If This Isn’t the Prairie, Why Am I So Tired?

My eyes spring open at 6:04. I'm aware it's morning and it's Monday. My brain wants to put my body into motion. But I can't move a single muscle.

There is lead coursing through my veins. My limbs are so weighty I can't lift them off the Sealy Posturepedic. My head is a cannonball, sunk into the soft folds of my pillow, or maybe it's a big rock. Either way, it's heavy.

And then, my mind connects with my weary flesh and I'm aware again today that I am so tired.

Sleep is supposed to be refreshing, but I haven't really had a great night's sleep since I had children, and that's going on 15 years. It's not that the kids are up during the night. In fact, my kids all sleep like the dead. The problem is ever since I became a mother, I'm in a constant state of readiness. I'm sleeping, but always on alert for the sound of a hacking cough or someone crying in the night.

Plus, my room is filled with heavy breathing (the dog's, not my husband's), and on any given night, there's a train whistle, a faulty muffler, or a clap of thunder outside my window to thwart my uninterrupted rest. It's the affliction of the Hypersensitive Sleeper, which comes in handy when you want to keep someone from throwing up on the carpet, but isn't great for avoiding fatigue.

Getting enough sleep isn't the point, anyway. The point is, literally every woman I know is completely exhausted.

I'm loath to conclude it's a result of our “hectic lifestyles.” Yes, we all live at a fast pace, but honestly, is it that much more difficult than the life of, say, a pioneer woman, who spent her days walking across the prairie, cooking over campfires, washing clothes in a stream, and helping to care for livestock, all while teaching Junior to read and composing actual letters to her family back East? In calligraphy?

I'm not kidding myself. It's easier to load a dishwasher than string the pots and pans back onto the covered wagon.

Then again, without electricity, that pioneer mom could stay up only so late. Eventually, the candle burned down, the campfire dwindled, and her day came to an end.

Not so, for most of the women I know, who write emails into the wee hours, while the sounds and smells of clean laundry tumble and agitate down the hall. With the days spent working and driving kids from here to New Zealand, and the evening focused on homework and bedtime rituals, we're often stoking up the computer after 10:00 at night to finish a report, pay the bills, or make plans for the next day or week or month.

There just aren't enough hours in the day. According to a recent study, about half of American adults feel they don't have enough time each day to do the things they want to do (apparently, the other half is childless). For example, I want to exercise. My cellulite cushion jiggles happily at the mere thought of exercise. But I can't imagine how tired I would be tonight if I take an hour out of my day to walk briskly in the neighborhood, much less head to the health club for a workout. People always say exercise makes them more energetic, but I don't get that. Instead, exercise adds another task to my list of things to do, and also makes me need a second shower — and who has time for that? I'm lucky if I get the first one, and then only when the water is running by 6:40 in the morning.

Exhaustion isn't exclusive to women, of course. But among the many ways in which men and women inherently are different is men do a better job of recharging their batteries. They grab a beer, turn on the game, and take a load off.

Sounds great, but let's face it. I'd only fall asleep.

(Marybeth Hicks is a writer and author of the features “then again.” and “A View from the Pew.” A wife of 17 years and mother of four children from second grade to sophomore year, she uses her columns to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families and the communities we share. Marybeth began her writing career more than 20 years ago in the Reagan White House. She also has worked in marketing and public relations positions in corporate and agency settings. Mostly, she spends a lot of time in her mini-van, where the real work of parenting actually happens. Learn more about Marybeth and her column at www.marybethhicks.com.)

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage