Updated: Thursday, September 28, 2017, 3:01 AM
Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: I've always needed a good night's sleep to function, at least eight hours, but ideally 10.
I would like to have kids. I've always pictured myself with kids. I'm starting to feel a real longing to get pregnant and have a baby, but the sleep deprivation terrifies me. My husband and I sort of think parents might be exaggerating this a little. Sleep deprivation is torture. If parents are really getting no sleep, how do they care for their kids? Or go to work?
Right now, our loose plan is to formula-feed with a night nanny every other night. My husband can do the night feedings every other day but needs to catch up sometime.
When I say this to people who have kids, they tell us it will never work, that at some point I will be up all night. I feel like my husband and I would be spectacular parents if we are rested, and this is a remedy. I need somebody objective to weigh in. Is it possible to arrange your life to get a full night's sleep with babies and little kids?
Answer: This answer will be way more polite than I want it to be after the, "My husband and I sort of think parents might be exaggerating this a little. Sleep deprivation is torture." Right. OK.
So: With enough money you can arrange just about anything.
For those who cannot afford a night staff for, let's say four or five years after the birth of a child, some sleep loss can't be avoided - and that's even if you want to avoid it, which I'll get to in a second.
The youngest babies can be up every two hours. Older babies can get you up two or three times a night. A baby who gets up just once a night can pop up in his little crib WIDE! AWAKE! Ready to par-tay! At 3 a.m.!
Some babies are super-duper sleepers, but some just aren't. I had one who woke up for the day, rarin' to go, between 4 and 5 a.m. You can blame that on me for not wrangling him better to conform to my habits, but this was more than a decade ago. The household has changed dramatically, and he can get up as late or as early as he wants to now but is still an early riser.
Point being, when you become a parent, you become the caregiver to individuals, and individuals have their ways and needs and tendencies over which you have a little say but nowhere near complete say. Plans? Hah.
Plus, babies are helpless for an astonishingly long time, which means you are on the spot to give them what they need. You can't make a toddler not vomit at 2 a.m. or not have night terrors. Your sleep becomes your second priority whenever the stars align that way.
And you work and care for your children tired. You just do. You find it in you because that's what you signed up for.
Giving them what they need also bonds them to you, and you to them. Hire some respite, yes, but know there's such a thing as too much.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.
Read full story: Coming to terms with babies and sleep deprivation