I recently read an article that argued parents complain too much about being tired, and we should get over it. Everyone is tired, they said. People have jobs and pets and personal challenges that shouldn’t be overlooked because they don’t have children. To these people, I say, take a long walk off a short pier.
The exhaustion of parenting is unlike any other fatigue you will experience, and since I know people without kids love to hear “you can’t understand unless you have kids”, I won’t say that. Except I did say it and its true.
First and foremost, things that make people without kids tired like jobs, pets, staying up too late watching Game of Thrones? People with kids do those things, too. My husband has an exhausting job that requires him to spend all day doing trials that greatly affect the lives of defendants and their families, doing research on vastly different countries of origin from every continent (except Antarctica I assume) to assess amnesty claims, and of course, government paperwork. Heavy work load, heavy stress, and when he gets home he is immediately bombarded with requests for play time and can you turn on the Xbox because Mommy broke it and can we watch a movie now cause Mommy messed up the buttons and couldn’t make it play and please take out the trash and kill the scorpion and change the light bulbs and reach the dish on the top shelf and it’s bathtime! OK, some of those things were husband chores, but you get the idea. And no, we don’t have a dog that can’t sleep through a thunderstorm, but I assume you leave this pet unattended while you run errands or go to work, correct? Thunder wakes up kids, too. Also, dogs wake up kids. If something terrible befalls the yappy runt next door, it wasn’t me. Probably.
When you’re complaining that parents are whining about being tired and using your job, your pet responsibilities, your spin classs, your need to catch up on Scandal as reasons you’re tired, I suggest you keep that to yourself. My cousins both have jobs as financial planners, have a cat, a dog, a son, a daughter, and presumably TV shows to binge watch. If anyone is tired, it’s them. If by some miracle parents make it to bed by 9, there will inevitably be a middle of the night poop or nightmare that leads to an extra set of flailing feet in their bed, so don’t start with your “you should just go to bed earlier” nonsense.
While these things make us tired, they aren’t the real cause of parent exhaustion. The real culprit is the incessant, oppressive worry. We have chosen to bring these tiny, fragile creatures into a frightening world with so many sharp edges. This new generation has an anaphylactic response to the bag of peanuts opened across the room in an age where crunchy grocery stores offer the option to grind your own peanut butter in the aisles. They have asthma in an uncertain time for people with preexisting conditions. Meeting your milestones too soon suggests autism, meeting them too slowly requires therapy, vaccinations supposedly cause major health issues but not vaccinating triggers the return of previously eradicated super bugs. The hormones in milk may give little Johnny breasts by age 5, but buying organic requires Mommy to turn tricks part time to pay the grocery bill. If you breastfeed too long it’s creepy, not long enough and you’re a selfish parent. Is he eating enough? Is he eating too much? Does he feel loved and secure? Am I being firm enough so that he doesn’t grow up to be a brat? Am I overly strict to the point where he feels stifled? Is his forehead hot? Is his heart beating too fast? Are his feet cold? Is that a new bump on his head? Is this a rash from dairy? Is he allergic to dairy now, too? Is that an allergy cough or an asthma cough? Why are EPI pens suddenly 600% more expensive? Who TF is MYLAN?? Did you know kids can’t do sleepovers with friends anymore because everyone is a sexual predator? What does this election mean for my kids? What will happen to healthcare? taxes? freedom of speech/religion? Is that poop or chocolate?
All before 9am. When Jack has been in our bed since 1am and demanded breakfast at 5. And Archer moaned in his sleep all night because he was probably cold/hot/wet/feeling neglected because I’m a terrible parent. We all have worries, we all have stress, we all have jobs and bills and flat tires. But some of us also have children. And while the article I read points out that it was our choice to bring humans into the world, to that I say YOU’RE WELCOME. Who do you think is going to pay for all your government programs when the average number of children drops to .5? I love my kids, and this brand of tired is fulfilling, but I also feel that it is important to pass on our values, beliefs, and Robby’s cowlick to future generations to maintain this country’s greatness. To maintain the world’s greatness.
When discussing this with my husband I realized why, on the weekends when he is home, I park myself in front of the TV and watch cooking shows. I need to power down the worry-o-meter and escape to a world where some lady wearing makeup with her hair styled is making dinner for her perfect family while someone else is in charge of keeping my children alive for a few hours. My husband worries at work, too, about bills and benefits and the criminals he encounters, so this isn’t totally fair to him, but he is more patient than I am and he lets me zone out. And then it’s back to reality, where a lady who can’t remember how to apply makeup with drool crusted in her hair microwaves dinner, which she inhales while cutting her kids’ food into small bites and immediately wiping said food off the walls (while already worrying that we will never be able to sell this house that we just moved in to a month ago). Then it’s at least an hour of bedtime, an hour of Mad Men (yea, we are still catching up) and then twenty minutes of reading the same paragraph of a book over and over before falling asleep with the book on my face.
And then we do it all again.