In our household, it isn't just the kids who are in bed by 9 pm. The days feel long when you're chasing three children around, so even though "alone" time sounds nice at the end of the night—sleep sounds so much better.
Every single night, I crawl into bed with feelings of pure exhaustion as my body screams at me to give it rest. The day's workload has taken its toll, and there are new muscle aches, heavy lids and scars to prove it.
As I settle in and finally experience relaxation for the first time all day, my husband and I have a quick exchange of words and then prepare for a night of what we hope to be uninterrupted sleep. Typically, it takes about three whole minutes for my husband to enter full-on hibernation mode, as I lay there and try to convince my mind to shut off.
This is when the inevitable happens. I suddenly realize that I have uninterrupted quiet time to think. To unload. To be fully alone with my thoughts.
Yes, I am physically and mentally exhausted, and rest is what I need more than anything in the world. But the opportunity to actually finish a thought without being distracted is too tempting.
Some nights, I try hard to fight it. I have an inner dialogue about resisting the urge to run through my to-do list and analyze every moment of the day—knowing full well that I will be stuck there for hours.
Occasionally it works, but typically I am too deep into next week's plans to turn back at that point.
It is amazing how many things you can process when you don't have little voices derailing your every thought... For me, it's often as if a faucet has been turned on and an endless flow of ideas and inspiration pour out with no end in sight. I can go from precisely planning next week's meal schedule to creating a work budget and then deciding where we will go for our anniversary.
I will remind myself to call the babysitter in the morning, buy dish soap, call the dentist, order the birthday cake, set out the baseball clothes, and respond to the work email, all in about 25 seconds. When I should be sleeping. When I want to be sleeping.
And then the analyzing starts. Oh, the analyzing!
Did I scold the kids too much today?
Did I come off harsh to my co-worker?
Did I spend enough time engaging with my husband?
Did I do anything for myself?
Did we have fun?
Did I do enough? Was I enough?
At this point in my evening, I am so overstimulated that I am now trying to figure out how many hours of sleep I will get if I somehow stop the barrage of thoughts in the next hour. I do all of this without moving from my bed. Without lifting a finger.
I often tell myself that I have to change this habit. I cannot continue to let my brain take over and sabotage a full night of glorious sleep. But then I remember that I'm not alone. There are so many other mamas that are up at night thinking the exact same thing. Wondering how and when they will get more sleep.
This is motherhood.
It is worrying, and analyzing, and planning, and wishing you could let it all go, but resisting it at the same time.
It is wanting nothing more than to rest, but instead, sacrificing because that is just what we do.
Each stage of motherhood can present a hundred different opportunities to keep us up at night.
But I know there will be a time that this season will pass and I will be able to lay in bed and block out the mental clutter better.
For now, I will work on balance. I will work on embracing the nights that I am able to let my mind relax. And I'll remind myself that even in the chaos, motherhood is so completely worth it—even those sleepless nights.