“When I was younger, I always thought I was happy. Now that I have kids, I know that I am Happy… exhausted, but happy.” These words were spoken by Chris Rock’s character in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and speak so very true in probably most parents’ lives. When young, happiness resembles freedom, no responsibilities, and definitely no kids. Sometime in our mid 20’s that seems to start to change. We start getting feeling of wanting something more from life. So we meet the right person and marry (goodbye freedom), buy a house (hello responsibilities), and inevitably start building your family (you are what?). Sleep becomes more of a luxury and less of a necessity once that little bundle of…joy, I think they call it, enters the world. I never thought I could pull an 8 hour work day at TJs when getting 2 hours of sleep the night before because of a screaming baby. The whole night I want to put this thing that is screaming in my face for the last hour down and pass out without caring if he is crying, needs a diaper, hungry, or on fire. But we can’t, no matter how much we want to, we can’t bring ourselves to do it. So we suck it up and stay up rocking and singing and doing what we can so that they pass out 2 hours before we gotta get up for work. The real kicker is that once at work, we can think of nothing other than being back at home with the baby. It is the actions of a border line masochist.
I have 2 kids now, a 6 month old son and a 2.5 year old daughter. When my daughter was a child, my wife and I found ourselves doing chores whenever she napped. A bit of advice, nap with them. Take the opportunity to sleep while they do because it is a guaranteed amount of time to sleep. It is good for your sanity and good for bonding with your baby. There is no better feeling than waking up to your kid smiling at you just for being there. Take advantage because once that 2nd kid arrives, the nap options tend to disappear entirely. It’s like they are working together from the day the 2nd one is born. One will nap while the other is wide awake and active, leaving absolutely no time for you to nap or get much of anything done. Twice the kids, 3 times the work.
All this exhaustion can really do damage to your marriage if not prepared. We have had to make it a point to be nice to each other. You have to like the person even in the worst moments. If you are a fair weather couple, I recommend a puppy first since you can return those. Most of the stresses that come with being a parent would not be so severe in our heads if we weren’t so exhausted. When one gets to be that tired, you have a very hard time controlling your attitude and emotional responses. But you can’t take it out on the baby, so we take it out on our spouse. As the victim of the attack, we have to keep in mind that it is not a rational thought that has caused this and don’t take it too seriously or personal. It’s gonna happen at some point and you will probably never get an apology from them. Just let it go because the argument that will arise is more harmful than helpful. Kids will always be your kids, we chose our spouse and it takes work to keep them our spouse. Remember that they are probably just as tired as you and you 2 are in it together and have help in each other.
Children are one of those things that take up the vast majority of our complaints and stresses in the remainder of our lives, but the majority of the thrills and joys are also because of them. So forget about how little sleep you are getting and live in the moment because they don’t stay our little babies for long. I wouldn’t trade what I have in my kids for anything. For every minute of sleep missing from my life, it will be replaced with some magical moment that causes a physical change in my attitude and appearance and works better than any caffeine product to brighten my day and lighten my mood. I can have the worst day at work with no sleep, but as soon as I walk in and hear my daughter say, “Hi Daddy!” and run up and hug me, I am completely re-energized with the feeling of, “Damn I’m tired, but I don’t care because I am so friggin’ happy… and my Kids are awesome”.