Sleep debt... and how to claim payment.
After spending half of her 30s sleep deprived, Sam is getting payback.
I had old friends over for brunch this weekend, and finally got to meet their three daughters under three. Yup. Three under three.
I know what you’re thinking but no, their mother Jessie does not look like a wraith in need of an alcoholic IV and a month in a quiet padded cell; she’s miraculously well-dressed and at ease. But she did have that faintly hysterical air of the happy but perpetually under-slept
“How much sleep are you actually getting?” I asked, consolingly. (Well, I was trying to sound consoling, but truthfully it was all that was running through my mind, so it was more of a morbidly curious question than a supportive one.)
“Well,” she said bravely. “Every few days, one of them will sleep through the night and then the Sleep Fairy puts a little treat under her pillow, doesn’t she girls?”
Three little girls look up at her blankly.
“Okay, so it doesn’t happen that often, but we live in hope, don’t we?” she said, with that slightly hysterical lilt.
I turned to Benjamin, who was innocently wolfing down a salmon bagel next to me, and glared at him with thinly disguised dislike. Benjamin did not sleep through
the night ONCE until he was 3 and a half years old, and – despite his many, many charms – I have never quite forgiven him for it.
Of course, I brought it on myself by taunting the Goddess of Mothers through the first year of Josef’s life.
“He’s always slept in 12 hour stretches,” I used to say smugly of my eldest’s miraculous sleeping pattern. “I think it’s because my pregnancy was so calming, and because we’re so structured with bed times. Routine makes all the difference, you know.”
(I know. I have thinly disguised dislike for Young Mom Me too.)
Now that both of my boys are in double figures age-wise, I can look back on these dark memories while I doze in of a morning as they do their own thing.
Because you see, I am taking this sleep debt thing very seriously. I spent the first half of my thirties horribly, eye-shudderingly underslept. And when I did get some shut-eye, it was invariably whilst wrapped around some small, sweaty Human Torch, intent on starfishing whilst keeping one toe firmly in my belly button. The boys owe me.
Which is why, these days, I am now so emphatic about lying in on weekends.
“We’re playing soccer in the garden, come join us!” my sons will shout through the window of a Saturday morning
. But I will just wave regally, and snuggle back down with a good book or a happy-making series on DVD.
“Mom has another hour of dozing to do, loved ones,” I’ll shout back. “Remember, I’ve still got that huge sleep debt to catch up on! Also... are either of you thinking of making a little tea and toast? Because I am beginning to feel rather peckish.”
I know, it’s manipulative but there’s nothing in the parenting rule book that forbids mothers from being childish. (Actually, there may be. I’ve never read a whole one of those things.) I don’t care. It rocks.
And I really do urge those of you also fond of the odd duvet half-day to reclaim your sleep debt in a similar manner. That way, we’ve have paved the eventual path to payback sleep for truly tired mothers such as Jessie.
Oh go on. Snuggle down in sisterhood.
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Read more by Sam Wilson
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