To The Mom Who Went To Work On Hardly Any Sleep

© vladimirfloyd / Adobe Stock

woman sleeping at work


Meredith Bodgas, Editor-in-Chief of Working Mother
Meredith Bodgas, Editor-in-Chief of Working Mother
That’s your alarm. I know, you can’t believe it. It feels like your head just hit the pillow because mere minutes ago, you were in your child’s bedroom nursing or rocking or back-rubbing or delivering yet another drink of water or offering yet another persuasive lecture on how there absolutely isn’t a monster or a ghost or a giant robot with glowing eyes in his room.
And yet it’s time to start getting ready for work, a lot earlier than your sleeping husband arises because there’s still lunch to be made, outfits to be picked and permission slips to be signed. But you can’t even fault him. He spent plenty of time in the kid’s room last night, too.
You turn on the shower and pray that the water hitting you right in the face will pummel you into an elevated state of alertness. It doesn’t. You apply layer after layer of concealer to the bruise-like pigments under your eyes, hoping to look well-rested, or at least not like a pro boxer punched you. It’s an improvement, but the kind of industrial-strength makeup you need today is only available to Stranger Things special effects artists.
You sip your coffee or your tea and pray that the caffeine will jolt you awake. It shifts you from having to make a conscious effort to keep your eyelids raised to them staying open on a voluntary basis, but it’s absolutely no replacement for the ZZZ’s you didn’t get. You want to cry. You do cry.
You contemplate calling in sick. And then you realize there are at least a dozen reasons you can’t, not today.
You wonder if anyone sees you during your commute and assumes, because you’ve got a glimmer of pretty young thing-ness about you, that partying until the wee hours is the cause of your worse-for-wear look. If they only knew.
You sit down behind your desk or stand up in front of your classroom and you do your goddamn job. And you do it well. Because why should your co-workers or manager suffer because your snooze-averse offspring (who’s probably napping at daycare or with the sitter now, that lucky little jerk) wouldn’t give you a lick of rest the previous evening—and because you don’t know any other way.
You see, you’re a warrior. It doesn’t make you feel any better to read that, but it’s the honest-to-goodness truth. You’re basically a soldier without proper ammunition who expertly slays dragons (and monsters, ghosts and robots). When your child-free coworkers find out just how sleep-deprived you are—usually moments after complaining about their own laughable levels of exhaustion—they look at you like the hero that you are.
So if ever you’re feeling down on yourself after you’ve had a heavenly 6 or 7 hours of sleep (or 8; let’s dream big), think back to the work days when you showed up and got stuff done with far less of a break on your brain than any other employee's had. It’s a skill, one I hope you won’t have to rely on for long and one that probably wouldn’t make sense to add to a resume, but a skill nonetheless.
This story originally appeared on


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