Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sleepless - day two

How do women do it?  How do they stay functioning members of society when their little one won't sleep?  She was up for 2.5 hours last night.  I know I've been lucky so far in mamadom; she's been an excellent sleeper.  Even her four month wakeful wasn't that bad; up for ~30 minutes to eat and play a little, then back to sleep.  But this is different, and it's wreaking havoc.  Luckily grandma is here to help, maybe MJ knew this was a good time to get her sleeplessness out of her system.   Come morning, choices are to either come in to work at the normal time, but feel so tired all day I accomplish nothing.  Or get a few extra hours of sleep, but come in to work so late that I accomplish nothing. Choice is beautiful, but I prefer when there's a good option.

Frequently in these last 14 months I've thought about cavewomen.  How did cavewomen birth and raise babies, before modern psychology stepped in?  What would my uneducated instincts do here?  It's hard to imagine, really.  Perhaps we can look at chimps for a clue, but you never see a chimp that looks like they didn't get enough sleep.  When they're tired, they sleep.  If baby needs them, they wake up and deal, then back to sleep.  And daddy chimp brings back whatever food they need. 

Most of the difficulties I've encountered in child rearing so far stem from these myriad expectations that we've placed on ourselves.  If I didn't have a job, didn't care whether my house was clean (it's not) and didn't worry about satisfaction beyond my children then there wouldn't be a problem.  I'd be able to focus on breastfeeding, sleeping and existing.  It's easy to say that if we had adequate parental leave policies then things would be better, but it's not that simple.  I know in Europe some countries allow a year off for the birth of a child.  That sounds nice, but, at least in my field, it's unrealistic.  How can you stay current on science and technology when you're gone for a year?  Especially if you want more than one kid.  When you add time spent pregnant, which is at a minimum a distraction from your job, then you're gone for 2+ years if you have 2 children. 

Even if the law mandated it, the reality would still not bring satisfaction.  It reminds me of the requirement to make concessions for disabled students.  Physical concessions are easy to make in mentally demanding places, like college.  But mental concessions can only get you so far. You still have to do the work.  In the workplace, adequate parental leave policies wouldn't make up for the fact that we wouldn't be here.  How can you give tenure to someone that hasn't produced anything because they've been having babies?

So why have we as women built this can't win situation for ourselves?  I blame it on biology.  If society continues to function similar to how it does now, it won't take long before we evolve to have children later in life. To some extent this is already happening.  Many women postpone having children, and if they wait too long then they don't reproduce.  Those that are able to have children late in life reproduce and pass on that genetic capability.  Our life expectancy has increased but our reproductive expectancy has not. 

And I also blame ourselves.  Men didn't really want to give us the right to work outside the home.  I know it was a hard fought battle, but some days I wish I didn't have that choice.  Being as the choices I have now are not good ones, maybe not having the choice at all would be better. 

And maybe I'll feel differently once I get a little sleep.


  1. I did not know you were an expert on chimps (specifically on the mothering styles of said chimps). Have you thought about this: maybe MJ does not want to sleep because she wants to play with her mom. Also, she is at the point in her life where she likes/wants to explore (as you said in a previous post), she could also want to have more opportunities to explore.

  2. I just read somewhere about how lots of babies have a bad-sleep streak right around 5 months, and that there is pretty much nothing you can do about it because its related to some big brain development stage and they can't shut it off. I, of course, have no idea what I'm actually talking about, but who knows, maybe she'll suddenly start crawling and then sleep 12 hours straight.

    P.S. I think that if working professionally in a part-time capacity was more widely accepted by employers and better compensated/benefited, that would go a long way to allowing women to spend time at home with young kids, but also to contribute and be active members of the work force. I feel lucky that I will get to stay full time but cut down to three days a week in the office when the baby comes. But that means a weeks worth of work in three days and shoved into the cracks everywhere else. It's better than a lot of other options, but certainly still not ideal. Why can't we have it all?

  3. As always, your posts keep me intrigued! Oh, and I mention you in my blog today...2nd post down!

  4. We have certainly complicated parenting and the roles and expectations of mothers in the professional world. Things have created the "Super Mom" syndrome....many mothers feel they need to do it all to suffice.

    I worked through my pregnancy and returned three weeks after she was born. I moved to Germany with my husband when my daughter was two and went to school online instead of working.

    Here's the punchline: I feel like I'm not doing enough. Going to work makes me feel like a better person...even if that better person is stressed, tired, and frazzled.

    It's hard to find the balance...but don't lose hope!

  5. More businesses now are allowing people to work from home. I became one of those fortunate people when I moved three hours away from the office last year. I just had my baby girl, and I am taking the full 12 weeks off of work, but I worry about what it will be like when I return. I don't think the company I work for would like me to take care of a child full time and claim to work full time. I don't know how she will be at 3 months old and if that is even possible. I know that working from home is far more flexible, but sometimes I still wish I could take more time off because I don't want to miss anything. Maybe I will feel different when my 12 weeks are over though. Somehow I doubt it…..