"People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one." -Leo J. Burke

Photo Credit – The New Yorker

There comes a point in parenting when you look around and think, “What the HELL have I done?” Generally, this is around 3:30 a.m. when the world is asleep. The entire world except the small world you have created in your home. And, at this point, you think about choices you’ve made and consider when you last cleaned the fridge or really looked in a mirror. All the while, a bundle of your genes taunts you from your hip. And, you just know. You can tell. This is it. You are never going to sleep again. Ever. Because, that’s the deal. You didn’t really know this at the time you decided to become a parent. You thought it was a joke. It was just something people said like, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!” or “A stitch in time saves nine.” and, you thought, “What do these even mean? Relevance?”  I’ll tell you what it means. It means you are never sleeping again. Professional, long-time parents always laugh about it. Tears of a clown? Good samaritanship? An attempt at a moral boost for the next generation of parents? Why make it worse than it is?  Here’s a thought – Why make it better because seriously and please, hear me – You are never going to sleep again.

It starts out normal enough. You’re at the hospital, you’re in love and you don’t even care that you’re not sleeping, but, sleep always wins or at least tries to. Just when your goo-goo for you eyes start to close, the baby will inevitably cry because it is hungry or wet or cold or wants to know the meaning of life or has a stray diaper fiber stuck to its inner thigh or is curious about how snakes molt. Who knows? I don’t, but, I know one thing. You are never going to sleep again.

Then, they are 2 and you are still not sleeping because, by this point, they have you pegged. They know that if a monster suddenly shows up, and they always do, you will be there with some canned air freshener, I mean, “monster spray”. You are not union so the hours are undesirable. Monsters show up on weekends, holidays and always between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. NO, you do not get sick time. Yes, you have to kill them all. Closet. Bed. Windows. Every damn monster in the house. Yes, that’s right…you are never going to sleep again.

Then, that baby is 6 and you are still not sleeping because, by this point, you’ve probably been a genius and had one or a few more. “You weren’t sleeping anyway!”, the laughing people say. You  are so tired that you forget your childrens’ names and your address and why you are holding a package of stamps in one hand and an empty ice cube tray in the other. And, you think, I’ve hit rock bottom. We can only go up from here. So, you start doing research on the NASA mattress partially because the people in the commercial look so fantastically well rested and partially because you always wanted to jump on a bed and use the other half of the mattress as a giant coaster for your nightly bottle of wine. Yes!, you think. This is it! Only up from here. You are wrong. Please remember, you are never going to sleep again.

Then, there is the inevitable curfews they are sure to break and the worry and the still checking to see if they are breathing, even when they are 14 and the friends and phone calls and music and your general inability to sleep because the damn flyer is due for the school committee you signed up for.  It’s always someone’s snack day and cupcakes don’t make themselves and you’re out of milk…again and you are now buying face lotion made out of Preparation H and stardust found in one of the moon’s darkest craters to cover the dark craters that used to be eyes. You look at old pictures, before kids, and the only thing everyone says is: “Look at how young you look!” which you know is code for , “You were a hot number back when you were sleeping!”

Years pass and still, you do not sleep because of costumes, hemlines and broken hearts that need mending and financial aid packets and college trips and shopping for their first apartment and, like that, they are gone to start their own noisy, sleepless lives filled with children and the sounds of home. You have all the quiet in the world, but they are gone and the quiet is deafening. It is too quiet to sleep. And, you remember…that was the bittersweet deal. You are never going to sleep again. The laughing people were right. It was worth it.


  1. Yup…that about sums it up. But Ice cube tray and stamps? My best was staggering into Target, doing my shopping (about 30 minutes, I only needed ONE THING), coming out and looking for my keys, not finding them and realizing that I left them in the car. With the engine running. For 30 minutes. My husband still doesn’t know, I can’t bear to tell him.

    • Cat, I have found myself wandering around my house, eyes half mast, with the most ridiculous items in hand. I know it’s not sleep walking because, as stated, I do not sleep. I call it barely awake walking. Thank you for reading! OH, and your secret is safe with me. xo

  2. How can you make me laugh so hard and then cry so hard? We were meant to be friends for life (NPR essay last week about friends and humor….) Thank you.

  3. I can see whether or not our entry hall light is on from my bed. When our kids had moved out–& then back in–I couldn’t sleep until the light was off so I knew they had returned safely & they were in their 20’s at the time!

  4. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I still won’t be sleeping when they are 6!? I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. It better be worth it 🙂

  5. Awesome bit of writing. Sharing!

  6. I was laughing so hard and then I had to choke back the tears at the end. My oldest is going to high school this year. My silence is coming. Better stat awake to wallow in my bittersweet. Wait, I’m already up baking bingo brownies and bedazzling volleyball uniforms. Ellen

  7. “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion!” -Truvy Jones in Steel Magnolias.
    You make me laugh and cry and I’m so glad I know you. xoxo

  8. I can’t tell you how hard I’m laughing! I have a 3.5 year old girl and almost 6-month-old twin boys. I don’t want anything in this world. Not even diamonds. Or chocolate. Or Haagen Dazs pistachio ice cream. I just want sleep. But since there is NO sleep in my future, I settle for bar after bar of the densest, sweetest, most fattening chocolate, and pint after pint of Haagen Dazs. But yes, the coos, the smiles, the giggles, and the hugs – they are ALL worth it 🙂 – I hope!!!! Thanks for always speaking my mind!

  9. Good stuff. Love the part where you’re holding stamps and ice cube trays but don’t know why & the bit about hemlines and costumes and broken hearts. Will it never end?

  10. Stopping by from the Blog Hop. I love your post! I do check on them every night before I go to sleep; now I can’t sleep without checking on them. I’ve tried to put the milk container on the coffee cup shelf and stood there for a few minutes wondering why it didn’t fit. Ah, the joys of sleep deprivation. Mine are pretty good right now though, so I can’t complain too much (knock on wood).

  11. Well said! You won’t sleep longer than that! By the time you can sleep you have to just pretend to sleep to catch those little shits sneaking out.
    Found you on the blog hop

  12. Holding back the tears here. I just dropped mine off for his freshman year at college.

    I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ll sleep again until he’s back home.

  13. you are an incredible writer and said exactly what i was thinking! i can’t wait until my girls call me and whine to me about their kids not letting them sleep! 😉

  14. Love you and your incredible writing talent and the insight into baby thoughts (nearly 10pm, and baby seems rather upset about sudden snake molting concerns).

    • Last night my baby woke up shrieking every hour on the hour. I can’t tell if it was about snake molting or if she just hates me. *whisper* I think she hates me. Just think, at BlogHer 13, we will be so prepared for all the early morning conferences because we will have never left the bar. Love you, girlfriend!

  15. Your writing is brilliant.

    I like your monster spray. My kids would get a kick out of that.

    I tell my kids the green light in the smoke detector on the ceiling of their room is their monster detectors. As long as that light is green, they are safe (as long as they stay in bed).

  16. I have a 15 month old son and am finally getting it…I WILL never sleep again! Long gone are the days when I jokingly said “I’m sleeping until God wakes me up”. These days God’s wake up call is a flailing arm or worse, a foot to the throat… My own BPM…I failed at sleep training. Since it’s just me and my little guy, he sleeps with me. So glad I’m not alone in still checking for breathing. Now I don’t feel as crazy. I plan to continue this spot check until he gets frightened that I’m hovering.

    I love your writing. I don’t have any girlfriends with babies and my sisters kids are all 16 and up so they are not sleeping for different reasons. Your blog and FB posts are so fun to read! You should be published. Your writing is honest, funny and sentimental! Write a book please! I’ll buy!  you!

    • Tania, thank you so much for reading and for the awesome comment love. If ever I do write a book, I need to be able to count on you to be the lone person in line for the book signing in each town. Deal? Deal. I’m right there with you. I haven’t slept since 2006 and I’m, mostly ok. I mean, aside from starting a blog/page/group about Bad Parenting. Hang in there, mama.

  17. Anonymous says:

    This is great!!! 😉 Thank you, when someone does not have kids and cannot understand why a three year old does not always sleep all night, I am so pulling this up…I am not the only parent in the world whose toddler wakes in the night!!!!! This comes at a perfect time because my sister who is newly married, has a two year old who has decided his mother and new stepdad does not need to sleep at night. My brother in law cannot understand it and thinks it is because my nephew is spoiled…..:)

  18. I hear you. I used to consider myself the Michael Jordan of sleeping but now after kids, even on the rare occasions where I am family free for a night or weekend, I still randomly wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble sleeping in. They have ruined me. Good thing they’re cute.

  19. Oh gosh–if I wasn’t before, now I’m totally in love with you. Paragraph number #4 esp. I would highlight my favorite parts, but that would basically be copy and pasting the entire post. You are brilliant…and can you get me a deal on that NASA mattress please? I always end up watching those commercials with my mouth hanging open…

  20. This is brilliant and I’m not just saying that because I’ve only had 4 hours of sleep. Truly brilliant. I love it and love you, and thank you for sharing this!

  21. I love this!!!! So true. Man, I hope it’s worth it. But I have a feeling it is:)

  22. Yeah….the day my first was born was the day I started to walk around with my heart outside my body and I don’t expect that it is ever going back in.
    I am up potty training at this specific point in the journey. The other night I put my baby in a pullup and said as I crawled into bed “I am about to sleep all night for the first time in a year (or 6)!” That is the night she woke up (and thus woke me up) to go pee….WTF? I am never going to sleep again! This is an awesome piece and, YES of course it is worth it!! 🙂 Devan

    • They are programmed to move into another developmental arena that requires less sleep every time we anticipate getting more sleep. They are adorable, evil geniuses! Hang in there and thank you for reading!


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