If we frame “parenting” as having a caring attitude toward not just our own children but each other and the world, then even when our kids are sleeping soundly through the night, our own sleep troubles can pose a major parenting challenge.
A reader inquires:
“I read your sleep post with interest. My kids are long past that now (teens), but the issue of sleep caught my attention in general. That, largely because I have a sleep disorder that has been managed well for many years, but completely out of control for a number of months now. I’m lost in the murky territories of extended and extreme sleep loss. At least I know what it is, but it is debilitating, and no light at the end of the tunnel at present.
Certainly, it isn’t as difficult as it was when my kids were younger but it is difficult. There are many things to do, and I cannot do them, or can only do them in the most limited fashion… How to not make it worse by breaking down in front of a child, and frightening him? How to live with the guilt and the anger and not let it spill out?
I know I’m still managing to be a decent parent, but it hardly seems enough. And the mask is heavy. I’ll continue to wear it as much as I can, but it’s heavy, and getting harder to hold up.
I know, relatively, this is a small thing. It could be so much worse. But I need to finish my job properly, somehow manage to do that. And it’s getting harder and scarier because physically I’m spiraling down, fast.”
Slogging through a day when we haven’t had enough sleep is bad enough (unless we’re still in college or early twenties and generally possess more resilient bodies to compensate for our blithely immature minds), but when sleep-deprivation becomes chronic, when words like “insomnia” give way to labels like “sleep disorder,” it can be miserable in the way vampires used to be portrayed (before they became sexy teens)—as a sort of non-living anxiously between worlds, an agony of nether-dwelling that leaves us perpetually drained (and potentially draining to others, particularly children who we are supposed to care for and nourish).