Before I had a child, there were a few things I noticed parents doing that really annoyed me, and I swore I would never do those things if and when I became a mother. For the most part, I’ve been diligent about sticking to my guns.
I try very hard not to let my daughter make me late to work, appointments and social gatherings. Yes, it’s much harder to get out the door on time with a toddler in tow, but if you get up early enough and plan well, it is possible.
I also will not inconvenience or bother people in restaurants, stores and other public places when my daughter becomes temperamental. If our little one starts screeching or becomes upset while we’re having dinner out, my husband and I take turns eating quickly while the other one of us walks Reese around or takes her outside. Thankfully, this is a pretty rare occurrence.
I have left the supermarket without half the items on my shopping list because my daughter made it clear that she was tired of being in the grocery store. I’m not going to race up and down the aisles with a screaming child trying to climb out of the cart while I search in vain for the last few ingredients I need to make lasagna. I’d rather stop back by the store one night after work when I can get in and get out.
All that said, though, there is one parent pet peeve I used to despise that I now completely understand. In fact, I’ve become one of the perpetrators.
I once worked with a woman who had two children, and she frequently implied that people who didn’t choose the family route didn’t understand hardship and stress. I once casually remarked to her that I was tired after getting only a few hours of sleep for a reason that I now cannot remember. She looked at me as if I was brain-dead and said, “Ha! Five hours! I WISH I could get five hours of sleep. That must be nice!”
At the time, I was offended. After all, I thought, no one told her she had to have kids, and my child-free existence wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. Now, however, I am not offended at all.
Five full, uninterrupted hours of sleep does sound absolutely amazing. After 19 months of waking up one to three times a night to nurse or bottle-feed a baby for about a half hour each time, I now understand what it means to be utterly exhausted past the point of being able to properly function. After 19 months of getting a cobbled-together 4-6 hours of sleep, on average, per night, I now know what it feels like to be so sleep-deprived the thought of trying to make it through a 10-hour workday is enough to reduce you to tears as a feeling of despair settles in. Yet you must find a way to do it.
In the past year and a half, I have, at times, been so tired I’ve gotten confused about what day it is, misplaced important documents (my husband’s paycheck), missed deadlines, forgotten to pay bills and lost cameras, cell phones and even my daughter’s Social Security card. Yes, honestly.
I don’t want to make excuses for myself or, heaven forbid, morph into one of those parents who previously annoyed me. I’m fully aware I’m the one who chose to become a parent, and I would not change that for the world. But hearing a child-free individual complain about fatigue grinds my gears.
So, here’s what I propose to the child-free crowd: I will be on time when you need me. I won’t let my toddler bother you in a restaurant, store, park or other public place, and in return, please do not tell me that you are tired. You very well might be, and I’m sorry for that. But you probably still got more sleep last night than I did.