Am I a Bad Parent, or Just Tired?

Why getting sleep makes me a better mom

Lindsay Hunter
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readMar 8, 2018

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Credit: dubrovskaya/iStock/Getty Images Plus

OOne of the most shocking things to discover in the hazy, trippy—let’s be honest—horror show that is having a newborn was that while I may have been tired in my pre-parenthood life, I’d never been this tired. I’d survived all-nighters — studying, partying, traveling, insomnia, anxiety, writing — but the thing about that kind of tired is you say to yourself, “Eh, no biggie. I’ll just sleep as long as I need to later.” And then you tra-la-la to the coffee shop for hours and meet a friend for a spontaneous drink and end the night cuddled in a blankie watching Netflix before dragging yourself to your bed, where you can sleep until noon the next day, at which point you languish until late afternoon.

Your time is your own, pre-children. There is always time to catch up on sleep or just to gather yourself in the solitude of your bathroom without the caterwauling of your offspring. Some of you might be thinking, “Duh, how did she not realize that would change?” LOL, strangers — I did realize it. Preparing myself did nothing to help me.

With both my babies, I got so tired that I was in physical pain. I staggered from room to room like I’d been roofied. I nearly fainted in a Potbelly Sandwich Shop. I kept myself awake by envisioning how gross my hair would be if I fell onto the slush-spattered floor of a public restaurant, and what if I fell mouth-first? I stared at my sleeping infant in his winter hat, nestled in his car seat, and I squinted at my older child as he chattered on about what chips he’d chosen for himself. “Am I in hell?” I wondered. “Am I being tortured?”

Sleep is right up there with schedules on the list of topics that bore childless people into their graves, but once you have kids, it’s all you think about. However, training children to sleep is controversial. Notice I didn’t use the phrase “sleep training,” as that brings up all sorts of unpleasant images for people — babies crying alone in the dark for hours while their parents smoke crack and play Mario Kart, for example. If “you’ll be so tired that you’ll crave death because at least your body will be prone and unmoving” is item one on the list of things I couldn’t have prepared for, then item two is definitely “don’t talk to any other parents about sleep TRUST ME…

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Lindsay Hunter
Human Parts

Lindsay Hunter is the author of two story collections and two novels, most recently Eat Only When You’re Hungry. She lives in Chicago.