Posted by: workforcookies | April 28, 2009

Sleepless

I wonder if anyone has ever added up the number of hours of sleep a new mom gets in her first few years as a parent. If not, maybe I should be the first. It wouldn’t take long because it can’t be a very large number. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even require a calculator.

Last night, I think I got two—as in 1, 2—hours of sleep. My one-year-old had a fever, so she was up and down until close to midnight. Next up, literally, was my three-year-old son. At about 3:30, I awoke to him screaming: “Mommy!” at the top of his lungs. I went in his room and changed his diaper, which was threatening to overflow, then tried to soothe him back to sleep by rubbing his back—BIG mistake! Having Mommy in his room in the middle of the night proved all too exciting for my son. His chatter box shifted into high gear and at 4:30 I told him I was going back to my bed. The sound of his voice followed me and kept me awake until my alarm went off at 5 a.m. I returned to his room to find him outfitting his stuffed monkey with a bucket usually reserved for play in the bathtub.

“Put the monkey down.” I said in the best stern parent voice I could muster. I felt like I was teetering between the line of drunk and hungover. My head was pounding, my vision blurred and the path I followed from my room to his was as curvy as silly string. 

“His hat won’t stay on,” my son protested, referring to the bucket.

“He doesn’t need a hat to sleep,” I said as I snatched the monkey out of his hand and laid him on the pillow next to my son’s. “Goodnight,” I said as if the monkey could hear me. Having no more toys to feed his insomniac tendencies, my son resorted to body parts. He started by shaking his head back and forth. “BE STILL” I commanded. He began patting his hand rhythmically on the mattress. “DON’T MOVE.” Next came his legs then feet. Finally, when he had nothing left to do but blink his eyes repeatedly, that’s exactly what he did. “SHUT THEM,” I said, and within three minutes he was asleep. 

I showered and went to work, still feeling like I was walking that line between drunk and hungover. 

I work at a company large enough to have a “medical department” which is sort of like the nurses office I remember from my elementary school—complete with vinyl cot and matching pillow. I’ve come to work numerous times having had little to no sleep, but the only time I’ve ever used the vinyl cot was when I had an allergic reaction that required a shot of Benadryl. I remember not being able to sleep, despite the effects of the sedative—I could hear people talking outside the door and my face stuck to the pillow. Today, I slept like a rock from 9:30 a.m. until 11. When I awoke, I noticed for the first time, the giant poster of a magazine cover affixed to the wall across from the vinyl cot. “A Woman’s Choice: baby or career. Which should come first?” The cover line read. I’d actually read the story when it came out in 2002 and knew it was a report on fertility, informing women that despite medical advances there are no guarantees you’ll be able to have a baby later in life.

Today the question on the cover carried totally different meaning for me. The word “choice” seemed almost silly because working doesn’t feel like a choice. It feels like a necessity. I’m grateful for women’s lib, but on days like today—albeit my thinking is not totally clear—I don’t feel like the sacrifices made have afforded women any sort of a choice. On the contrary, I feel, it’s forced us into another trap. Now, instead of being trapped at home as the women of the 50s were, we are trapped in our jobs. Too dependent on the income to quit and too sleep deprived and bleary eyed to think of a better way. Trust me, if I had a choice today, it would be to sleep!

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