thus ruining the sentiment of a home-cooked breakfast.  The temperature in the fridge varies between 36-49 degrees for no apparent reason.  My solution has been to move the thermometer waaaaay in the back where I can’t see it and pretend to enjoy lukewarm orange juice.  The printer says it’s jammed and no amount of unjamming, hitting, unplugging, or threatening will convince it otherwise.  The knobs keep falling off the kitchen cabinets and I keep putting them away until we have time to put them back on, but now I can’t remember where I put them.  The Apple TV refuses to stream Netflix, meaning I am instead left watching Jersey Shore and endless episodes of Cupcake Wars (okay, I admit, this doesn’t actually bother me too much).

I was trying to take all these mishaps in stride, but then I woke up this morning to find that Benjamin has a horrible case of thrush in his mouth. And so do I, except mine isn’t in my mouth.  I have tried to be patient, tried to see the humor in these set backs, but let me tell you, there is nothing funny about blotchy red nipples that itch like I gave them a poison oak rub down.  So Universe, all I have left to say to you is WTF is your problem? Seriously, what have I done  to make you so cranky? Me and my family are good people; we pay our taxes, love and care for our children, and I always leave way more pennies than I take from the little tray at the gas station.  What gives?

See, I give to charity.
photo courtesy of dearjournalentries.blogspot.com

Oh wait, is this one of those times where you are trying to teach me a lesson? Like that time you gave me stomach flu on my birthday after I pretended to be sick to get out of a geometry test? Okay wait, let me think…everything we own is breaking and we don’t have enough money to replace even half of it….are you trying to tell us to convert to Buddism? Yeah, so when we get to the part where we have to give up all our worldly possessions we can be all “no biggie, all our shit is broken anyway.”

I’m going to have to practice this hand-candle thing.
Photo courtesy of religionfacts.com

But wait, first all our stuff broke and then me and Benni got sick…oh….wait…I get it. Were you trying to teach me a lesson about how material things don’t matter as long as you and those you love are healthy and happy, and then I kept on bitching about how everything sucks, so then you decided to give me a reminder of how shit can always get worse so I  better be appreciative of all the good things in my life even when things get tough?

Ummm yeah, this is embarrassing. Sorry about that Universe. Could you do me a favor and just disregard the above letter please?

Respectfully Yours,

Jamie