Competitive tiredness: why no one’s a winner


As all new parents will tell you, having a baby changes your life in many ways. It is certainly the biggest challenge I’ve ever encountered. You go through some amazing experiences and also some pretty shitty ones (sometimes literally shitty, everywhere, on your baby and you. In your hair…).

I think it is fair to say that parents are allowed to long for a few things from our pre-baby life. For me the biggest thing I miss is the S word. No, it’s not sex (ha ha you wish Grump) or snuggling or getting sozzled on Sangria, the one thing I truly miss is SLEEP. Grump and I used to be big sleepers. We liked afternoon naps, early nights and long lie ins. What better way to spend a Sunday morning than snuggled up in bed with a good book and a cup of tea?

Unfortunately, this way of life is not conducive to having a baby. I’m not allowed to moan really. I have a pretty good little girl who has slept through the night on and off from about 4 months old. She still has the odd few nights where she wakes up (especially if she’s under the weather), but I know I’ve got it relatively easy compared to some people. One of my NCT friends says that her baby has never slept through the night. And he only sleeps for a couple of hours in a row. I genuinely have no idea how she is still functioning. Even with a decent night’s sleep from 10.30pm to 6.30am, I still feel shattered most of the time (I think she hates me).

When I think back to the J as a newborn, I was hardly getting any sleep at all and I managed pretty well. So how can I possibly be tired now? I suppose back then I would have a couple of naps in the daytime when she was sleeping. Now when she’s asleep I shower, get dressed, do chores, watch Homes Under the Hammer [insert crap day-time TV programme here] and catch up on social media. Plus she doesn’t sleep for long enough to give me a decent nap anyway.

I’ve totally gone off piste from the main point of this blog, which is competitive tiredness. This is when your partner has gone back to work after paternity leave and you argue about who is more tired. You’ve both been up in the night, but usually the ‘non-worker’ takes the brunt of the night feeds (in this scenario I am the non-worker, although raising a child sure seems like hard work). The husband has been busy at work all day and thinks that you have been at home relaxing (I wish), while you’ve actually been dealing with a demanding baby all day. You are both knackered and both want to relax. You start to have a moan and it gets competitive over who has had the hardest day and thus is most tired.

Grump and I have had this discussion a few times since the birth of the J and recently we realised that it was simply ridiculous and pointless. It’s an argument that nobody wins. We are both tired in our own ways and both of our ‘jobs’ are tough. Since spending a week as a stay-at-home Dad, he appreciates all that I do at home with the baby and I appreciate that a full working week is tiring.

Even so, when you are shattered after a day with a crying/screaming/grumpy/tantrum-y baby, sometimes you just want your other half to say: “Well done, you’ve done a great job and I’m sorry you are so tired. Sit down, put your feet up and drink this large glass of wine and I will put the baby to bed.” Some nights Grump does this for me and other nights I do this for him, because we both need a break.

Having gone from regularly having 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night to somewhere between 4 and 7 hours with wake-ups in between, I’ve discovered that you can function on much less sleep than you think you need and for the next few years that’s how life is going to be. I do hold out a bit of hope that once the J becomes an older child/teenager I might actually get a bit more sleep. On the plus side, I seem to get much more done now that I am an early riser. I know those Sunday lie ins are probably a thing of the past, but a girl can dream. Oh wait, you have to be asleep for that.

P.S. I hope you enjoyed the gratuitous photograph of my parents’ Golden Retriever Toby having a well-earned snooze. Being a parent is hard, but obviously being a dog is harder!


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