Kristy Williams' essay is the second in a series of posts celebrating the 1st birthday of Dare, Dream, Do. You may remember her piece titled Five Dreams I Think I'll Date, followed by Five Dreams I Dated and A Dream in Progress: Women in Business Conference. Having had twins about a year ago, below is the latest installment in Kristy's journey of dreaming.
“I can do hard things” is a motto I’ve always subscribed to. Having four kids under four seemed like a perfect way to actualize that mantra. My number one priority is my children. Meeting their basic needs is my key daily task. Helping them thrive is my biggest, lifelong dream. But, for the past 13 months I have been tired. Exhausted. Sleep – the kind where you wake up and actually feel refreshed and rested – has been but a distant memory. I signed up for it (I purposefully got pregnant), so I tried not to complain too much. But even when you sign up for hard things, the reality of the challenge remains. I had two little ones at home (ages 1 and 3) when I got pregnant with twins. Hence the initial eight months of exhaustion. Then the twins were born and I had four little ones at home – two of whom felt they needed food and love a few times during the night. Hence the next five months of exhaustion.
The fog of exhaustion occasionally thwarted my best (meagre, but best) efforts to meet basic needs, but more often than not my children were fed, dressed, bathed, and even played with. Somehow in this fog I realized I had some needs that were fighting for space within my limited mental and physical energy! I had an ever growing desire to use and stretch my mind – something beyond reading interesting news articles (a crucial link to the outside world during this insular time). My stream of consciousness looked something like this:
2:00am: NOOOOOO. Why can’t they wait 5 more hours? Oh, my sweet, sweet babies. They are so beautiful and precious. Wonder what Kim Jong Un’s up to? Eat up little babes! Let’s see what The Economist has for me today. Maybe instead of reading articles I should try rest my tired eyes while feeding the babies.
12 hours later…
2:00pm: My eyes will not stay open. I have two babies to feed, two children to keep from harm (the best I can do while feeding the babies), and two eyes that just want to close for an hour. Or two. I love being a mom. Luckiest girl in the world, I am. I’m feeling a bit unfulfilled today. What project can I start that will once again use this atrophying brain of mine?
3 hours later…
5:00pm: I am so hungry. I am always hungry. I can’t possibly eat enough to sustain life for 3 people. What can I scrounge up to feed the older boys? Arghh. The babies need to eat now, the boys will have to wait – as will I. I think it’s cereal again for dinner. Come here sweet babies. I need a snuggle before I feed you. Argh again! All four kids are whining. This is what I signed up for. 2 more hours till they are all in bed. If only I could go to bed right now.
As the days passed I kept fighting to keep my eyes open while searching for some intellectual stimulation. There were many moments of joy, but interspersed in the joy were moments of sadness. Like many a mom before me, I felt consumed by my job. Somehow amidst the mania I cobbled together some coherent thoughts and, thankfully, realized this time of sleep deprivation is short. It seems eternal right now, but really, it will end soon. And I am in no mental position to take on anything else. Accept that. I have a lifetime to dream and dare and do for me. Those dreams will be much more attainable when they are developed and acted on when I have more than 3 hours of sleep in a row.
I can do hard things. I just can’t do all things all at once. There are times when you just have to do the hard stuff. JUST the hard stuff. And there are times in life when downtime needs to be used for rest.
Not for cleaning, not for reading, not for accomplishing. Just rest.
It is also useful for me to remember the crazy times when I worked for pay. I had a month stretch when I worked every day from 7:30am-11:30pm. The remaining hours in the day were used solely for sleeping. I ate lunch and dinner at my desk. I did not see my friends. I did not clean my bathroom. I did not read a book. My job was highly analytical, and I understood that sleep was necessary to produce high-quality work. Prioritizing sleep seemed so obvious then, yet now when I’m pulling even longer hours (and doing work that is more important for humanity), I think a nap is a luxury I can’t afford. Silly, sleep-deprived me.
A month ago my babies started sleeping through the night. I put them down around 6:30pm and they wake up 12 hours later. I am, most days, a whole person. In a way I couldn’t have imagined just 2 months ago, I am experiencing great fulfillment in living my big dream of caring for my beautiful little ones. Being well-rested does wonderful things for my mental state! I’m still not out of the woods. I don’t always get a full night’s sleep, and my days are long and physically demanding. I do have other dreams I want to chase, but I am beginning to recognize that they (and I) really can wait a bit. Today (and probably tomorrow) my dreams need to be the ones that happen at night, while sleeping.
Have you had periods of sleep deprivation as you've lived one of your biggest dreams?
Kristy Williams is a former Bain management consultant and corporate strategist who now focuses her time on motherhood. When she has spare time (ie. not now) she does freelance consulting work for small/medium-sized companies. She grew up in small town Alberta, Canada and now lives in suburban Houston, a place she surprisingly loves. Her hobbies include most anything done outdoors, reading the Economist, and traveling.