The Real Reason We're Tired Has Nothing to Do With Our Kids

Thanks to a week-long break for Thanksgiving, I've spent the last 10 days with my kids . . . all day, all night (they are both problem sleepers and at least one ends up in my bed most nights). Sure, the holiday vacation was quality bonding time for our family, but it's also left me even more exhausted than normal.

Usually I'd blame my kids, their constant demands, and those 3 a.m. visits for my worn-out state, but truthfully, I got plenty of sleep. In fact, I'm starting to think that my exhaustion has a lot more to do with me than them.

It's not their fault, after all, that when they crawl in my ample bed in the middle of the night, that instead of rolling over and going back to sleep, I immediately start going through my mental to-do list, which this time of the year seems never-ending.

It starts with my Christmas shopping checklist. How much should I bid on eBay for that Imaginext Eagle Talon Castle my son wants? Will my daughter be upset if I only get monogrammed pajamas for my mom and sister-in-law, or should I search for the kid-size equivalent for her? Are three gifts enough for them, or am I being a Grinch? Have I forgotten to get wish lists from any immediate family members? Should I buy my husband something extravagant, or is a new pair of slippers sufficient?

Having fretted enough about gifts, I move on to schedule concerns. Can we make next week's late-Thanksgiving, early-Christmas family party and my daughter's classmate's birthday party? Should I even tell her about the party if she might have to skip it to go hang out with her great-aunt instead? How cold is it going to be next weekend for her Girl Scout troop's caroling session? Should I bring her little brother or hire a babysitter? Do I have sitters scheduled for all of our adult-only Christmas parties? When should I start packing for our holiday vacation? And, damn it, I haven't even started on my Christmas cards. Move that to the top of the to-do list.

This could go on for hours, and some nights, it does. The days are even worse in terms of my mental overload. I spend most of them running from one task to the next — laundry and dishes and work and making beds and vacuuming and filling out school forms and packing lunches and picking up after the kids and running errands and making sure the Christmas tree has water and hiding Christmas gift package arrivals and making meals and trying to remember to wear deodorant and wash my face — barely sitting down to enjoy the tree I spent hours decorating or taking a second to cuddle the kids I'm ostensibly doing all this work for.

And, logically, I know it's my own damn fault that I'm so harried. The laundry and dishes could wait. The house doesn't have to look perfect at all times. I could loosen the reins on my life, even just a little, and I would be less stressed, less exhausted. But as a Type-A, control-freak mother of two who feels like I am the only one who keeps their little worlds spinning, it's hard to let myself relax. Let things slide and guess who's going to be picking up the slack for that procrastination later? Yep, still me.

But then again, my kids would probably rather have couch cuddles than a perfectly decorated Christmas tree. They'd probably rather have a mom who isn't exhausted than one whose mental workload makes her feel like she always needs a nap, even after a perfectly acceptable night's sleep. And now that I'm realizing that I'm actually the person who's wearing myself out, I also know it's on me to make a change. And to stop blaming it on my kids.