A Mothers' Day Gift of Sleep

May 10, 2006 by susan

Published on Wednesday, May 10, 2006 by CommonDreams.org

by Susan Lenfestey

A recent issue of Newsweek revisited the age-old question of Why Women Can't Sleep. Late one night, after my bath and other sleep-inducing routines failed me again, I leafed through it to see if there was anything I didn't already know. Over the years everything I've read has pretty much concurred that it's our destiny, something as relevant to protecting our young as our vestigial tails are to hanging from the highest limb.

Hormonally, it seems, we are all mothers. So while the men are snoring by the fire after a hard day of the hunt, we women are sleeping with one eye open, gathering the twitching, dreaming children into our soft folds -- even if the children are now 40; even if we never had any.

This latest review of our sleep-deprivation had little new to offer. Women are stressed, over-worked, simultaneously caring for children and elderly parents, and yes, hormonally challenged.

But the article failed to mention the trio of elephants trumpeting in the living room: George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld.

As most insomniacs know, the mind can make its way through one or two worries and still find sleep, but it's the jumble of thoughts, fanged and snarling like ferrets in a burlap sack, that leads to the cover-tossing, can't-sleep blues. In my life, a stretch of nearly 60 years, I can't think of a time when there have been so many distressing thoughts to banish before bedtime as now, and all but a few of them spawned by the cocksure and reckless threesome at the helm of our fragile ship.

Sure, the velvet backdrop of sleep was rent by the attacks of 9/11, but it's the inept, if not criminally negligent, response of the Bush team to that attack and to the threat of future attacks, that has lead to so much loss of life, treasury, international good will - and sleep.

It's hard to say which Bush regime has produced the most churning insomnia - the first term Bushies who operated like an infallible cabal, intent on dismantling government at home while power-building one to their liking in Iraq, or the second term Bushies, who proved to be completely incapable of any of it. I suppose most people would rather be robbed by a professional thief than a jittery incompetent one, but in the end the things you held dear are still gone.

Incompetence is just the tip of the insomnia iceberg. Leaf through a few recent GAO reports for details of the incredible over-spending and mismanagement of this arrogant and corrupt administration, from Medicare to Katrina to Afghanistan and Iraq. Review the irrefutable -- but ignored by Bush -- data on human-caused climate change and the environmental disasters ahead, or try comprehending the size and cost of the embassy we're building in Baghdad, or the debt we're piling onto our children's backs.

None of this is recommended bedtime reading. Nor are reports of the debacle at the CIA, the lack of homeland security, and FEMA's inability to respond to anything much bigger than a hailstorm. Try to forget the loss of life in Iraq and of civil liberties at home. And stay away from anything having to do with Iran, because it's pretty much guaranteed that this administration's going to botch that one too.

Most people can handle bad news if they feel they're being told the truth, and Americans, in particular, have a wonderful history of rising to the occasion. But when we feel manipulated and misled, as we have been, we lose trust and our ability to pull together. Or we simply tune out the media spin and trudge zombie-like through our lives. Is it a symptom -- or a cause -- of our isolation and grief that so many people go through the day with a wire dangling from their ear, a feed to a different reality?

This Mother's Day, wake up and give your mom the gift of sleep. Hide the newspaper, turn off the TV and leave the iPod behind. Walk with her in the lilac-scented spring -- and promise her you'll vote for change in the mid-term elections.

The real question isn't why women can't sleep. It's how anyone can.

Posted in


Anonymous | May 10, 2006 - 1:19pm

I read your post on "Common Dreams" and just wanted to thank you for an excellent article. I beieve I will follow your advice...for both my mother, and myself. Happy Mother's Day, and I hope you get some sleep.

Shawn Pierce


Anonymous | May 11, 2006 - 12:51am

Ms. Lenfestey, I just read your wonderful article in Common Dreams, and needed to write to say that if I had your eloquence with words, I could have written it myself! I have the sleepless nights and days filled with thoughts that intermittently dart from trying to "become comfortably numb" to rage that consumes. In just 6 years, 4 months, 11 days, we have seen this country turned into something alien by thugs driven by their greed to strip everything from this Earth to turn into money, and they will stop at nothing to satisfy that voracious appetite. I read a quote this week attributed to Sinclair Lewis: "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." That is how the bush regime has been able to carry out its cruel, senseless ambitions--screaming about terrorism, patriotism; but that would not be enough without the panhandling tele-evangelicals and Bible-thumpers leading their blind flocks of sheep--blind because they prefer not to see or think for themselves. I am damned angry and worried. Worry began during George the Elder's administration and escalated when the 2000 election was stolen (and what a stroke of luck for them the events of September 11, 2001 occurred!), I often thought how glad I was that our daughter was grown, finished with her formal education, happily married but with no children. That all changed this past July when our little grandson was born. He is so precious and I am terrified more than ever. What is he to face in his lifetime, after those three elephants and their minions have plundered this Earth? I am damned sad, too.

-Eve in Alabama


daily (not verified) | June 26, 2009 - 1:52am

yes,very long time no come here,but i give you the gift,you must llke it that.

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Anonymous | May 14, 2006 - 10:18pm

At the end of a long and interesting Mother's Day I read Susan Lenfestey's essay. It is so true. So so true. Now I must try to sleep.

Thanks for such true words.