Diary of a busy practitioner, juggling work and family somewhere in England. This week: tackling tiredness
Deceptively Angelic Looking Child 1 (DALC1), aged six and a half, has stopped sleeping. Obviously, there has always been the Bedtime Hell with the pillow spray, eye mask, relaxing music, in depth discussion about death etc, but once she was asleep, she was asleep. I’m even going to be one of those annoying people that says she slept through the night as a newborn.
Three weeks ago she had a 24-hour bug with a very high temperature. She was off school for the day- the one day my husband and I had taken as annual leave as a special treat to ourselves but at least it meant we didn’t have to worry about childcare- and she binge-watched a programme on Netflix called Just Add Magic. That night, in her slightly delirious state, she had nightmares about this programme and has been scared of her own shadow ever since. We are not even allowed to say the words 'Just', 'Add' or 'Magic' in front of her and we are literally tripping over her where she has to be so close to us all the time. She is scared of her room, she is scared of falling asleep, scared of everything.
I should add that Just Add Magic is a kids’ programme. Yes, it has a 'baddie', but so do most kids’ programmes. It’s not like we got her to binge-watch the Chucky films.
The problem I have is that she has talked herself into all this. My friend’s little boy is afraid of our Enormous Puppy and when he sees her he has an instant, impulsive, emotional response. DALC1, on the other hand, has worked herself up and talked herself into this state and she needs to talk herself out of it.
This is all really annoying. Much more annoying than if she was still unwell. My parental instinct seems to kick in and keep me awake if one of them is unwell.
It is also probably annoying to you, Reader, to hear about another tired parent. We are good at moaning about being tired. In the longer-than-hoped period I spent trying to get pregnant I had a colleague with a young child who, every time you asked her how she was, would say 'oh, you know' which was code for 'I’m slowly being dragged down by my life and in particular the requirement to get up three times a night with my baby and still come to work the next day'. At a time when every fibre of my being wanted to be kept awake by a little bundle of gurgly, wriggly, warm cuddly awesomeness, I vowed never to moan about my kids. Oh how naive I was! Moaning about them has literally become my sideline!
Right now my mouth is dry, my cheeks are hot, there is a bitter taste in my mouth from all the coffee. I feel dead inside and devoid of emotion. I keep overheating in the manner of a machine that needs oiling. My trainee is asking me questions and I don’t understand the order of the words that he has put together into sentences. They must be coming out of his mouth correctly but they are reaching my brain in the wrong order. I actually hit a traffic cone on the way to work. Yesterday my mother in law asked me if I still had a cold and I COULDN’T REMEMBER. I don’t think zombies get colds. My only aim for each day is to be alive at the end of it. Should I be driving? Should I be giving legal advice? I remember a former colleague with young kids bringing his pillow to work to have a nap on his desk at lunchtime. Said colleague used to drive 20 miles home. Once when I was back at work after having DALC1 I felt so awfully tired that I lied and said I was unwell and went home. Whilst driving home I vomited all over the car and my immediate reaction was relief that I actually had a tummy bug and was not lying to my employer. Why are we all pretending to be superhuman when we don’t even feel human? It’s not like most kids sleep, most kids don’t. I’m not the only one. And even if they sleep they are bloody hard work when they are awake. Physically and emotionally demanding hard work.
On one hand, I thank goodness I am not my friend who is a new mum and a surgeon, but on the other hand this is not OK either! I don’t know what the answer is, I can’t ask for three months off work whilst we get through this phase. I have to drive to work and I have to give legal advice, handle client money and do other important things while I am there. I am grateful I was able to have two bundles of awesomeness, and I am grateful that I get to do a rewarding and challenging job. I realise that both these things were choices I made, but all the time mums and dads of young children are working hard in these challenging jobs, can anything be put in place to protect the wellbeing of them and those around them?
Speaking of my trainee, he told me today he too was really tired because of the warm weather at the weekend. I asked specifically what he did in the warm weather and all he came up with was 'I went to a friend’s house for lunch and we had a few drinks in the garden'. His time will come.