Recently, as the clock stretched from one day to the next, and I sat perched in my after-hours routine of folding laundry, I looked at the time in disbelief: it was nearly 1 AM!
My day had begun more than 19 hours earlier, when I popped out of bed to prepare breakfast and ensure schoolbags and lunches were primed for the early morning chaos of “getting ready” and out the door to beat the school bell.
At both 1 AM and 5:30 AM, my children and husband all remained cozily, dreamily in bed (as they should be). Yet, there I was, working. In general, I’m pretty ridiculous when it comes to my kids and their sleep. Since my first little guy was born I’ve subscribed to strict naptimes and bedtimes. I skip events or leave well before the fun is over just to get the kids tucked in. My theory has always been that my job is to provide the best environment for them to thrive emotionally, mentally, and physically; and to me, quality sleep is key.
Funny thing is that the need for 8, 7, or even 6 hours in dreamland doesn’t apply to me. For some reason, once I became a mom I no longer required quality sleep. This is by choice, of course. No one is forcing me to stay awake to revel in the quiet, enjoy my day’s first glimpse of mindless TV, or knock off a few to-dos. I choose to deprive myself of rest and rejuvenation. Yes, I may be catching up on housework and projects or basking in solitude, but it comes at a cost—my physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Why do I not see myself as worthy of a good night’s sleep as my children or even my husband? Fat chance my kids could talk me into allowing them to repeatedly stay up until the wee hours of the morning, even if it was to clean their rooms, organize their toys, or do homework. How would they function the next day? They would be exhausted little beasts, more likely to get sick, and certainly unable to focus or achieve much at school.
But not me; I can handle just a quick snooze. Well, there have been a few snarky mornings and foggy days; but, the issue is much more than mood-altering lack of sleep. It is about self-worth. You’ve got to admire kids because they are so full of themselves, their worth and desires, and our love for them, that they unabashedly believe they should get half of your lunch and your last sip of water to boot. They feel they deserve it and aren’t afraid to ask for it—repeatedly when necessary. At some point, I stopped being the worthy little soul who had no qualms asking for the last bite of my mother’s sandwich, dessert, and anything else she seemed remotely interested in, and became the giver—the reluctant, eye-rolling, are-you-kidding-me-asking, rarely-saying-no, giver.
As givers, we are constantly nurturing, fixing, helping, caring and doing. I’ve always fit into this role, but motherhood has put it at an insane level. I give and give and give without remembering to dole a scrap to myself.
That night as I folded the towels, a light bulb went on, “Why am I still up? I deserve to be rested. I need to take care of me, too.” Crazy, I know. In all of my tending and rule-setting, I forgot that I need some guidelines and even delights, too. Just because my mother isn’t still championing my every action and desire doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be doing that for myself.
My epiphany on sleep freed a flood of worthiness to follow. I began to think of all the other ways I had been forgetting that I am alive, want things, and am worthy of them:
l am worthy of the same care and emphasis I put into my children and their needs. I deserve to get a full night’s sleep. I am entitled to eat an entire meal—three a day, in fact—without sharing bites with anyone, even my children. I can have an entire cupcake, ice cream cone, candy bar, or other treat. I have earned quiet time, alone time, bathroom time, exercise time, relax time. I can nap in the middle of the day or veg out on the couch. I deserve it. Buying myself a new outfit that I’m not hurriedly grabbing off the rack at Target as I race through the store is encouraged. I deserve a few nice things that aren’t covered in scribbles, snot, or snags. I am just as worthy to eat the healthy and expensive food I “save” for my kids—blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries, watch out. I, too, need regular visits to the doctor, eye doctor, and dentist. (I never miss the kids’ annual check-ups but actually went years without even having a primary care physician.) I deserve to pick the show, movie, board game, activity, or song once in a while. I am worthy of lessons in things that interest me, to go on adventures alone or kids in-tow. Haircuts, manis, pedis and an occasional massage, yep, I deserve them too. Hugs from my kids at-will and on-demand; compliments for me, my big and small projects, and my ideas are all warranted. I deserve friends and outings with them on my own. I am entitled to have help around the house as well as a smile and thank you for all that I do. I need my family to be my cheerleaders and fans. I merit a, “You are right!” every once in a while. I’ve earned a turn on the swings, the slide, and the zip line. I want to have a dance party, feel my toes in the surf, and build a sandcastle, too. I deserve to be in the picture instead of behind the camera every time we go somewhere or experience something. I am worthy of following my dreams…
I am just as important, deserving and needing of nutrients, care, pleasures, and validation as my children. Most of these wishes I can control, some I can request and expect, and a few may be surprises, but the sooner I start living this new reality that I am just as worthy as everyone I love, the happier we all will be. And that’s something we all deserve.