I Stopped Praying For Sleep

I always wanted to be a mom.

Growing up, it had always been a huge part of my vision of what I’d be as an adult. And not just a mom, a stay-at-home mom. It was my main aspiration.

I was constantly babysitting, either my own siblings who were six and twelve years younger than me, or other people’s kids. I worked in kid programs at church, and after I got married, I worked with special needs kids. Because of this life experience, I thought I knew what I was getting into when I got pregnant.

I was so so wrong.

The all-encompassing role of “parent” is not something you can adequately anticipate before you experience it. I was wholly unprepared.

My first child was a terrible sleeper. I remember spending thirty minutes to an hour to get him to fall asleep for a nap, only to have him wake up after half an hour, still tired and incredibly fussy. I felt like I tried everything to get him to sleep, and the frustration just grew and grew.

I couldn’t accomplish anything, ever, because I was either working on getting him to sleep or dealing with a crabby, tired baby who didn’t want to be put down.

I was exhausted. And it seemed like every time I prayed for him to sleep, he slept worse than when I didn’t.

So I stopped praying for sleep.

Eventually, he got older and started sleeping better, and we had a second child. Overall, she slept much better than he did, which was a blessing. But there were still times that either didn’t sleep when they needed to, and I would feel this rage bubbling up inside me. Just go to sleep!

I tried not to yell, but sometimes I’d lose my temper entirely.

This pattern repeated itself semi-regularly when either child took too long to fall asleep, or skipped a nap, or (heaven help us) fell asleep in the car for five minutes and then threw off our entire napping schedule for the day.

Then one day, when my daughter was about three, I was rocking her to sleep at nap time because she was fighting sleep. I felt the frustration building inside me. I had so many things I needed to do during her nap time, and she wasn’t letting me get to any of them.

And as my frustration rose to the point where I was about to lose my temper, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, ever so softly, “This is where you’re supposed to be.”

Those words hit me hard.

Because truthfully, while sleep deprivation is always difficult to deal with, the anger rising up in me wasn’t actually about that. The anger was at the disruption to my agenda. I think the all-encompassing nature of parenthood demanded more of me than I ever anticipated, and I wanted so badly to hold on to something, anything, that would give me a sense of accomplishment so I could feel like I measured up to some standard.

At that point, I’d been a mother for six years, and that whole time I’d felt this background frustration of my kids getting in the way of my plans. And here, the Holy Spirit was telling me that his plan for me was my kids. Not that I can ignore dinner and laundry and having a moment to myself (can I get an amen?) but that those things are not at odds with parenting.

My priority in that moment was loving on my daughter and helping her to fall asleep as best I could. The other things could wait because parenting is a sacred task. And so often I miss that part. The real accomplishments in parenting are very, very difficult to measure and can take a lifetime to see. But God isn’t expecting me to know all the steps yet, to have a checklist of perfect parenting objectives to check off each day. He’s just calling me to surrender. To trust this calling and his provision for me.

Those several years before, when I prayed for my son to sleep, what I was really praying for was the ability to carry out my own agenda and for my own comfort. God didn’t answer that prayer because he was trying to teach me something important (and it only took me six years to begin to learn it. ????) Now I will always remember that and extend some extra grace when it takes my children a long time to learn things (like how to sleep!)

Amber is a wife to her husband, Steve, and mom to her two children, Ethan and Stella. She grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines and has a degree in literature from Bethel University. She writes about making a keto lifestyle simple at Keto Cake Walk.