10 December 2006

Four-Hour Watch

On one of my Mommy Lists, someone is complaining about not getting enough sleep. And it's hitting my buttons. Americans who spend their entire youths living on no sleep and chocolate-covered espresso beans at their own choice, suddenly become hostile and whiney when they're getting more sleep on average, but broken up on their baby's schedule instead of theirs. It astonishes me how many people don't think about this when they decide to become parents. And it astonishes me even more how many crackpot schemes are out there for "managing baby's sleep". Fercryingoutloud, get over yourselves. In my Coastal Navigation class the other night, we were discussing the notion of ship's watches. Most people do something like four-hour watches, round the clock. You're up for four, sleep for four, up for four... and so on. Because someone needs to drive the boat, you know. I realized that I have never once ever in my life heard a sailor whining about missing sleep. So I asked the instructor about it. He just shrugged, and said "well, that's part of the deal. Watches are a seamanly thing, you just do them." Well, ya know what? Sleep in fragmented bits on odd schedules at unique times are a parently thing, you just do them. He went on to talk about how night watches are some of his most magical memories; where it's just you, and the sea, and the sky. Hey, even Crosby Stills and Nash did their realizing on a midnight watch, in the Southern Cross. There's a ton of literary and musical reference about the mystical revelations to be had on a night watch. I read a book recently about a woman who singlehanded a boat around the world in a race. She slept in 10-minute snatches, here and there, as she could. Now granted, I don't think anyone really wants to take it that far, but the point is, when someone's doing something utterly amazing like racing a circumnavigation, sleep deprivation is seen as cool and worthy. Well maybe, just maybe, sleep dep due to meeting your child's needs in the best way possible for the fifteen seconds (OK, maybe three or four years, but trust me, it seems like fifteen seconds when it's over) they're little, is something cool and worthy. Maybe if we all just stood up and said "I am one of those gnarly extreme round-the-clock parents", people would back off and oooh and ahhh. Or maybe, just maybe, you get rewarded at the end by your happily adjusted and fabulous child. And that's enough. So I'm heading off to take my turn at the Watch, with my babies. While I still can.


At 12/10/2006 09:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see both sides, and from my sleep-deprived state it seems your post is taking my state too lightly. Sailors do get a break every now and then; they know approximately in how many days/weeks the next shore/harbor/anchoring is expected; with that in mind, you can get through a lot. With kids, at least mine, it's open-ended or at least months/years. I'd give something for a regular 4h watch; my nights right now have unpredictable 30min-2h intervals; which is worse if you know I need 30min to fall asleep again each time. And I've done this for 80%+ of the 7 months my youngest is now; with travel/teething/colds I have not had a single 4h stretch of restorative sleep in 4 months, and it's starting to take its LT toll. And I don't have a "crewmate" to take turns with - I'm on call 24/7.
I'm not just whining; I'm so tired I walked into a wall last week and yesterday slipped on our stairs.
Still I'm with you that if so much attention is what a kid needs in a certain phase, I'm willing to give it to them. But I'm praying that phase will morph into something better soon and I'm also working on ways to gently help him learn how to need less attention periodically (i.e. at nighttime) so I can give him better-quality attention during other times (aka waking hours).
Yawn - off to bed now - my next 2h watch is ticking closer!

At 12/10/2006 10:38:00 PM, Blogger zikehmama said...

My gawd, that was hitting *my* buttons, too. Serendipitously, I checked your blog tonight (uh, yeah, I know I should do the RSS thingy but I don't yet) and ahhhhhh... your lastest entry gave me some relief (akin to what I feel when the perfect balm finally soothes chapped lips or hands)! :)

At 12/11/2006 01:01:00 PM, Anonymous Mom2 said...

after having a child you never get enough sleep even after they are grown you still lose sleep, cuz you are always a parent, always worrying about one child or another. thank heaven for cat naps


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