How to Deal With Tiredness as a New Parent
You don’t really know tiredness until you become a parent. You’ll soon know what I mean. Like, so tired that when John - the babyfaced 20-something in work - yawns loudly and says he’s tired, you genuinely want to launch yourself over Sue’s desk to punch him repeatedly in the back of the head.
All those times in the past when you thought you were tired, you weren’t tired. Not like this. Being a new parent, you’re about to be welcomed into a whole other realm of fuck-my-lifery. Am I making it clear enough that you’re definitely going to be really tired - most of the time?
But, there were a few I learnt as a new parent that helped me to deal with tiredness. I hope they help you, too!
Lots of it. As much as you can possibly drink before getting the inevitable caffeine hypo. You’ll probably need three or four cups of strong Colombian coffee before you even begin to feel a bit more normal.
Of course, I’m sure medical guidance would advise you not to consume too much caffeine - and I’m no doctor. But, coffee works. It really, really does. It did for me, anyway. And continues to do so.
Just be weary that too much might give you a bit of a dodgy tummy, which isn’t ideal if, like me, you work in an office with open-plan unisex toilets.
If you take nothing else from this blog, make sure it’s this - nap whenever (and wherever!) you can, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. If your new little bundle of joy is having a nap, TAKE A NAP! If Nan and Granddad come over to give you a break for a couple of hours, TAKE A NAP!
Honestly, I can’t stress this enough, just get your head down for a little bit - even if it’s on the couch. And don’t fall into the “We can’t nap we’ve got washing to do” mindset. The washing can wait. The cleaning can wait a little while. Do your weekly food shop online instead of wasting an hour of potential sleep you could be catching up on.
What’s important is that you get as much sleep as possible, so you’re more awake and alert, and limit the possibility of becoming overcome with exhaustion, emotion and potentially even depression.
With my wife’s help, I was able to trivialise the feeling of being tired. Well, I guess it was more like training myself mentally to convince myself the feeling of tiredness wasn’t really that bad after all.
In the beginning, I’d text Lauren while I was at work and whinge about how tired I was. She’d reply saying: “Just keep telling yourself “It’s just a thing”. I didn’t really know what that meant, to be honest. I’m still not sure I do.
But, it helped. Telling myself “It’s just a thing”, paired with a decent dose of caffeine, really did work - even when I was at my tiredest.
Alternatively, put your tiredness into context. Because if you think about it, at any given time there are probably billions of people around the world in much more testing situations than you are.
Some babies and kids are just good sleepers. My sister-in-law’s two now-not-so-little ones slept a solid 12 hours every night without waking from a very young age. Others, like our toddler Joshua, are not so good.
But, the decisions you make as a parent in the first 12-months or so are vital to the quantity and quality of your future sleep. My wife and I found this out the hard way.
At roughly six or seven months old, Joshua was so restless during the night. Every hour he’d wake up crying in his cot (which was in our bedroom). In the end, after weeks of very little sleep, we started to get him out of his cot and he’d sleep in with us in our bed.
I won’t get into the co-sleeping argument. Do whatever suits you. But, from the day we started doing that, he very rarely slept well in his cot ever again. In the long run, it resulted in us all getting a worse night’s sleep. It also made the eventual transition to his own bedroom and bed much more difficult.
Sometimes You Won’t
There’s no point in me trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, is there? We’re all adults here. Sometimes you won’t be able to deal with tiredness. There were a lot of occasions I couldn’t deal with it. Almost three years on, there are still times the exhaustion gets to me.
The tiredness will probably make you a little bit emotional. At its worst, you’ll maybe even feel like you’re completely on the edge. Have a quick cry. It’s OK if you can’t or don’t deal with it at times.
It’s OK not to be OK.
You’re only human, and the human body needs adequate time to rest, recuperate and regroup.
I promise you, though, you’ll get through it.