It’s 3 am and I am awake.
Lying here in the dark I’m trying to switch my brain off so I can go back to sleep, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t do it.
I try thinking happy thoughts.
I try imaging what I’d do if I won a million dollars.
I even try one of those stupid ‘relax every part of your body’ meditation techniques…
But no matter what I do they still creep in.
They lurk in the shadows at the edges of my thoughts waiting for a moment to jump in, those crazy and irrational thoughts that pop into my head in the middle of the night.
Crazy and Irrational Thought #1
What if my child suddenly stopped breathing in the middle of the night and I didn’t know?
I thought this one might pass once the newborn phase was behind us – you know how it was back then, when it was so surprising that the baby slept for more than 30 minutes that you were sure they must be dead, so you creep in and try to figure out if they are still breathing, usually waking them up in the process. My kids all sleep a longer than the 30 minute stretches of babyhood these days (there is hope tired Mamas of little ones!), but that ridiculously irrational fear that something may have happened to them in the middle of the dark and scary night without my knowledge still haunts me every now and then.
I lie there in bed telling myself how stupid this thought is. The likelihood of a healthy 6 year old randomly stopping breathing in the middle of the night is slim… but what if it did happen and I thought about checking but didn’t check and… and suddenly I’m creeping around the house in the dark making sure everyone is still breathing and knowing that I have well and truly lost my mind!
Crazy and Irrational Thought #2
I am scarring my kids for life.
This a more ‘run of the mill’ guilt induced crazy thought – you know the ones right?
All the bad stuff I’ve ever done, all the mistakes I’ve ever made, the one time I lost it and said that really bad thing that I really shouldn’t have said… all these horrible, awful, terrible moments, these are the things that my kids will remember when they grow up. These are the things they will tell their therapist in years to come and the therapist will nod in a knowing way and say “hmmm” and “you are right, it is all your mother’s fault”.
Except that I am sure my parents made their fair share of ‘mistakes’, and to be honest, I can’t remember any of them. I do remember some difficult parts of my childhood, but not with remorse or anger, but with a kind of resilient fondness – ‘that felt so hard and horrible back then, but I got through it’. So I’m guessing if I wasn’t totally scarred for life my by upbringing, then my kids might just end up ok too?
Crazy and Irrational Thought #3
Everyone else does that except me.
While I’m lying there, marinating in self doubt and parenting guilt from all the mistakes I’ve made, this little gem bubbles to the surface next. Like a kid whining about how unfair the world is, I am sure I the only parent on the face of this earth who isn’t doing x y or z for my kids.
I’m the only one who’s kids don’t do three different after school activities.
I’m the only one who is not volunteering a hundred hours at school.
I’m the only one who feeds their kids cereal for dinner.
I’m the only one who won’t let their kids watch that on TV or play that video game.
Of course I know none of that is true. I know because I’ve asked other parents, and it turns out that some parents do certain things for their kids, and some don’t. It turns out that we all make different choices for our kids, based on what our kids need and what is important to us… who woulda thunk it??
Crazy and Irrational Thought #4
Nobody else’s kids ever do that except mine.
Just when I finally convince myself that every other parent in the world is not doing insane, over the top, things for their kids, then I flip to the other side of the coin and I worry about all the crazy things my kids do. OMG! My kids must be the worst kids in the whole world! Nobody else’s kids do these things, surely!
No one else’s kids pick their nose in public!
No one else’s tweens roll their eyes, and slam doors, and tell their mothers they hate them.
No one else’s kids struggle with friendships, or school work.
No one else’s kids fight constantly, chunk tantrums, or push the limits.
No one else has a picky eater, a bad sleeper, an occasional lyer or
Oh except they do, and I know they do, because I’ve asked other parents, remember.
We all have our struggles, we all have our bad patches, we all have kids who are unique in their own special ways, and above all we are hardly ever the ‘only ones’. If you reach out and ask, or google, I bet you’ll find someone who is going through something similar to you.
Crazy and Irrational Thought #5
I am the worst parent in the world.
I am awake, in the middle of the night, checking if my kids are still breathing and worrying about all these totally over the top insane things! I need to chill the heck out or I will end up being the worst parent in the whole world!
Oh yeah, that’s a really useful thought, thanks.
Well let me tell you something crazy middle of the night brain – the fact that I worry about this ridiculous stuff proves that I am a good parent. I care about my kids, I am trying to do my very best as a parent and to learn from my mistakes, that’s enough for me to know that I am in fact not the worlds worst parent… so be quiet and go back to sleep!
Please tell me I am not the only one who’s brain heads of to these ridiculous and illogical places when it’s given a few dark minutes to contemplate life?
We all have these crazy and irrational thoughts, we all have moments of hideous self doubt and parental guilt, right?
But it’s what we do with these moments that counts.
It’s ok for them to sneak up on us in the dark, middle of the night, moments, 3 am was made for crazy thoughts like these, but we need to find logic, or laughter, or just the light of another day to send the crazy thoughts back into the shadows. Because these kinds of illogical and irrational thoughts are based on tiredness, and stress, and overwhelm, not reality.
What crazy thoughts haunt you in the dark hours?
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
ha ha. Thank goodness I am not the only one that does that. I often think what if someone had snuck into the house whilst we were asleep an stole our children.
I also worry about the not breathing thing….
I have found this breathing technique works helping me get back to sleep, breath in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7 and release that breath for a count of 8. just make sure you count the same pace for all of them. Do that as many times as you can and well next thing I know I am waking up in the morning.
I am totally going to try that breathing trick! Thanks you!!!
Did you try the breathing?
You nailed it. All of the above.
Plus the old “what am I doing with my life” & “I’m too old to do anything worthwhile, it’s too late”. Ahhh 3am.
Oh man I totally forgot about those ones! I often get struck by the ‘what am I doing with my life, have I made the wrong decisions, and am I wasting my life’ thing!
Haha, move into a neighborhood like the one I am living in right now — and your kids will be very proud of you for being the only one who does or not does… whatever it is all the others are or are not doing, :-).
LOL so glad it mums the world over (not just in Australia) that do this, I thought I was the only one.
I enjoy your emails and know I will almost always get a grin while reading them even on the worst day.
It’s so nice to you are not alone isn’t it!!!
When my oldest son was born, he didn’t breath for the first minute and a half. So thankful that he started breathing. I can remember the MANY sleepless nights of me sitting in his room, making sure that he was still breathing. He’s 17 now. I did that for about 6 months. Really enjoy your newsletter. Keep up the good work.
Well you had a good reason to worry! I had good reason to worry about my twins as they were born prem and didn’t breathe on their own for weeks, but… ahem… my smallest child is nearly 6 and my twins are 12, so I think I should probably stop worrying now! LOL
I found out it is easier to just get up and check on kids than to try to convince myself that everything is ok – so I do as you do;). And once I know everybody is ok it’s ok. I had exactly the same nonsleepers (babies) and also usually ended up waking them in the process:D.
I worry a lot about the decisions, though. Is it ok to put them in the public school? Could we aford another baby that I’d like? What work should I find? If I take a fultime job will my kids suffer too much? Wouldn’t we all be happier if we just moved to Brazil (or somewhere else warm and cheaper)?:D etc. etc…
When I am not drop dead tired I usually just get up and start doing something no matter the time of night. When I am productive these thoughts are less consuming… Not the best advice but it works for me (I do not need a lot of sleep, luckily – otherwise I’d be dead already:D).
Yep, it really is just easier to go check. I need to remember that and not waste all that time trying to convince myself to stay in bed when I know that I won’t! LOL