I’m fairly sure that all parents suffer from overtiredness at some point, some may even live in this state constantly.
As we adopted our children when they were both over the age of 1, we didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night to feed them. That doesn’t mean we didn’t wake up and irrationally wonder if they were still breathing because we hadn’t heard from them in ages. Of course they always have been breathing, they were just, you know, asleep – like I should have been!
We all have our signs that we pick up on when we’re overtired or bordering on exhausted, we act irrationally, we do strange things, we forget the simplest of things. Here are a few things I have noticed about myself when I’m in a state of overtiredness:
- I get short tempered. That’s a very easy one to spot, it usually exhibits itself first thing in the morning, or when I get home from work. The stupidest thing can trigger off what can only be described as a temper tantrum, where I have to remove myself from the room to go and sulk for a little while to calm down.
- I forget if I’ve washed my hair. Yep, it’s a weird one. I have done it many times, I’m standing there in the shower staring at the bottle of shampoo unable to remember whether I have washed my hair already or not. Inevitably the memory of having washed my hair already comes flooding back as I’m lathering up the second time.
- Driving to work, I forget where I am or where I’ve been. Many times I’ve driven over a roundabout and then wondered if I actually looked first before going out onto it. I know I do, but the fact I have lapses in memory on my morning drive to work is a tad disturbing! I guess that the routine of the same drive every day mixed with the tiredness stops my brain from recording what happens.
- I can fall asleep in unusual places. Normally I struggle to get to sleep, I can lie there for over an hour wanting sleep to come. When I’m overtired I have been known to fall asleep with a toddler bouncing up and down on my lap watching CBeebies at full volume. The shouting, arguing and screaming between my two children that would normally trigger point 1 seems to lull me to sleep. That’s a sign of being extremely tired.
- I forget to dry my right leg after a shower. Yep, another shower related weird one. I don’t notice it’s still wet until I start getting dressed. This has happened far too many times, and it is ALWAYS my right leg.
- A rather usual one is not putting things away in the right places. Milk in the cereal cupboard, cereal in the fridge. I normally catch myself doing this before I walk away, but it does happen.
- Vacant room walking and cupboard looking. I came into this room for a reason, I opened this cupboard to get something. Why can’t I remember what it was?
I’m sure these things happen to most people, but there is nothing quite like the exhaustion caused by being a parent. The relentlessness, the constant need to be vigilant to prevent some sort of catastrophic event occurring takes its toll on you. You can’t sleep unless you know they’re safe, you can’t know they’re safe unless you’re awake (or extremely contained!). Even when they’re safely tucked up in bed the irrational (or is it actually rational sometimes?) ‘parent fear’ kicks in and makes you want to check on them.
Does this ever go away? When one thing that caused sleeplessness seems to abate another thing starts up to cause further worry. Do I worry too much? Should I relax more? What will be will be, right? But what if that’s bad and I can do something to prevent it?