I have been tired for a long time. I thought I was tired before I had children but it turns out I wasn’t. But now I am. My son was three in August, so I suppose that makes me just over three years’ tired.
I know this is nothing on those of you with older kids. And I’m not even sure that it goes away when they turn 18 or leave home or find a life partner or have children or do anything else that makes them unarguably grown-up. My mum still seems pretty tired. Sorry, Mum.
So, I am tired. You are tired. So it is and will be, now and forever.
Sometimes I fight this inevitability. I come up with plans to tackle the tiredness: banning my phone before bed, listening to calming meditations before sleep (these two are incompatible of course, but consistency eludes me: perhaps it is the preserve of the Not Tired); sometimes I try things to help my children sleep more (bedtime routines and blackout blinds, rather than whisky or sleeping pills) even though I know this is ultimately futile (as discussed previously: Why some babies sleep and some babies torture you instead); sometimes I try to give up caffeine, although usually I end up drinking more…
But, there is one thing I won’t do. There is one thing that apparently seems SO OBVIOUS to everyone else (judging by the frequency with which it is suggested) but that I am absolutely not prepared to do.
I am not going to go to bed earlier.
I realise I might sound petulant, stupid, unwilling to help myself, but I just can’t go to bed earlier. Yeah sure, as a one-off, when the tiredness becomes completely debilitating, I will put on my PJs and brush my teeth whilst my children are in the bath and then pass out as soon as they are asleep. But I’m not prepared to sacrifice my evenings on a regular basis.
Because when the kids are in bed, and I’ve tidied up dishes and toys, and I have eaten my supper, that is my time. A time when I can finally stop… and think. Sometimes I’m too knackered to do much beyond scrolling mindlessly through Instagram whilst watching TV, but sometimes I’ll read a book, or do some trustee work, or just find a way through some of the things cluttered in my head, because at last I have the mental space that the day is too hectic to allow.
I never realised how much I valued this sort of alone time, until I didn’t have it. The bus to work, the lunchtime walk to grab a sandwich, a coffee in the afternoon between calls: when I worked in an office, the day was full of these moments of peace. And they didn’t feel peaceful, usually. But everything is relative, and those moments are now fondly remembered as a privilege. No, I never thought I’d pine for rush hour on the 76 bus either, but hey, parenthood changes us!
And as a parent, you find your peace where and when you can. And if you look after kids full-time, those moments are almost exclusively when those precious kids are asleep.
I can function when I’m tired, more or less. I’m glad I don’t have to perform brain surgery or operate heavy machinery, but I can do it. But I can’t function without space. Without time to contemplate, without time to just… be, I start to suffocate.
I’m sure it is tedious to listen when I complain about being tired. It must be even more annoying if I admit I didn’t go to sleep until midnight. But when your response is to suggest an early night, it feels really shit. Because you’re basically telling me that I should give up my alone time, my mental space.
It feels like you’re telling me to give up on myself.
So please, stop telling me to get an early night. I’ve chosen to look after myself in another way. And it requires me to be awake.
Team naps are lovely but I’m going to leave them to it