I am tired. Like, really tired. Raising little people is utterly exhausting. It is physically, emotionally, mentally and logistically demanding. Admittedly I haven’t slept through the night in a very long time (is anyone’s baby allergic to sleep?), but it’s more than that. When you have a new baby you accept that you will lose a few Z’s but you reason that the bone-crushing fatigue will be temporary. Wrong. Newborn babies are terribly cute, which is why I’ve had four of them, but they quickly get bigger and so do their ‘needs’.
I am nine years into this parenting gig and I’ve learnt that it’s not only sleepless nights that have made the bags under my eyes the size of carry-on suitcases! Here are six common types of parental fatigue:
1. Park fatigue
In my early days of motherhood, the park was a place to connect with other mums and have an actual conversation (not the monosyllabic variety). We bonded over our gorgeous offspring, shared birth stories and celebrated motherhood milestones. Discovering a new park delivered excitement on par with finding a new pub. Okay, slight exaggeration, but you get the point. But after losing thousands of hours of my life at playgrounds over the years, I’ve done my time. I mean, how much enjoyment can be derived from pushing a swing while feigning enthusiasm? The incessant “Watch me! Watch this!” interrupting my Insta-scrolling. No thanks. The park is now only bearable if I am armed with a) mum mates, b) champagne, and c) an escape plan (little people never want to leave). Park fatigue, it’s a real condition.
2. Decision fatigue
Nobody told me that being a mother meant making thousands of tiny decisions each day. They don’t mention it in the baby books. I am so tired of making decisions. They may not be big decisions, but I feel like at any one time my brain has 16 tabs open. And as for toddlers, it’s a never-ending stream of chatter. There are so many “Mama. Mama. Mamas,” and “Why? How? What’s this?” Trying to explain tampons to a two-year-old merely invites more questions! Every second is packed with endless auditory assaults and required responses. And then there’s thinking about what to cook for dinner, who needs new shoes, how to get to Auskick, ballet and a birthday party at the same time. The decisions never flippin’ end. Last weekend my husband asked me what I wanted from the Thai takeaway menu and I unleashed. I CANNOT make another single decision!
3. Admin fatigue
Permission slips, fundraiser requests, school notices, and ballet fees — the sheer volume of admin is head-spinning. There are also endless appointments that need to be made – doctors, dentists, childcare centres (how long can a wait list be?) and phone calls to the school to make sure they received the permission slip! Not to mention the last-minute lunch order that needs to be filled because you forgot to buy bread. And don’t get me started on organising play dates …
4. Floor fatigue
How much enthusiasm can one have for stacking blocks, only for your baby to knock them down before you’ve even finished the tower (anyone else get irritated by this?), all the while happily singing, “Build it up, build it up, build it higher”. Give me strength! After a few rounds of this mind-numbing tedium, my “advanced maternal age” makes it hard for me to get up. Young mums may not have this issue, but my hips are too old for floor time.
5. Negotiation fatigue
Parents may need the patience of a saint, but they also need the skills of a hostage negotiator. I thought negotiating with adults in the corporate world was hard. Turns out it’s a piece of cake compared with toddlers. Cut the bread in triangles instead of squares and prepare for a tirade of epic proportion. Not only do you need supreme negotiating tactics, you have to pre-empt the triggers and potentially disarm the bombs that are lying beneath the surface threatening to explode. And when your kids are older there are the sibling arguments. I am suffering from negotiation fatigue and I have surrendered. Pick your battles is my motto.
6. Mental fatigue (AKA the invisible load)
Hands up if your brain is both weary and wired? Yep, mine too. It’s exhausting being the family compass and keeping track of everyone’s needs. The mental load is tiring, more tiring than the sleepless nights. It’s the white noise constantly playing in the background, even when you try to relax and get some rest. It’s the never-ending to-do list running through the minds of (mostly) mums. It’s the things we do for our families that are necessary, but go completely unnoticed.
This list is by no means “exhaustive”. What fatigue are you currently experiencing?
In case you’re wondering, hubby ordered a Thai dish with pork. I am a vegetarian. #epicfail
Michaela Fox is a freelance writer, blogger and mother of three. She muses on the ups and downs of motherhood on her blog Not Another Slippery Dip, and believes in ‘good-enough’ parenting. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.