Parenting with Insomnia
Last updated: July 2023
I knew, without a doubt, that having a child would complicate my days living with insomnia. And, I knew that that I would do everything I could possibly do to become a mother.
Motherhood was of critical importance to me - it was the thing that mattered most, the wish and the dream I'd thought longest and hardest about since I had been young.
The thought of navigating insomnia with a child
As my dream navigated its ways to fruition and I found myself in the depths of IVF, I kept thinking about how this would be impacted by living with insomnia. During this time, I thought a lot about staring at the ceiling, waiting to fall asleep, and a lot about the fever dream-like mornings where it was just impossible to wake up. How would I navigate either of those when taking care of a young child or children?
Today I'm going to write from the perspective I'm living, I have one child, a 4-year-old daughter, and it took so much for us to get to this point. I struggled with infertility, pregnancy loss, and the infant stages, but today I am very clear headed about what our current life looks like, and how exactly I hold enough hope and energy to manage it all.
It's all about a routine
First thing that has really made life tolerable for us has been a routine. This way, regardless of if I've had a good night or a bad night, our daughter knows what her schedule will look like, where she can help, and where she needs help.
For us, this means starting out with slow mornings, a snack and some time on the couch for snuggles and television. Sometimes she chooses quiet play, but usually she just wants to be near mom.
Next, we spend some time on open ended play before we have breakfast and get dressed for school, gymnastics, swim lessons, or whatever the morning activity is. Once we're in full swing mode, there's errands, stops for lunch, and always being home by a certain time to start our naptime routine.
Naps don't always happen with kids
Our daughter doesn't nap every day anymore, but when she is tired, she will, and when she is not, she's agreed to a quiet "book party" - library time in her room. This gives both her and I the time we need to rest.
Sometimes I can get in a quick 30 to 45 minute sleep in during her nap time, and even if I don't wake up refreshed, I'll find myself having a bit more energy to make it from early afternoon until her bedtime.
After rest hour we have some more quiet play, then dinner, bath, story books, and bedtime.
Parenting with insomnia
The best part of a routine is it provides structure for us both. On days I'm struggling, feeling too tired to function or have no extra energy, the routine is our guide, and we rely heavily on it.
I've also developed language with my daughter to talk abut the days in which mommy is just way too tired, and sometimes we "play nap" or she is the doctor and gives me a very long exam - ways where she can make up a story to play with which allow me to exert minimal energy or even keep my eyes closed!
Have you found any of these tricks to work as you parent with insomnia? I'd love to know what other ones I'm missing!
What do you do at night when you can't sleep?