The Real Reason Parents Are Always So Tired

A question for the ages: Why am I always exhausted?

Seriously. Every night if I don’t have an extra cup of coffee/can of diet coke after Jonah is asleep, I’m nodding off on the couch by 9 pm (usually in full makeup/contacts/without brushing my teeth). I don’t really want to admit the amount of caffeine I am currently consuming in a day, lest you warn me that I’m permanently damaging my body.

Now granted, I do wake up early in the morning. Jonah is normally up around 6:00 am. But this doesn’t really explain anything, because 9 pm to 6 am is plenty of sleep. Jonathan and I are actually fortunate because Jonah is a great sleeper who hasn’t woken up in the night on a regular basis for over a year now.

So there’s no obvious reason for it. I’m just…exhausted. Like this guy.

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public domain image via pexels.com

I know I’m not the only one. It’s something of a badge of honor among parents of young children to talk about how tired we are. But barring extraordinary circumstances, like a child up in the night, why is this, exactly?

I think I’ve figured it out. By the time I get to the end of the day, I’ve juggled the following responsibilities: feeding Jonah. playing with him. getting him dressed for the day. feeding the dogs. working (and all of the mental energy that entails). coming home. feeding Jonah again. feeding myself. playing with Jonah. giving him a bath. reading to him. putting him to bed. cleaning up. playing with the dogs. feeding the dogs.

No wonder I’m tired!

(In case you’re wondering, Jonathan has an equally long, different, list.)

I think as parents of young children, we have so much on our plates on any given day that by the time we get to the end of the day, we’ve just about reached our limit and have to shut down. Even if we did get enough sleep the night before. Really. Do not pass go, do not collect $200–your energy for the day stops here, whether you want it to or not.

I figure that as our child(ren) get older, my daily limit will keep inching back, little by little. Maybe someday I will consume less caffeine and go to bed a little later. I think by the time Jonah is 18 I may only be drinking two cups of coffee a day, and I may even go to bed at 10:30 with no problems. A girl can dream, right?

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Are you tired? Why?

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Roomba and Me: A Love Story

Please, my friends, let me tell you about one of the miracles of modern life: the Roomba vacuum-cleaning robot. (Please note that this is not a sponsored post. I just love this thing so much I have to tell everyone about it.)

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The Love family Roomba

Haven’t heard of the Roomba? It’s a vacuum cleaner that you set-and-forget. You turn it on, walk away and DO SOMETHING ELSE while it vacuums the room (including going under furniture), returns to its charger and re-docks itself. Better yet, you can program it ahead of time and it does its thing while you are at work.

This thing has changed my life. My whole adult life I have felt so much pressure to keep a clean house, and a lot of guilt when I don’t. The tension between feeling the need to clean vs. not wanting to waste my precious free time doing it has been quite painful. This amazing little dude has taken a lot of that pressure away, just enough to make everything else seem that much more manageable. It’s given me back time, energy and peace of mind.

So this product is amazing. Get one right now. I’m serious! It will vastly improve the quality of your life.

Envy

I’m not proud of something that I felt today.

I was in a conversation with someone I am directly connected to. I obviously won’t say who it is. I see this person about once a week and will for the indefinite future. She is a newlywed married to a young guy who got an awesome, high-paying job straight out of college. He is five years younger than me and makes roughly double my income. Let’s call her husband Mike. Today this girl and I were talking about her job search. She was trying to get a certain kind of job to get hours to apply to a graduate school program.

“How’s your job search going?”-Me

“I have a lead on a job at _________. Oh by the way, Mike and I have decided I’m not going to try to go to (type of graduate school).”-Her

“Oh really, why not?”-Me

“Because Mike has such a good job, we decided that it wouldn’t be worth the money for me to go. It would be better to put that money toward his education. So I’m planning to just get a part-time job.”-Her

“Oh, why not full time? Because you don’t have to?”-Me

“Yeah, because I don’t have to. Since Mike makes so much money, there is no reason for me to work full-time. It makes sense to have one of us home to take care of the apartment, make dinner, stuff like that.”-Her

I felt physically ill when she said this. Even now, thinking about this conversation makes me feel queasy. It took everything I had not to say, “OH HOW NICE FOR YOU” in a really bitchy tone of voice. Instead, I bit my lip (literally), stood up and went outside to get some fresh air.

Important to know: This person has made comments like this before. “Mike and I are really comfortable… blah blah blah.” And she knows that my husband is unemployed right now and looking hard for a job.

Jonathan and I are so blessed in so many ways. In general we are pretty comfortable and have no reason to complain. Since he lost his job at the end of July, things have been tight, but we are making it. He’s been looking hard for a job and has had some interviews, but nothing has come of it so far. During our marriage to date, there has never been a time when I wasn’t the main breadwinner, for a variety of reasons. More on that saga another time. Recently I have been feeling a bit resentful about this, even though I like working, and I love my job. I’ve been wishing that I could spend more time with Jonah. I think I am tired of HAVING to work, of having to be the dependable, responsible one. Is it wrong to want to be taken care of for a change?

I’m a little scared of how honest this post is. Stuff from the deepest, darkest part of my heart is coming out.

So back to this conversation. Hearing this girl, who doesn’t have a child, who doesn’t even have pets, talk about how she doesn’t really have to work and needs lots of time to take care of things at home, made me feel sick to my stomach with envy. There–I said it. i am envious of how easy life is for her. I’m not proud of it. Obviously lots of people make more money than we do, but I’ve never felt before like I felt today. Today, it was personal. I can’t recall ever feeling as acute a sense of wishing I had what someone else has as I did today.

What’s funny is that I have never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. As someone who thrives on a schedule, I’ve never thought I would be happy without one. I tend to get stir-crazy when I’m at home too long. On the other hand, I would love more time with my baby. Isn’t that the working mom’s dilemma? I do think a goal of mine might be to work part-time someday when we can afford it. And obviously it would be amazing if Jonathan made enough money that I didn’t have to work, even though I probably would anyway.

People, choose your words carefully. Think about other people’s situations in life before you speak. And clearly don’t spout off about how comfortable you are if you know someone else is struggling. As for me…I need to be content with what I have.

Life after teaching

On Monday I started my first ever non-teaching job as a professional. For the last five years, I have been an elementary school teacher. I taught ESL for the first four of those years and 2nd grade this previous year. I started to feel the itch for a change about a year and a half ago, but I wasn’t sure in what direction to look for another job. Being a teacher has been such an important part of my identity for a long time, and there were lots of things I loved about it. I loved that moment during a lesson when you know that it’s working, that your kids are really getting it. I loved seeing students make growth from the beginning of the year to the end. I didn’t love having to be at work at the crack of dawn and staying late for meetings. I didn’t love having no independence or freedom of choice about my work day. I didn’t love all the work I had to do at night and on the weekends. But it wasn’t enough for me to pull the plug and look for something else.

Soon after my husband and I had our son Jonah in December, I knew that I was done with teaching. I don’t know why having him made the decision so clear for me, but it did. I didn’t want to stay home full time; I wanted to work–just not as a teacher. I started idly looking for other jobs during my maternity leave, but as I was thinking about what else I could do I found myself at a loss. I quickly realized that other than administrative/central office jobs, there are not a ton of opportunities for teachers looking to get out of the classroom but stay in an education-related field, even if you have a master’s degree.

As I was job searching, I remembered the website of a literacy nonprofit here in town that I had come across a while ago. When I first heard of Reading Connections, I thought at the time that if I ever wanted to get out of the classroom they would be a great group to work for. On a long shot I emailed the director my resume and introduced myself. A couple interviews and a few months later, I am now Reading Connections’ new Family Literacy Manager. I am responsible for all programs our agency is involved with that focus on young children and their parents. My main program is the Family Literacy program, which is a combination of literacy instruction, parenting skills and life skills for parents with low literacy levels and their children. Here is the view from my new office:
11692783_10204433219259620_1404767787281239415_nI am definitely still getting my feet wet, and I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing half the time, but so far I am really enjoying my new job. While not without its challenges (such as finding my car in the parking deck), I love the autonomy to choose what I’m going to work on at what time, the ability to make my own schedule, and just in general feeling like I’m finally being treated like a professional.