I genuinely dislike it when parents tell their non-parent friends, "Oh, you think you're tired. Try having kids sometime!" After all, everyone is entitled to their pain. If someone tells you they're tired, that means they're tired. Believe them and respect their experience. That being said, when I look back at the things I actually used to think were tiring, I want to laugh, cry, hug my younger self, and then legit drop a cartoon anvil on her head. Because, if I'm being honest, the life I lived prior to having kids wasn't all that demanding, at least not compared to my life with kids.
Look, I chose to have children. I knew what I was in for, insofar as anyone can know what they're in for. OK, honestly I had no idea what I was in for, but on one does prior to bringing another living, breathing, very needy human into the world. Even an easy child is exhausting. From a strictly mushy perspective, loving them can emotionally drain you, but you still have to try to maintain all the emotionally involved relationships you had before they arrived. Physically? Well, do you have any idea how much lifting, chasing, running, and squatting down you do as a parent? I have developed quads of steel over the last five years. All of this is to say nothing of a number one cause of parenting exhaustion: a lack of sleep.
So what are the things that used to make me tired but now make me LOL? Here's a list to get you going, because sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying:
Waking Up At 7:45 A.M.
I always resented the fact that I had to wake up at 7:45 a.m. to account for New York City rush hour in order to be at work by 9:00 a.m. It felt terribly unfair that what should be a quick 20 minute trip usually took 45 minutes, at best. “If I could wake up at 8:15 I would be so much more rested!” I would tell myself.
Do you know what time my 3-year-old woke up the other day? 4:30 in the morning, bursting with energy. I turned on a dance video for her and she enthusiastically shook her tiny baby butt along with the lively Polynesian dancers on the screen. I tried to lie down on the couch and close my eyes, but every three minutes or so she would poke me and insist that I watch. And I’ll admit, such an early wake up time is unusual for either of my two children. But you know what’s typical? A 6:00 a.m. wakeup call. Do you know what time I have to leave to go to work? Trick question! I don’t. I work from home. In theory I could roll over at 9:00 a.m., pick up my laptop and start working from the comfort of my bed. But I have children, so my day begins at 6:00 am if I’m lucky.
Do you have any idea what I would give to wake up at 7:45 in the damn morning every day?
Scheduling & Making Time For Various Appointments
A friend of mine once wisely pointed out that having a body requires a ton of work, and having a female body can be even more demanding. “You have to go to the doctor and the dentist, but you also have to go to the gyno. Then there’s the stuff you don’t have to do, but you’re likely going to be judged or disadvantaged if you don’t: styling your hair, buying and applying makeup, establishing and maintaining a wardrobe, going to the gym, shaving and waxing. It’s all so much.”
This is absolutely true and it’s exhausting, but it’s even more exhausting when you’re supposed to fit all that in along with caring for a child, which includes making all of their various appointments. Caring for my own body was tiring, but caring for my body, my son’s body, and my daughter’s body? Brushing the girl’s hair alone is a daily ordeal.
Listening To An Irritating Co-Worker Drone On For 20 Minutes
Having a child is like living with your most annoying, irrational, and distracting co-worker. You know, the one who goes into detail about his bunion surgery; the one who refuses to follow office protocol about ordering supplies because they like their system better; or the one who tells you to do something one way one day and another way the next. Those people are wearying AF, and at least you actually love your sometimes annoying, usually irrational, and always distracting child.
But here’s the thing, though: you never get to leave the mom job. You’re locked in to that gig until the day you die. Oh, and did I mention it’s a 24/7 job? Have you ever been awakened at 3:00 am by a toddler who just remembered they weren’t done yelling at you over the fact that you couldn’t find the bouncy ball they’d lost a week ago? I have. Do you know the names of every single Pokemon? I do, but only because as I speak my 5-year-old son is telling me which one’s he’s going to catch. No amount of, “Sweetie, I’m interested in what you have to say, but mommy is working right now” will sway him from sharing his thoughts on Pokemon right now because #GottaCatchEmAll
Getting paid to watch a kid for a few hours on a Friday night when you didn't have plans and then hanging out eating someone else's food and watching someone else's cable was tiring? Really, younger me? Is that what I'm hearing.
Bless your heart.
Working The Occasional Weekend
Look, any time you work beyond your normal or expected hours it's going to be sort of exhausting. When you're a parent, though, you become accustomed to working 15+ hour days and then being on call the other nine. So the idea that I once acted as though working a few hours on a Saturday was that big a deal is sort of laughable when I look at the big picture of my life.
Walking Eight Minutes To The Subway
Sure, compared to my previous apartment's proximity to the cursed A train, my schlep from 31st Street to 45th Street in Astoria, Queens felt exhausting. On a good day it was a pleasant constitutional, but on a bad day it felt like a trek requiring a knowledgeable and well-supplied mountain guide.
Now that I'm a parent, though, I have become the well-supplied mountain guide. At least I look like one, because being a parent often requires you to carry your child's entire bedroom on your back, along with your child and any stuff you might need. Oh, and because you have about 9,000,000 bags, everyone is always asking, "Hey, do you mind sticking this in your bag for me?" Now I look at the spry, unencumbered people flitting about with their one cute purse the way I look at birds. They're so free.
Going Out With Friends
An impression of a portion of my child-free 20s: "Uuuuuuuuugh. I want to go out, but I also don't. I just kind of don't want to get uuuuup. You know what, though? I said no last time. I should really head out. Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh! Why is life so hard and exhausting?!"
An impression of my child-full 30s: Me staring into the abyss at the end of the day for approximately 45 seconds before I pass out and dream about the last time I went out for a drink.
Packing For A Vacation
I am one of those people who prides herself on her ability to travel light. I once went to Europe for two weeks with a duffel bag. I manage to throw things in a bag the same day I'm supposed to leave. And still, packing is tiring and annoying. This is packing without children, though.
If packing for vacation for yourself is hellish, packing for vacation with children is the stormiest corner of the deepest darkest circle of Hell. The part of Hell where even the Devil himself is like, "Yeah, I wouldn't want to be there after dark." There's just so much stuff. And the more there is to pack the more there is to forget about.
And even in a worst case scenario, barring medications or important documentation, you're probably going to be OK if you forget to pack something for yourself. You can probably just pick up a new whatever wherever you are. But if you forget your child's favorite toy? God have mercy on your soul.
"Recovering From Vacation"
It's funny to think of a time when "relaxing" and "vacation" were words that went together. Because vacations with children can be fun and wonderful and something you look forward to, but they aren't relaxing by a long shot. The idea of "recovering" from vacation tends to involve some level of getting out of carefree relxation mode and back into the mundane aspects of every day life. Recovering from a vacation with children is more like, "I have thrown off my entire groove and now I have to catch up on the work that didn't happen here at home and the work I have to do from vacation."
I'm pretty sure there's still a bag of wet bathing suits in a suitcase I took on vacation in 2012 somewhere. I'll get to it eventually.
Cleaning My Apartment
Every Saturday or Sunday my apartment got a good deep cleaning. It was so tiring, I thought, scrubbing my toilet, spritzing and wiping down my shelves, sweeping, vacuuming.
It's about 12:30 p.m. at the moment. Do you know how many times I've picked up a small mountain of toys today? "Why don't you just wait until the end of the day to tidy up?" you ask? Well, because you've apparently never seen what a day's worth of my kids' toys looks like strewn about a living room.
Worrying About Money
It's always exhausting to worry about finances. It's way more exhausting when you've got extra mouths to feed, bodies to house and clothe, and lives to enrich as best you can, though. Yes, this is (usually) a choice parents knowingly make, but that doesn't make the reality any less stressful. The stakes are as high as they've always been, only now they're more complicated and apply to more people.
"I haaaaaaaaaaate laundry! I can't believe I have to do it every other week! I'm so tired of folding!"
Oh my sweet summer child, what do you know about laundry? Laundry is for when you have children. When the clothes fall a hundred feet deep. Laundry is for the long night, when you get home after a full day at the office and caring for your child and you still have to wash their clothes because they had another two blow-outs and have no more clean onesies. That is the time for laundry.
Finishing A Book For Book Club
OK, so before I had kids I read a book a week at least (the upside of the aforementioned 45 minute commute). Any book club reading I had to do (and I was in two book clubs) was often on top of that. "The pressure of having to finish a book can be just really tiring, you know? Ugh!"
Do you even know how many books I've read this year? Three? Maybe? As a work-from-home/stay-at-home mom, it's really, really hard to find time to read. I can't imagine ever having a time in my life when I had to read so much it felt tiring. Looking back, it just really wasn't at all.
How?! How is shopping tiring? How could I ever have thought that? I mean, you get to go into a store (presumably by choice) and buy things for yourself because you have money to spend on yourself. Even if it's shopping for something you need, it's still an afternoon out by yourself or with a friend. I dream of the day I can go into a store without saying, "Stop touching everything! If you break that you're going to have to buy it with the money you're saving up for a Hot Wheels race track!"
"Only" Getting Six Hours Of Sleep
Wait. Like, in a row? You got to sleep six hours in a row, child-free me? Why don't you sit down and tell me all about it. Maybe if I hear your story I will feel like I got six hours of sleep, too.