My husband guffawed when I first proclaimed this, a few months after our second was born.
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, and we had gotten a rare hour (or was it two?) to ourselves while both boys napped. I luxuriated in the quiet of the house, the projects we both got to tackle without interruption, the conversations we could share as we worked or cleaned or did sweet nothing at all.
On one hand, my comment was certainly sarcastic. While my kids were sleeping, I felt like the kind of mom I wanted to be: relaxed, peaceful, patient, kind. It was only when they woke up and I had to deal with them that I inevitably fell short.
But on the other hand, my words revealed deeper truth: I can’t parent well when my basic needs aren’t met.
Looking back over the past few months when we did not sleep, I marvel that I survived. Sleep is essential for me. Some people can slide by with a few hours a night, but I need a solid six or seven. So when sleep eludes me, my temper flares and my patience disappears. I’m a growly grizzly bear.
Maslow’s hierarchy claims that sleep is a basic human need. Without it, we can’t achieve – or even desire – any deeper psychological needs. While Maslow’s pyramid has been deconstructed by many folks who followed him, I always remember his hierarchy when parenting forces me to go without sleep for long stretches. I can’t do much else but dream of dozing. No wonder sleep deprivation amounts to torture.
Now that the baby is sleeping well again, I feel like a Human Being once more. Gone are the zombie eyes and the fuzzy brain. We’re not quite to the dreamy, 12-hours-straight that his brother does, but we’re getting closer. Hope is back on the horizon.
So when my inner critic started nagging me lately about Lent (specifically, my lack of spiritual engagement therein), I made myself go look at the calendar. It’s only been a few weeks since the baby started sleeping through the night again. Prior to that point, I had to focus on meeting basic needs to survive, work and parent. So I had to cut myself some slack in the spirituality department. Prayer just wasn’t happening after night after night of naps.
Yet I’m grateful for feeling refreshed in time for Easter. Sleep is everyday’s Sabbath: time to rest, recharge, recenter. And I’m reveling in the normal rhythm of our days and nights returning. For me this Lent was like our Winter That Wasn’t: surprisingly unseasonable, but leading into a long stretch of spring to savor.
Lately the “simul-nap” remains the Holy Grail of sleep. Snatched only once or twice a week, but when we catch it, life is glorious. Extra work gets finished, house projects get tackled, and everyone gathers refreshed at the end of the afternoon.
I do feel like a better parent, and I’m not embarrassed to admit what I need. Rest makes me ready to sing Alleluias.