Here it is November and everyone’s writing about gratitude, leaves are falling through the air, hearts are full of blessing… and I’m writing about being a snarly mama monster.
Yup. That’s where I’m at.
It happened just yesterday. My two year old is sleeping peacefully in her bed, while across the room I tuck my four year old into hers. I’m so ready for this nap. I sweetly tell my oldest she knows she’s not to get up to play with any toys or read any books, that she needs to rest and close her eyes. I leave and crawl into my bed where I believe I will actually stay. Then, just when all seems quiet, and I’m really comfortable, I hear this bang-shove, bang-shove and I know immediately what’s going on. She’s up. Getting toys. And reading books. And shoving them back onto her bookcase. And I get up. Out of my bed. Where I was resting. Where my eyes were closed.
And I go into her room and find that all the banging and shoving books and toys on her shelf has woken her peacefully sleeping sister, and I kind of…lose it. I yell at her for disobeying me and not resting, threaten her by pointing my mommy finger of death, get up the little one to rock and leave her room ready to fall into a heap of tears and beg God to give me ten minutes of sleep.
Definitely not super proud of that moment. I realized, as I was thinking of all this, I’m like this primitive mama cave woman dragging sleep back to my cave like the latest kill, growling at passerbys and guarding it as if my life depended on it.
Because when you’re a parent, it kind of does.
But life plays a cruel joke. At the very time in life when you need sleep the most, in raising miniature human beings to live and thrive on this planet, is when you get it the least. Sleep runs away from me, laughing and pointing.
And I get snarly.
For me, sleep eluded me even as a child. I struggled with insomnia before I even knew the word. I would cry in my bed as night grew darker and the hours on the clock quickly passed. I had no control. No matter how comfortable I could be in my bed, I could not induce this magical thing called sleep. When my first daughter was born, sleep just loomed over me, slapped me in the face and never let me enjoy its sweet company. At times, sleep became easier simply from the sheer exhaustion of it all, but then during pregnancy (which is now) insomnia creeps back up and reminds me of what I will soon be feeling with a newborn.
But when my head and my eyes feel heavy as lead, and I don’t know what day it is because I can’t actually remember the last time I was awake, I lose it and act like a snarly sleep-deprived mama monster. Crazed. I act insane. I yell at my kids, I snap at my husband, and whenever things get tough I want to jump ship and abandon my family so I can stay in my cave and guard what I believe is the only way my existence will continue.
And then it hit me. I’m not the worse parent ever. I’m not a mama out of control.
I’m terrified I will have to live my days managing very small, very needy, very human little ones in a body that can barely think clearly from lack of sleep. Like panicked survival mode, adrenaline rushing, I-must-get-sleep-otherwise-I-think-I-might-actually-die terrified. With all the little hands and little tummies and little bodies that need me, and with all the other pressing needs right in front of me from my husband, my family, my friends and the world, I really think I might whither up and blow away into dust. Cause of death: unmet needs.
And I don’t know what to do with my snarly mama self. I want to get mad at her. What’s wrong with you? Why are you insane? Or I feel ashamed. I cannot believe you did that. Can’t you get it together? But I realized there’s only one thing to do when I see that lip start to curl.
I need to hug my snarly, smoke-out-my-ears mama self. Not because I want her to stick around, but because when I see what’s really going on, that I’m really just afraid that the demands of my everyday, normal life are going to pummel me pieces, I see a human being that needs some love. And maybe some coffee. And definitely a nap.
And that really, it’s all going to be OK.
It really is.
I can say this even today, the day that my body decided that 3am was morning and my kids woke up at 7am, and I was ready for bed at 8:30 as the sun was washing everything in glorious light. Even this day, when I shamelessly let them watch cartoons for over an hour so I could lay on the couch next to them and sort of sleep. Even this day, I’m taking a deep breath and believing it is all going to be OK.
For another powerful read on the reality of motherhood, and one that made me laugh and cry, check out: