Three years ago, I watched a good friend of mine playing with a bunch of preschoolers at a local playground. The kids hung on her every word as she took them on an amazing imaginary adventure, using a clapped out wooden toy boat as the base.
BY: REBECCA BOWYER
As I sat there with my brand new baby, watching my own two-year-old try to keep up with the bigger kids, I knew I should be smiling. I knew I should be enjoying the sight of an energetic, enthusiastic mum provoking the imaginations of our next generation. Instead I wanted to cry.
I wanted to be that mum. The mum I’d pictured that I would be. The one who made up cool stories and ran around playing with the kids.
Instead I looked forward to time at the playground because I could disengage from my toddler and let him be someone else’s responsibility for a few minutes. I could sit down and listen to adult conversation buzz around me, hopefully while the baby slept.
I felt like the worst mother in the whole world. I wasn’t. I was just exhausted.
As of today, I’ve had three consecutive uninterrupted nights of sleep. That’s more in a row than I’ve had in over five years.
I’ve been on annual leave for the past two weeks. There have been no daycare bags to pack, no work to rush off to, no pre-cooked dinners to prepare for the post-daycare feeding frenzy.
Yesterday I baked smartie cookies with my two gorgeous boys, now aged five and three. I then baked a banana loaf AND a cocoa and sultana slice. My mum, sister and niece came over and we all sat outside in the sunshine, playing with the kids.
Today I took the boys to a local playground. I hid under the slide and growled, jumping out at them and announcing the monster had come to get them! They ran from me, laughing. When my throat got sore from growling I became the tickle monster, chasing them over the wobbly bridge and up the rope dome.
The side effects of chronic sleep deprivation are pervasive and serious. A recent study found that some of the more subtle symptoms include getting cranky, not being able to have a proper conversation without falling back on cliche’s, an inability to make decisions, eating too much junk food and getting sick all the time.
That pretty much sums up parenting small children, don’t you think?
It’s hard to be a peppy Pinterest mum, or even a halfway decent present-and-caring mum, when you’re sick and in a foul mood, can’t think of witty dialogue and are paralysed by indecision between eating the jam donut or the family block of caramello you just bought.
If you’re nodding along as you read this, fifth cup of coffee for the day in hand, rest assured – one day the kids will let you get some sleep and you’ll be able to be the exciting, imaginative mum running around the playground too. Until that day comes, cut yourself a break. You’re not a bad mother, you’re just exhausted.
Rebecca Bowyer lives in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne with her long-suffering husband and two young sons, who are both quite delightful, especially when they are smiling or sleeping. For more funny little stories about raising the little people in your life, visit: www.seeingthelighterside.com F: Seeing the Lighter Side