It’s totally normal to feel absolutely exhausted when you have a newborn baby. Until the baby sleeps through the night, you will think you know why you are so tired. Broken nights’ sleep of course!
Except, when your baby finally does start sleeping through the night, you are still tired. Even when, like us, your children have been sleeping through the night (for the most part) for a couple of years and you’ve been getting a good seven or eight hours sleep a night (sometimes more if you go to bed at 9pm), you still wake up tired every day. You are still tired throughout the day. You no longer feel like you might fall asleep at the wheel or want to cry at the tiniest thing but you are still tired.
And I wonder why. But then our children stayed over at their grandparents on Saturday night and when we woke up in the morning, I started to realise why.
When we woke up it was quiet. So quiet. I almost missed the noise. Almost. Because for two hours (until we went to pick them up) nobody said ‘Mummmmmmyyyyyyyy’ or ‘Daddddddddyyyyyyy’ (because invariably this is how it’s said). This morning, I made a tally of the first two hours after getting up and the number of times my children said ‘Mummmmmmmyyyyyy’ was 97. There was one minute where they said Mummy 9 times. In a minute. This is almost every six seconds.
If you are not sure why this is exhausting, I suggest asking someone to follow you around, saying your name (sometimes whining it for authenticity) roughly every thirty seconds and see if you can make it to the two hour mark. This is sometimes why parents get a bit shouty.
For those two hours before we went to pick our children up from their grandparents, we didn’t have to pick up anything from the floor. Not one train, one car, one felt tip, one piece of Lego. This morning, in the first two hours of my day, I picked up the following:
Twelve toy trains, four bits of track, three Thomas the Tank Engine playsets, a box of felt tips, the Argos catalogue, a pair of scissors, a Pritt Stick, four a4 pieces of paper with pictures of extortionately priced toys stuck to them, three books, seven cars, a piece of MDF (which the kids use as a car ramp), a plastic coin, two pieces of wooden cake and a partridge in a pear tree.
There are some people out there who will question this and ask things like “why do you let them get all that out at once?” (I don’t – it just somehow happens) and “why don’t you get your children to take responsibility and tidy up after themselves?” (I do – they tidied all the other crap up but we needed to leave the house by 8.45am and it looked almost post-apocalyptic – so I gave them a hand).
For those two hours before we picked our children up, no one asked me to do anything (well my husband may have asked me to “flick the kettle on” but this was hardly taxing). This morning, in the first two hours of me waking up, I was asked, by my children, to:
Get them a drink (but they didn’t ask at the same time. The Big One waited until I came in with the Little One’s drink, having put all drink making equipment away, before requesting the exact same thing – only milk, but still).
Get them a pre-breakfast snack of fruit from the fridge (because who isn’t hungry at 6.45am?!) – which you’d have thought could have been asked for at the same time as the milk-getting as I was already in the fridge. But no, that would be too obvious.
Set up a piece of MDF as a car ramp at the exact angle so that the cars would not ‘fall off the sides’ on the way down.
Watch numerous cars slide down an MDF ramp and pretend to be excited about it at 6.40am.
Read The Gruffalo.
Read the Gruffalo ‘with real people in’ (utterly baffled).
Wipe their bum.
Get a blanket (situated less than a metre away from the child asking for it)
Put the TV on.
Rewind the TV at the exact moment it went on (impossible).
Take some of the milk away from the Little One’s Weetabix.
Get a drink for both children eating breakfast.
Tell them how many sleeps until we can open advent calendars.
Tell them how many sleeps until Christmas.
Prepare things for writing letters to Santa after school.
Gosh there was more. So much more. I managed to get dressed and drink a cup of tepid tea whilst all that was going on but that was about all I managed for myself (obviously I also put a load in the tumble dryer, fed the dog and emptied the dishwasher but I don’t count that as things I do ‘for myself’). My husband was already at work so it’s not like he’s just lazing around either.
I know why we’re tired all the time. It’s nothing to do with broken nights’ sleep. Because, even though we mostly sleep all night now, it’s not the same sleep. It is sleep that we can be stirred from by the tiniest cry or the slightest anxiety. Even though we sleep all night, we get very little rest in the daytime. This is why parents often cram two hours of adulthood into an evening – just so that there is quiet and no picking things up and no questions.
So we can’t blame lack of sleep for being so tired. It’s not at fault.
It’s just parenting.
It is relentless.
Often it is relentlessly wonderful. At the end of every day, you always look back and realise that, ultimately, it is relentlessly rewarding and the most amazing thing you will ever do.
But is also relentlessly tiring.
And whilst it feels as though we’ll be tired forever, I’m sure there will come a day when we’re not. Where there is quiet, and less toys and no questions.
And then we’ll probably be pining for our once-little children who asked us a million questions a day and left Lego around every corner. So for now I’ll take the tired.
And maybe arrange a few more sleepovers at their grandparents’ house.