They don’t tell you…

You’ll never get a good night’s sleep again – EVER. A new baby comes into your life and you expect a few sleepless nights, frequent disruptions during other nights, and groggy days. But you also expect an eventual return to normalcy.

Not so. Months pass and your baby starts doing cute stuff. You can’t help yourself. You think: “I want another one!” And so it goes. The saner parents may stop at two, but some of us keep trying to replicate that “cute stage.”

The children grow some more, and you try to regulate naps. But, more than likely, your two (or more) children will NOT want to nap at the same time. So you continue to function in sleep-deprived mode. (I will admit that one of my proudest moments was the six months I had somehow managed to get my three young children, ages 0, 1, and 3, to nap for the same one and a half to two hours in the afternoon. Ah, bliss.)

Your children continue to grow. They give up naps entirely — though there is always the holdout child who keeps you trapped at home for his or her nap while toddlers destroy your house and peace of mind. Where once you could put them to bed at 7 o’clock, maybe 8 o’clock, now they stay up later. The time you had to clean the house, make phone calls, attend to email, or converse with your partner grows shorter.

Pretty soon their bedtimes have crept up to 9 or 10 o’clock, and you see the writing on the wall: Some day, in the not-too-distant-future, you will be falling into bed exhausted before their first yawns.

But it gets worse. Someone forgot to tell you that the effects of aging and menopause would strike just about the time you are beginning to imagine getting a full 7 or 8 hours of rest at night again. (On a personal note, I am waking multiple times during the night these days — drinking water to soothe heartburn or reconfiguring my body in bed to deal with back pain or throwing covers off my body to cope with hot flashes.)

Did we start a family too late in life? Suppose I had my first baby at age 22 as my mother did. By the time I was 50, my 28-year-old would be long gone. Even if we elongated the period of family creation to ten years – as the Falcos have done – my youngest child would be 18 and soon off to college – all before the hot flashes began, right?

“Not so fast,” say my friends with older children. “Your children bounce back.” They move back in and make messes they expect you to clean up. They come “home” after college because they can’t find a job that pays well enough to afford their own housing. Alternatively, they take “gap years” and delay leaving in the first place. They lose jobs and need your money. They call you in the middle of night to pick them up because they are too drunk to drive or find themselves in an unsafe environment. They have babies and expect you to drop everything when a babysitting need arises.

Perhaps the answer is to MOVE AWAY without telling them where you’ve gone. But, I don’t know. I’m kind of used to the chaos and juggling of schedules that gets me through the day. It would be nice to meet a friend for coffee or to take a run at a time I chose as convenient. But I have observed that my dad, at almost 81 years of age, schedules an afternoon nap for himself before he heads off to band rehearsal or a professional consultation, and I think: “I may never get another full night’s sleep, but won’t it be fun to take naps some day?”

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