What I Wished My Now Grown Child Knew About My Insomnia

Many emotions hit me hard when my son turned 18. His father had just suddenly died, and though we had been divorced for over 13 years, he and I had remained very close and had been a formative figure in my own life. Both of these things happened around the time I turned 50, signaling a fundamental shift in the eras and phases of life.

These emotional earthquakes - my 'midlife crisis' - created a lot of areas of self-reflection. One of those reflections was on my history with insomnia and how it may have affected my interactions with my son when he was smaller.

There are many things I wish I could have helped him truly understand - not for sympathy, but so that he knew "it wasn't him."

It's not you, it's me

I would have wanted him to understand that it was not his fault that I was exhausted and feeling crabby. That doesn't mean I didn't take it out on him by being snippy, grumpy, or physically less engaged on some days - I did, and that is my regret.

I would have wanted to help him understand that I was not upset with him when I would have outbursts of frustration or upset or frazzled exhaustion. I was acting that way because of something happening to me - insomnia - making me more prone to being upset.

He was so small I didn't know how to explain it in a way he'd understand. When they are small, they think everything is about them.

A bit of rest

I would have wanted him to know that I wasn't ignoring him when I felt I needed quiet - I just needed undisturbed rest. I would lie down, and he would wonder why I wasn't up and doting on him.

I just needed a bit of rest.

He knows

I would have wanted him to know that sometimes when I was ill and vomiting, the migraine came on due to lack of sleep. It wasn't a virus or a food problem. It was my brain. I would have wanted him to know he was totally safe in case he felt unsafe.

And above all, I would have wanted him to know how much I loved him, even if I didn't express it well. One of the things I wished I had convinced myself of at that time was this: he knew. And he knows.

I didn't need to worry so much.

Parents, be gentle with yourself

He is now 18, and we have talked about it all since. And I can tell you this: he knew, and he can tell me he knew. He can explain how I was a much better mom than I worried I wasn't.

It is reassuring to me now that he's older, and I better understand what his experience was like. But for years, I didn't know that he knew. He came out just fine and is so loving - and felt loved - despite my perceived inadequacies as a parent with insomnia and feeling I was not doing enough or not being enough.

Parenthood is a recipe for being hard on oneself. Be gentle with yourself.

Insomnia can certainly have an effect on parenting. What tips would you give to other parents managing insomnia? Share in the forums.

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