Parenting is an exhausting business- from start to finish...wherever that finishing line is. I'll be damned if I know.
When I fell pregnant with my first child, I felt like I had been hit with a tranquilliser dart. Growing a human sure does take it out of you. I would drag my fat ass around London, cello in tow, looking like an extra from Shaun of the Dead ( a musical one though). I'd nap whenever and wherever possible. Most days I was so knackered that I'd have to climb into bed at 4 pm the minute I got in from work. I would then wake at say 8 or 9 pm, devour a family box of Krispy Kremes and a punnet of cherry tomatoes (weird I know) and immediately pass out for the rest of the evening. Aside from getting up every 45 minutes to urinate or stuff pastries in my face, I pretty much slept like a log for 9 straight months.
It wasn't too taxing really. I grew to love those power naps in the toilet cubicles at the train station. Those bad boys got me through the whole knackering process of growing a human.
And then.... BOOM! THE BABY WAS BORN
Hello baby, goodbye duvet. From the moment the baby was born, sleep went from being a luxurious necessity to becoming a figment of my imagination. It was something magical that once existed in my previous life that was now gone forever - just like Santa and the Tooth Fairy . My baby was awake ALL the time. He 'slept like a baby'....which basically means he NEVER slept (This expression is ironic just in case you weren't aware).
I lost track of when it was day and night. I forgot where I was sometimes. I forgot my name, my age and how to speak English (I once told a kid to play a passage of music 'slowlier' in his cello lesson. I'm pretty sure that isn't a real word) One night, I forgot where I had parked my car and I even fell asleep on the stage in the centre of the Royal Albert Hall whilst in the middle of a concert. I drooled on my cello. Not cool. Not cool at all!
It goes without saying that being conscious is a fairly important part of being a working professional. I am a musician, so if I fall asleep at work, some notes won't get played and colleagues may think I'm a little disinterested. No biggy. Imagine if I operated a power drill for a living? Or if I was a surgeon or a bomb disposal person? Imagine the carnage!! It makes me wonder how parents in these professions cope with the crippling exhaustion that is parenting??
Furthermore, it seems to me that being conscious is a rather important part of being a good parent also. Our primary role as a parent is to keep the little buggers alive...this is very hard to do if you're not conscious surely?! So how do we do it? How do we keep awake and energised for long enough to keep our kids alive and perhaps hang on to our jobs at the same time?
I decided to do some research and Googled 'How to Fight Fatigue'. I found a useful article on the NHS website. It suggested the following:
Drink plenty of water
The NHS advise that drinking 1.6- 2 litres of water a day will help us to feel more energised and less exhausted.
Now, this is all good and well but drinking such huge volumes of water can only mean one thing: Multiple toilet trips. Given that most women are left with the bladder capacity of a gnat after pregnancy, drinking such large volumes of water will inevitably result in women having to spend the majority of their day on the toilet. So if we are on the loo, who is watching the kids?? Who is pulling little Freddie's fingers away from the lethal plug sockets? Who is wrenching the cheese grater out of little Tabitha's palms? Who is pulling baby Bob down from the swinging lampshade?? No one. That's who.
Sorry NHS, this just won't do. If we are to keep our kids alive, we need to be watching them at ALL times...and we can't do this when we are stuck to a toilet seat pissing out litres of Evian. It's not practical. Let's be frank.
They also advised to:
Cut Out Caffeine
The NHS advise that we should all cut out caffeine to feel more energised. This will apparently help us all sleep better.
Again, this is all good and well but if you have been up all night holding a wailing baby, will consuming a pint of icy cold tap water in the morning really send you bouncing out of the door to your place of work like Tigger on speed? Really?? I doubt it NHS.
Without coffee, parents would surely be drifting off to sleep at the wheels of their cars, falling off ladders or passing out asleep into vats of hot frying oil at work. A&E would be rammed with our injured workforce of parents who should have had that cup of coffee....just the one cup (ok, 21) to help them get through the day unharmed.
Sorry NHS. This just won't do. Nescafé saves lives and it saves you money...and you know it.
Next they advised to:
Reduce stress to boost energy.
The NHS suggests that we need to reduce our stress levels to reduce our crippling fatigue.
Now, far be it for me to be negative but being a parent is really quite stressful. Every day is a pure battle where your nerves and stress levels are put to the test. Toddlers scream and hump your leg whilst babies puke all over the new sofa. Spaghetti Bolognese gets lobbed across the table whilst the phone is ringing incessantly and hysteria often escalates when the sticky Peppa Pig DVD becomes jammed in the player causing the Pig to freeze on the screen. Then the Tesco delivery man always arrives late just when the toddler has done a massive poo in the bath. You try to get the groceries into the kitchen but panic that the toddler will start playing with his faeces, or worst still, drown in the tub in the 42 seconds that you are forced to leave him unattended whilst you put your frozen goods in the freezer before they melt.
This is a typical day and it's very stressful.
As a parent, the only way to reduce stress is to NOT be a parent. But it's too late. We can't just send them off to live on a farm where there's lots of outdoor space for them to run around. They're kids, NOT dogs. Kids are for life, not just for Christmas*. Sorry NHS, that's not helpful at all!
* Dogs are also for life by the way and shouldn't be sent off to live on a farm after eating your entire three piece suite. I hope you're reading this Mum and Dad.
Next they said:
Eat a healthy diet.
The NHS recommends that we eat a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and to cut out sugar and processed foods.
Now, I can tell you this for nothing: Eating pulses, green vegetables and lentils will not give you more energy. They'll rip away any energy that you had left and leave you slumped in the corner of the kitchen with a potato peeler in your hand. No parent who has been up all night with a screaming baby has the energy to spend soaking lentils in cold water before boiling them for 4 days so they can make a hearty soup. Chopping vegetables is time-consuming and exhausting! Peeling and de-seeding oranges?....Who has time for that shit when they have a child balling in their face? No one. That's who.
Sorry NHS. This makes NO sense. We have no time for vegetables. Lentils are mental. If our food doesn't come in a microwavable bag or in a oven-safe foil tray or in a plastic pot with a sachet of soy sauce to throw on it, then we just don't have the energy to cook it. Simple.
The next pearls of wisdom were:
Get more sleep.
The NHS recommends that in order to combat fatigue, we should all 'Get some more sleep'.
This one deserved the bold block capitals. I can only imagine that the person that wrote this was either a dumb ass or a sleep- deprived parent who had NO IDEA what they were writing. They probably forgot that they were even at work when writing the article of 'How to combat Fatigue'. It probably took them hours to find their car at the end of their shift.
Perhaps the writer of the article had skipped coffee that day. Who knows? But let's leave this one alone and cut the poor soul some slack. We've all been there. Sometimes our brains work much 'slowlier' when we are tired.
Next they said:
Drink Less Alcohol
The NHS suggest that reducing our alcohol intake will increase our energy levels.
Now, this may be true, but I can tell you this for nothing: NEVER have I felt more enthusiastic and energised as when running towards the fridge at the end of a taxing day to grab a bottle of wine. Never has such electricity leapt through my body as when taking that first sip of chilled Chardonnay straight from the bottle.
I disagree NHS. Most parents I know spring to life when there is a sniff of alcohol on the horizon. Alcohol induces energy in parents. That's pure fact.
If we listened to the advice given by the NHS, we would be really crap parents and our kids would surely be dead by now. We would either spend hours on the toilet, hours in the kitchen peeling carrots or hours in bed catching up on sleep- which is the cure for fatigue apparently. Our kids would be left unattended and would be in severe danger as a result.
Our future generation is at risk and we must do what we need to in order to protect and nurture them.
So, in simple terms, here are three full proof ways to combat fatigue and stay conscious for long enough to keep your kids alive and deliver them to adulthood in one piece:
1. Drink LOTS of coffee. Do it. As much as you need. Drink it all day long if you have to. If the coffee runs out, hit the RED BULL. It tastes bad but who cares. That stuff will keep you conscious for hours, maybe even days. You'll be able to handle any toddler tantrum, anywhere, any time. Bring it on! Sleepless nights? Pah!...they shall NOT defeat you.
2. Eat ANYTHING with sugar in it: Cakes, sweets, pies, chocolates....or just grab a big spoon and dig in to the bag of Silver Spoon itself. It's bad for the waist line and not great for your choppers but boy it's a great motivator! Nothing puts a positive spin on a bad day like a giant cream-covered slab of cake. Embrace the sugar rush!! It's what keeps our kids alive dammit!
3. Go to bed earlier. Simple really (FYI, You'll sleep like an angel if you knock back a few Chardonnay's first. Wine acts as a GREAT caffeine diluter)
By the time our kids are grown, we'll probably all be obese, irate, twitchy, nervous, toothless alcoholics, but our kids will be healthy ,safe and perfectly formed adults. Then, they can look after US and take us to all of our medical appointments where we will finally be able to take the advice that the NHS has to offer
This, I believe, is what Elton John referred to as 'The Circle of Life'.