This is a more personal post about some honest thoughts and mom guilt I’ve struggled with lately. I hope this helps anyone in a similar phase of life feel like they are not alone.
It is past midnight and I can’t sleep. I went to bed two hours ago, but as soon as my head hit the pillow our toddler woke up. This has been a common occurrence lately. Last summer I got through the newborn phase by telling myself I’d be sleeping by now. She wouldn’t need to feed anymore and I could finally sleep for the 8 hours I feel like I need to be a functioning adult. Wrong. In the past 21 months I have rarely gotten uninterrupted sleep. Don’t get me wrong, some weeks are better than others, but more often than not there’s a child’s illness or fear or need that requires my attention in the middle of the night. Or it is the anxiety lying to me about everything I have to worry about. Or it’s the mom guilt.
The guilt hits me when I complain about the lack of sleep and how it negatively affects me. It shows up when I get frustrated (or even angry) when I hop into bed after an exhausting day and I have to get right back up to tend to a crying little one. I feel guilty even admitting that I get angry, but I do, at myself. I become angry at myself for doing whatever I am clearly doing wrong. I get so frustrated and question all my parenting choices. Should I have done a better job at sleep training? Should I not have nursed her to sleep so much? Did I make the room too hot or too cold? Did I let her nap for too long during the day? Did she not nap enough? Did I feed her enough?
But the guilt is stronger than the frustration. I tell myself many people would give anything to be parents and have this problem. I think about the parents who have lost their kids too early and their unimaginable pain. I’m specifically thinking about a Youtuber whose family I have watched since I was pregnant and who recently lost her son. The story had me in tears for weeks recently and I felt worse about myself because I was complaining when I should be grateful. I sat with my toddler in my arms when she wouldn’t sleep without being held, sobbing at her story. But I have realized something, too. While it is true that many people have experienced pain or have it worse, my feelings are still valid. It’s OK to admit you’re struggling, or that a particular part of parenting isn’t fun or easy. When your toddler is going on four days without napping during the time of day that you need to be working on important projects, the stress is real. The frustration is real. Whenever a mom shares real thoughts about these hard times she is often shamed for it. I always feel like I must add the disclaimer that of course I love my children. (More than anything!) Why can’t we just give each other a break? Parenting is hard enough without judging others for expressing themselves or venting a little.
According to some people, I’ll miss this this stage. I know they are right. These are seriously my favorite ages. My almost-2-year-old says so many words now and it’s so fun to watch her learn and grow. My 5-year-old is so sassy and funny, too. It’s the best of times but also kind of the hardest.
If you are in the same situation, you are not alone. That fact that others may have it worse in some ways doesn’t take away that your feelings are valid. I know it’s brutal sometimes. I try to focus on how much I love my girls and how we have so many inexplicably blissful moments throughout the day that I love.
But I don’t have to love missing sleep.