The Real Reason Parents are Always So Tired

28 May

You often hear the phrase “I need a vacation from my vacation.”

I try not to use cliches, but after just a few days at the beach, I need a vacation from my vacation.

Unfortunately, I have a kid. So I’ll never get one.

You lose a lot of things when you have kids. (Yes, bleeding hearts, you gain a lot too – like a new perspective and a bigger heart and tons cuts on your feet from stepping on LEGO pieces – but becoming a parent forces you to shed much of your old lifestyle to accommodate your new one.) Never is this more clear than when you take go on holiday with your offspring.

What used to be equal parts bender and relaxation – a stretch of time devoted to drinking and napping, eating and swimming, staying up late and waking up late – becomes a test of endurance. A brutal battle to max out your stamina and maintain enough energy and enthusiasm to reap as much reward as possible, even as your energy and enthusiasm dwindles. The Real Reason Parents are Always So Tired

That’s not to say it’s not fun. Mom and Buried and I had a blast taking Detective Munch to the beach over Memorial Day weekend. He had a great time playing in the sand with his honorary uncles, and the adults even managed to have a few pops and eat a few meals without a few meltdowns (he was seriously well-behaved most of the time). Overall, it was great success. But this morning, even after a decent night’s sleep in my own bed, I woke up feeling… what’s the opposite of refreshed?

So what is it about being a parent so exhausting? (Especially a parent of a go-go-go toddler who has no independent life without his Mommy and Daddy.)

It’s not that having a toddler is physically exhausting, although it is. Running after him when he breaks loose in a store or a parking lot or on a beach; wrestling him down to brush his teeth so he doesn’t end up looking British or to apply sunscreen so he doesn’t end up looking British; carrying him to bed or to the bath or in and out of his car seat while he flails and kicks like a fish with limbs. All of that is definitely exhausting. But that’s not the real issue.

And it’s not that having a toddler is mentally exhausting, although it is. Devising lists in your head every time you leave the house just to make sure he has his lovey and his milk and his snacks and some crayons and some diapers and some wipes and a stroller and the sunscreen and his toy phone and his coloring books; stressing out every time you think there might be egg or peanuts or gluten or glass in his food; worrying all night long that he’s being too quiet in bed or not quiet enough; gritting your teeth at a restaurant or at a store or on playdate when he starts to scream and throw a tantrum and people are watching you. All of that is definitely exhausting. But that’s not the real issue either.

Of course, being exhausted is not just for parents. Once you hit a certain age, energy is just harder to come by; pretty much everyone I know is exhausted all the time. It’s just life.

But as a parent, there is one primary reason I am always so tired: the lack of recovery time.

One of the earliest pieces of advice I got when my wife was pregnant was to catch up on sleep before my kid was born. It’s both incredibly apt advice and terribly stupid advice. Stupid because there’s no way to “catch-up” on sleep before you lose it; you can’t bank sleep. And apt because once you have a kid, as in DAY ONE, the amount of sleep you’ll get for the rest of your life – on both a daily basis and in an accumulative “total sleep hours” one – begins to diminish and never stops. It’s like someone pokes a hole in your canteen and slowly all of it drains out. And there’s no getting it back.

my parents are exhausted t shirt The Real Reason Parents are Always So TiredWhen you have kids, or even just one kid like I do, you don’t get a day off. You don’t have a chance to play catch-up. If you happen to stay up too late, or party too hard, or go out and get a little tipsy, you aren’t getting the extra sleep you need the next day. You’re not getting a chance to sleep-in until your hangover goes away or you get some energy back. You get up when your kid gets up and you follow him around doing everything he needs because you’re his slave and that’s your life now. The same thing happens when you’re sick. Your kid doesn’t care if you’re hugging the toilet or if you need your appendix out or if you have a headache. Your kid doesn’t even care if he’s the reason you have a headache (guess what? He is the reason.).

So sure, going on vacation with kids is still fun; it’s just not much of a vacation anymore. Not like it was. Unless you have a nanny. In which case, I take back everything in this post and also I hate you.


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15 Responses to “The Real Reason Parents are Always So Tired”

  1. lydsrichLydia May 28, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Amen and amen. You hit the nail on the head in so many ways!

  2. Jen at Mom Rocks Mealtime May 28, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    I’m taking naps at work in preparation for our week long cruise with the kids. Pray for us.

  3. Cold Lipstick May 28, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    Oh so true!!! We are expecting our second and I’m a terrified. As I’m sitting here I’m half passing out as the 2 year old seemingly runs circles around the couch screaming.

    Oh- and best part of the entry? That last bit ;)

    • gFlow May 28, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

      …i got 2….with 2 years difference…boys(!!)
      i can tell u 1 is 1, two is a gang!
      i wish you all the best

      • Cold Lipstick May 28, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

        Hahaha yikes!!! That’s almost exactly what we will be in for!! Two and a Half years diff, both girls!

        AHHHHHH

  4. memyselfandkids.com May 28, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    You are dead on your description of family holidays.
    I also got the advice about sleeping before the kid is born. I may have given the advice since. Yet, it is totally stupid. It’s not as if you can store it up like a camel does water. Oh, if only!

  5. Nancy May 29, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Well said! I’ve been trying to recover from our trip to Cuba back in September! But after reading this, I see it’s clearly pointless and I should just give up any hope of recovering. Sometimes that drink (or all of those drinks) on Friday night is worth the exhaustion the next day, though.

  6. Carol June 13, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    My kids are now 12, 10 and 10. Your post reminded me of the unrelenting servitude that went into their earlier years. I am happy to report that they now put on their own sunblock, fill their own water bottles, grab their towels, books and snacks when we leave the house and I just have to do a bit of reminding. Sorry to report that I’m still exhausted.

  7. Q. Di Bari June 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    I have never read a truer parenting article! Thank u!

  8. They Call Me Mummy June 17, 2013 at 5:33 am #

    I read this on iVillage and loved it. So glad I’ve found your blog – even if it means I am going to throw away 2 hours I don’t have tonight, reading all your posts.

    Love your style. You’ve earned yourself a new follower. Sharing you all over the place :)
    They Call Me Mummy recently posted…Oh, my nuts!My Profile

    • Dad and Buried June 19, 2013 at 9:35 am #

      Wow, thanks a lot! I’ll be sure to check out your blog too!

  9. Leah June 18, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    This is brilliant. Whenever I’m out with friends, I get really worried when 8pm passes. I want to get home, get my stuff done, and get to sleep. One boy wakes up at 5, the other at 7. I need my sleep. But of course, due to night time wake-ups, I never actually get any sleep….
    Leah recently posted…Such a Sweet Pea!My Profile

  10. Keila September 5, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    Your article is funny and true, we have gotten creative-
    Sometimes my hubby and I will take turns: he sleeps in on Sat, I sleep in on Sun… Or we take cat nap while our daughter is watching q cartoon, or when she takes a nap… But you def have to adjust: we dont go to bed past 11 pm anymore and the house is not as clean… All I have to say is, it will get better when they are older, it will! I must believe it… Lol

  11. Eric November 21, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Your post reminded me of dragging my screaming three year old through Miami International Airport loaded with carry-ons and a car seat. People were looking at me like I had just abducted him. That was our last “vacation”. 7 years ago.
    Eric recently posted…Turn your Goldfish Crackers into Piranha Crackers With This Easy RecipeMy Profile

  12. thẩm mỹ viện uy tín April 14, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I liked this
    article. It was helpful. Keep on posting!
    thẩm mỹ viện uy tín recently posted…thẩm mỹ viện uy tínMy Profile

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