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Considering kids? Say 'goodbye' to six months of sleep… and that's just for starters

By TODAY show editor Sara Pines, a.k.a. Sandwich Mom If you can accumulate up to six months of sleep debt in the first two years of your baby’s life... I declare bankruptcy, right now! According to a recent story in the Daily Mail, two thirds of mothers and fathers of babies and toddlers get fewer than four hours of sleep every night and in the first two years of their child's life that adds

By TODAY show editor Sara Pines, a.k.a. Sandwich Mom If you can accumulate up to six months of sleep debt in the first two years of your baby’s life... I declare bankruptcy, right now! According to a recent story in the Daily Mail, two thirds of mothers and fathers of babies and toddlers get fewer than four hours of sleep every night and in the first two years of their child's life that adds up to a loss of about six months of zzzz's. Now that's nothing to snooze at! As any new parent can tell you, the warnings are dire and start early. And they come when you’re particularly vulnerable. As a pregnant mom-to-be, you're waddling around already, can’t get comfortable whether you’re standing, sitting, sleeping, working and then all the books and all the experts and the ladies in line at the supermarket or at the nail salon tell you, ”Sleep now, when you can. You’ll never get any sleep once the baby comes. You will never be more exhausted.” Oh, and when they find out I’m a single mom, the knowing looks gets tinged with pity. And as they leave with their bread or bright pink nails, they say, “Remember to sleep when the baby sleeps!” Thanks. But here’s my dirty little secret: Turns out I had the best training in the world for being a sleep-deprived new, single mom... and the training came in an unlikely place: A dimly lit, male-dominated, pressure-filled underground den knows as the TODAY show's 1-A Control Room. For six years, I was the morning writer for the TODAY show. When I first started, I got in around 4:45 a.m. By the end of my exhausting stint, I got in around 3:30 a.m. So, my alarm went off at 2:45 a.m. I pushed snooze and finally rolled out of bed (I’d taken a shower the night before to save time in the morning), walked the dog (yes, Mom, I walked the dog at 3 a.m., just as the last callers were rolling in from the bars) and headed to work. I never got enough sleep. I couldn’t go to bed at 7 p.m. It was more like 11 p.m. By the end of the week, I would literally ache I was so exhausted. About two months in, I abandoned my contacts. They just sting too much when you’ve gotten only a few hours. So, fast forward to 2006, I’m a brand new mom and these dire warnings about sleep are ringing in my ears. I would feed Isabelle, sleep for three hours, wake up and feed her again, and get another three hours. I’m not great in math, but that’s a total of six hours. That’s heaven after working the early shift at TODAY. Now, I also think luck played a role in my lack of sleep desperation (don’t worry, I was desperate about plenty of other things.) Isabelle has always been a pretty good sleeper, much like Mom. I can fall asleep almost anywhere and I did take the advice of napping when the baby naps! And I followed my pediatrician’s advice religiously. At about two months she said, "Put the baby to sleep drowsy, but awake so she doesn’t get used to just falling asleep in your arms. For us, it worked like a charm. And the sleep patterns, especially during my maternity leave, were not terrible. Then, I went back to work. And now I work from 2 p.m. until about 11 p.m. I was able to keep up with life for her first 18 months or so, when she’d get up at 6 a.m. and go back for a nap at 9 a.m. and so would I. The transition to a one-nap child was a painful one (when she dropped the morning nap). I was already at work for the afternoon nap, so that didn't help me, and that morning nap was my lifeline -- my only chance at sleep again until midnight. I’m still mourning the end of the morning nap. Fast forward to the present.. Isabelle is 4 and now is when I’m struggling with sleep the most. Maybe it’s the single mother/ only child dynamic -- whenever I’m not at work and our beloved babysitter is not on duty -- it’s all Mom, all the time: playing the games, making and going on the playdates, cooking, laundry, answering the never-ending stream of questions like, "What’s a torpedo, mom?" "Can I have a kitty?" "Why don’t I have a daddy?" And she’s completely done with napping. So, on a recent Saturday afternoon, after a busy Friday and a frantic Saturday morning birthday party and a week of all-day, everyday camp, can you blame me for hoping my 4-year-old would succumb to a little shut-eye? But no. I’m literally falling asleep in my "Green Eggs and Ham." So, I finally give up on my attempt at quality bonding time and turn on Nick Jr. She’ll watch “whatever what’s on” and I dose on the couch. While the short series of 10-minute catnaps soaks up some of the exhaustion, it leaves a slight residue of guilt behind. If I can just make it to 6:30, I think, the babysitter will be here and I’ll be able to grab dinner and a movie with friends. The report when I get home, "She fell asleep on the living room floor at 7 p.m.!" Where was that 4-year-old sleepiness when I needed it!?!?! I think sleep is the Holy Grail of parenthood. For some the quest is more intense when you’re measuring your parental accomplishments in weeks. For others, it's the utter fatigue of constant activity and psychological and emotional challenges that lays you low, around pre-school time. And I know I still have a long way to go... But, hey, that’s what caffeine is for, right? More posts from Sandwich Mom:I am the 'Sandwich Mom'