What have you been doing that took all night and that’s hurt your back?
This is a question that could only be asked of me by someone who doesn’t have children…
I wish I’d been on a date with Indiana Jones.
The truth is more prosaic.
I carried Flora around too much yesterday, which hurt my back. Leo got into bed with me in the night, and he sleeps horizontally, is actually quite big now, and all knees and elbows. Also, the cat. Then Flora decided it was time to start the day at 5.30am.
Once, a state of delicacy and soft-focus would follow a night of glamour-tinged decadence. Now the tales of the night revolve around children and their needs. The parent of a small baby might wonder when it ends, as their days blur into nights and into days without any stretch of sleep which could be described as adequate, and worse, no hope of that sleep in the near future. I could say that it never ends. Once you’re a parent, you’re forever on call.
And yet it ends.
My children are 3 and 7 and they sleep now – pretty much and most of the time. A night as disturbed as last night is rare, and the feeling of unreality that follows serves only to remind me what I have gained, and not how far I still have to go.
One day my children won’t seek me out for comfort when they wake in the night – and while I may have slept more soundly on that day, and indeed be less irritable, there will also be a little bit of sadness to no longer be needed.
Until that day dawns, and as a veteran survivor of sleep-free nights (my daughter didn’t sleep for more than 2 hours at once for over 18 months, and neither did I; I was barely alive), I’ll try to be useful.
5 ways to get through the day when you’ve had no sleep
- Coffee! Who knows whether the effects of coffee are truly beneficial or not? Advocates of good health would probably argue against, however what we truly need in this situation is the sense that we are doing something for ourselves alone. It isn’t wiping a nose or changing a nappy or trying to imagine where else we might hang laundry to dry. The coffee is for us alone, and no child will steal it. In this regard, the more designer-pretty the coffee is, the better. If you can go to a coffee shop and extend the treat to include croissants, cake and chocolate sprinkled froth, you definitely should. If you can convince yourself that the barista secretly fancies you and this is why he makes heart shapes in your coffee, then there is absolutely no harm in this as long as you never tell anyone about this belief. Oh. But seriously, even instant coffee in your squalid kitchen can do the trick; but nice coffee in a coffee shop is the affordable luxury every parent is owed.
- Tell everyone you meet that day you’ve had no sleep. Sympathy helps, especially when it’s mutual. There’s nothing quite as bonding as shared experience, and whole friendship groups can be forged through a common fog of sleeplessness. One of my very good friends once offered to take me home with her, put me in her spare bed, and watch my daughter for me while I slept. I’d only met her for the first time 5 minutes before, but I knew her worth in that moment.
- Cbeebies. Everyone feels guilty about letting their children watch too much television, but if you can barely keep your eyes open, this is the moment to feel no guilt. Tune into The Nightgarden, lie down on the sofa and zone out a little.
- Be Kind to Yourself Zero your expectations of the day to just getting through it with everyone in one piece. That way, anything you achieve will be a bonus. Done is better than perfect as they say. Also, try to be kind to your children, if you can. A little leeway today isn’t the end of the world, and today is no day to fight any but the most essential battles. Which brings me to:
- Apologise to your children. I do this all the time. You are going to be more irritable today, you just are, but if you can say sorry for being snappy, shouty and naggy this might just make everyone feel a bit better about it, even if you start snapping again a few minutes later. Children are very forgiving. Who knows, it might even make them sleep through the night…This is unlikely,but it might.