Tired is a State of Parenting

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I used to think I knew what tired was.

Tired was pulling an all nighter and not getting to bed until 10am. Tired was having to wake up at 3:30am to start a long road trip. Tired was working 84 hours in a week, running 2 hours a day at the gym, and still finding time in between to hang out with friends.

Don’t get me wrong – I really was tired then. Physically drained. I’d eventually collapse into bed and sleep on and off for 14 hours just to wake up groggy again. It’s not insignificant.

But that was single Brynn tired. That was me only having to look after me, only worried about my needs and eventually having the option to collapse.

Motherhood (and fatherhood) is a whole new kind of tired. It’s… exhaustion. Pervasive, continual exhaustion.

Let me give you an example.

7:15am – Wake up (I know this seems late, but I’ll explain)

7:15 – 7:30am – Dress, do hair/make up (if I have the energy), brush teeth, go to the bathroom, think about all the things that I have to do for the day.

7:30 – 7:45am – Help Tory with breakfast for the boys if not already fed (Tory usually gets their clothes and back packs ready for them and gives them breakfast). Grab snacks/lunch for myself. Make coffee. Pack school bag. Help with coats/shoes. Change the baby. Feed the baby. Help get everyone and everything in the car. Get in the car myself. Realize I’ve not had my own breakfast. Praise God that I still have my coffee.

7:45 – 8:45 – Drive the boys to school across town (or more often keep Tory company/distract Lazarus with food and drink while Tory drives). Drive back across town to school myself. Watch Tory drive away with Lazarus in the back screaming for me.

9 – 11:45 – Go to class. Try to concentrate. Succeed 40% of the time. Spend 60% of the time zoned out/thinking of bills/appointments/parenting/schooling for the boys/wondering how Tory and Lazarus are doing/feeling guilty that I am at school and not at home helping out.

11:45 – 2 – Lunch time. Get food. Make any necessary phone calls. Chat with Tory. Feel relieved that I get a small break. Feel guilty for feeling relieved that I get a small break. Intend to catch up on school work. Avoid catching up on school work and instead browse Facebook and pay bills/set appointments and plan dinner. Hit the wall of exhaustion. Buy coffee to conquer the wall of exhaustion. Head to class.

2 – 3:15 – Go to class. Try to concentrate. Succeed 20% of the time. Spend the rest of the time zoned out/ wondering how Tory and the boys are doing/ planning out the evening.

3:15 – 3:45 – Go home. Feel a wave of relief that I made it through another day of school. Relish sitting for a few minutes with the people I Love.

3:45 – 4:45 – Unload the car. Talk about the day, everyone all at once. Feed Lazarus. Make dinner. Try to pick up the house. Realize it’s futile as everything just gets messy again. Try not to be tired and snippy. Fail. Feel guilty for being tired and snippy. Feel guilty for Tory being tired and me not being home to help out. Feel frustrated that Tory seems so tired and wants a break. Feel guilty for feeling frustrated that Tory is tired and wants a break since having been a stay at home parent I know EXACTLY how he feels. Feel tired and want a break myself. Realize it’s impossible for us both to have a break at the same time, and that Tory has earned it more than I have. Accept I will just be a shitty parent because I’m too tired to parent well. Mope. Get over myself. Apologize to everyone for being snippy. Try to make up for it. Serve dinner. Contain Lazarus in his high chair. Sit down.

4:45-4:55 – Eat dinner. Discuss the evening plans. Remind the boys to keep eating 10 times each and sit down 5 times each. Explain the house rules for eating what’s on your plate at least once.

4:55 – 5:05 – Remind the boys to keep eating another 10 times. Release Lazarus. Consider cleaning the dishes. Decide not to.

5:05 – 6:30 – Play with/watch Lazarus. Zone out on the couch. Stop at least 3 arguments between the boys. Think about all the things I should be doing. Don’t do them because I’m too tired. Get Lazarus his bedtime bottle. Change Lazarus. Read him his bedtime book. Say good night to everyone. Feed him and sing him his bedtime song. Put him in bed. Close his bedroom door and exhale. Creep downstairs.

6:30 – 8:30 – Sit. Check email. Go on Facebook. Half pay attention to Tory and the boys. Feel guilty for not doing more. Do a small amount of cleaning. Worry about not doing enough in school. Do a small amount of school work. Realize I can’t focus on school work. Think about how to help the boys reach their potential. Worry that I’m not able to do enough to help the boys reach their potential. Help get the boys to bed.

8:30 – 10:30 – Spend the only moments of the day I have alone with Tory. Try to do more school work. Worry about not doing enough to help out at home. Help make lunches. Plan the next day. Shower. Brush my teeth. Watch a little tv with Tory. Feel guilty for not getting more done during the day. Crawl into bed.

11 – Wake up to feed Lazarus. Enjoy him not squirming for 10 seconds. Go back to sleep.

2am – Wake up to feed Lazarus. Wonder how often he will wake up tonight or if he will let me sleep. Go back to sleep.

4/5:30am – Wake up to feed Lazarus. Realize he doesn’t want to go back down. Bring him into our bed. Try to get him to sleep. Fail. Bring him back to his crib, turn on the stars, leave him to fall asleep in his own time. Go back to sleep.

6:30 – Wake up to Lazarus crying/talking. Tory gets up with him. Go back to sleep.

7:15am – Get up for the day.

Sure. It’s a lot. But that’s what weekends are for, right?

Wrong.

When you have kids, weekends no longer mean sleeping in and hanging out with friends and catching up on your rest and school work. Nope. Weekends are the 48 hours I have during the week to spend quality time with my family, go to church, help clean the entire house, help catch up on laundry and dishes that I’ve let go all week, buy all the groceries, figure out meals for the week, do all the school work I failed to do during the week including re-reading all the things I zoned out on and try to spend some one on one time with Tory, all while taking care of the kids (especially Lazarus who desperately wants my attention ALL THE TIME).

I used to think I knew what tired was.

I had no idea.

Tired is feeling pulled in 5 different directions every moment of every day.

Tired is not having slept through the night in over a year.

Tired is realizing at 5pm on a Saturday that you haven’t stopped even for a minute since you got up that morning, and that you won’t stop until long after the kids are in bed.

Tired is accepting you can’t do it all, but feeling like you are supposed to be able to anyway.

Tired is something most parents feel, most of the time. And they feel it in a way that’s entirely different from single tired.

However, let me be clear on something: I’m running on the spectrum of exhaustion all the time, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the whole world.

I have an incredible partner who reminds me I’m not failing anyone and makes sure I take a break when I really need it – just an hour or two to myself to recharge.

I have the most amazing, intelligent, loving, compassionate children who pick at each other 70% of the time but Love each other 100% of the time, and Love me too, even in my many shortcomings.

I have wonderful friends who understand what my life is and don’t mind if I only get the chance to talk to them once a month, but who are there for me every hour of every day should I need them.

I had no idea what tired really was before I had other people who relied on me. I also had no idea that Love can give us the ability to do pretty much anything, no matter how exhausted we are.

Now where’s my coffee?