To celebrate my birthday last month, I spent that night from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next day whooping it up. Impressive for a 30-something mom of two right? Except the crib was my 5-month-old’s and the only partying done was her wailing along with any music I attempted to play (the “Happy Birthday” song included). It was a different kind of house party than the ones I used to frequent.

I decided to screenshot how many times I was up with my daughter last night. The grand total was 12. My 3-year-old isn’t much better. He still wakes more nights than not to be rocked or patted back to sleep. Or, on the not so rare occasion, promised that gnomes aren’t in his crib trying to get him and that it is OK to go back to his slumber.

He hasn’t slept in three years. The baby hasn’t slept in three months now.

Yes I am tired. Weary. Exhausted. I’ve felt sorry for myself. I cancel plans with my best friends as a result. I’ve felt mad at my children for doing this to me. I’ve also felt guilty for complaining when my life could be much worse.

Then it came to me. The one question I haven’t asked over the years: is it my job to be tired right now?

Maybe this is just where we need to be in this moment. Maybe these late-night nuzzles are serving some grater purpose I will realize when I’m much older. Maybe I am nourishing their souls by giving a piece of mine nightly.

I don’t know, but somehow when I look at it that way it is a little bit easier to swallow.

I know how deeply not getting enough sleep affects you. I know how ashamed you feel after taking it out on your husband and children. Your fuse is unbearably short these days. I know what its like to auto pilot through a day and not enjoy any of it because you are running on a tank that is empty. I know how you wish you could run away from it all and do nothing but check into a hotel room and sleep.

But I also know what it is like to feel silky soft, blonde, wispy hairs on my cheek. A warm toddler body that fits perfectly into my arms. Soft, perfect skin. I mentally record their tiny grunts, sighs and snores. Retain forever the sensation of a miniature hand in mine and sharp fingernails in my palm.

This is my job now to comfort them, to hold them, to love them at the beginning of the night and at the end of the night. I also cry because they keep me up. Just like any job it isn’t always what you thought it would be or what you wish it was. It is making the best out of a situation that is always challenging and always unpredictable.

I am their mother and no one can do this but me.

My job is to be tired right now.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Kelly Houseman

Kelly Houseman is a mental health counselor who maintains a private practice in Michigan. She is the mom of a toddler son and a brand-new baby girl. You can follow her career and family adventures on her blog Kelly's Reality or on @KellysReality.