This post is also being featured at The Motherish.
Dear First-time Parents-to-be,
You know those annoying jokes we make about being “tired” when the baby comes? The ones that have us sniggering enigmatically and hi-fiving other smug parents. We’re not laughing because your baby is going to keep you up all night. That’s nothing. We can do that shit standing on our heads. We’re laughing because you’ve got absolutely no idea what tired really means, and you’ll soon discover that sleep deprivation is just the tip of a very large iceberg of chronic exhaustion; one which you will smash into every. single. day for the foreseeable future.
Tired Parents Everywhere.
P. S. Here are the nine types of fatigue that no one tells you about before becoming a parent. They will be your constant companion for many years to come. Enjoy!
- Emotional Fatigue
Being a parent is an emotional rollercoaster (with added vomit). There are ecstatic highs, demoralising lows and everything in between. As your baby grows into a toddler you will find yourself locked in a daily battle of wits with a tiny dynamo who has no impulse control, sense of logic or emotional stability. Life becomes a constant state of terse negotiation, where the choice between a blue shirt or a green shirt can spiral into a thirty minute tantrum. And it gets even more emotionally draining as they get older and smarter and more manipulative. Time to organise that wine subscription from Greys Online.
- Physical Fatigue
Feeling tired now? You’ll soon realise that pregnancy is just a light warm-up, and that parenting is the real marathon. Children require constant exertion: picking them up, wrestling with toddlers, rocking babies to sleep, chasing them around the park, cleaning up constant mess. You will eyeball your sofa like it’s the smooth-talking lover of your wildest fantasies, but when you finally manage to sit down they will scramble to scale your slumped form like it’s the newest piece of play equipment at the park. It will be years before you can sit down without being touched. Or sat on. Or grabbed.
- Micromanagement Fatigue
Being a parent is kind of like being an anally-retentive employer: with the exception of breathing and soiling themselves small children are mostly incapable of doing anything for themselves. You have to anticipate all of their needs, and then you have to perform every basic task for them: feeding, changing nappies, blowing noses, brushing teeth, wiping bums, drying tears. I still need to micromanage my five year old for simple tasks like getting dressed, or I will find him jumping on the bed wearing nothing but Spiderman undies on his head when I walk past his room thirty minutes later.
- Vigilance Fatigue
Small children are consummate experts at putting their life in danger, so parents have to maintain a constant state of hyper-vigilance for years. Everything is a potential hazard and the smallest lapse in supervision can turn serious. If they’re not rolling off change tables or running in front of cars they are climbing the furniture, swallowing items that can choke them or sticking pointy things in the nearest available hole; mostly eyes, ears or electrical sockets. Eternal vigilance is the only thing that stands between your child and the emergency room.
- Noise Fatigue
Children are very effective noisemakers. Some babies are around-the-clock screaming machines and toddlers have four main settings: “constant chatter”, “insistent whining”, “outside voice” and “belligerent shout”. They are also very skilled at bashing hard objects together to make noise, and will practise this at great length and with great enthusiasm. Throw in the ear-piercing shrieks of Jimmy Giggle and cohort on ABC Kids and you will yearn for sweet silence like a parched man yearns for water. Or beer. You will yearn for that too, coincidentally.
- Entertainment Fatigue
I thought that kids mostly kept themselves amused, so I was surprised to realise it wasn’t the case. Little did I know that I was not just a parent, I was also the formally-appointed Entertainment Director for the entire household. My kids expected me to oversee craft activities, read books, help them do puzzles, create elaborate pretend play scenarios, ride bikes, dig in the dirt and make Lego battleships. It would henceforth be my sole responsibility to engineer a rotating roster of fun activities, set them up, participate with enthusiasm and then clean them all up once complete.
- Worry Fatigue
Parents worry about the happiness and wellbeing of their children at all times, and our greatest fear is that our kids might come in harm’s way. Concern fatigue is an unavoidable side-effect of having children and it’s exhausting. We worry that we’ll lose them in Kmart, we worry when they get a rash, we worry that they haven’t eaten five serves of fruit and vegetables. Ever. We worry about what the world will look like when they’re older. We worry about their academic progress, their peer groups, their mental health, their every. single. thing. We worry. That’s what parents do.
- Thoughtload fatigue
Being a parent involves chronic brain-strain. There are decisions to be made, events to be organised, things to remember. Like an app constantly running in the background of your brain, thoughtload consumes large volumes of mental bandwidth and quietly drains your batteries. Organising appointments, remembering medicines, meal planning, deciding what to bake for the cake stall, devising costumes for International Pirate Day, buying Little Bobby a birthday present: this is the stuff of thoughtload. Think. Plan. Remember. REPEAT.
- Boundary Fatigue
Little people have zero respect for boundaries. You can kiss things like bodily autonomy and personal space goodbye, because they no longer exist. If kids were employees they would be fired for gross invasions of privacy, stalking and harrassment. They will steal your food, snatch your iPad, sit on your head and comment loudly on your bowel movements. They will insist you disrupt vital functions like eating and sleeping to meet their immediate needs for utterly trivial nonsense. And it never ends.
This is why we laugh at those lame wisecracks about being tired when the baby arrives. The unspoken punchline is that it doesn’t stop. Ever.
Welcome to parenthood.