It’s 11:30pm on a Saturday night.
You are on the couch and in your arms is a gibberish-speaking infant. You have been on parent duty all day and your child has had 45 mins sleep in 24 hours. You have barely had enough time to shower, never mind have any time to yourself to unwind.
How can they be so awake? When your eyelids are descending quicker than Donald Trump’s approval ratings? Why are they keeping themselves awake? Why shun the bliss that is slumber?
You’ll ask yourself and your kid these questions many times. But you know that if you had just a couple of hours to chill, to grab back a semblance of free time, that you’d be able to operate at near to normal functioning levels again. Something that doesn’t involve washing, cooking or cleaning or the alphabet.
But like my mother reminded me in her own timely fashion – parents don’t get a time out.
As I lay on the couch and my youngest proceeded to repeat the word ‘burger’ over and over again in his voice that is the epitome of cuteness, I thought about what my mum had said.
Would I be the worst parent in the world if I had some free time? If I arranged with my parents for a weekend where I reconnected with my friends and was completely selfish with my time? A whole day vegging out on the sofa watching football and perhaps, maybe even switching on the Playstation?
No, I wouldn’t, but could I live with myself afterwards? I know that at many points while I enjoy myself, my kids will want their dad for something. Whether that be to make helicopter noises, to read them a story or to chase them until they collapse in a giggling heap – there will be an occasion where daddy is needed.
And we’ve seen over the past year or so that every single minute is precious. And I should try and juice the hell out of every second I have with them.
Besides, there will be a not too distant future where my kids will grow up and not want to spend time with their dad. I will be redundant, sort of. And I can spend as much time as I want on the sofa then.
But don’t hate yourself for thinking about it when your kid has woken up four times in three hours and you’re walking around the house like an extra in a George Romero movie. You’ll have thoughts that your child is doing it on purpose, like they’re mentally torturing you. You’ll yearn for the days when your biggest worry was getting a cinema ticket for the latest release.
But you won’t be alone. Every parent I’ve spoken to – even the lucky ones with kids who have an actual sleeping pattern that involves sleep – say that there are times when they desire a night out on the tiles – or just a chance to remember who they are before they slipped on the nametag of ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy.’
It isn’t just the lack of sleep. Kids demand your every waking moment. You’ll find yourself yelling when you have to have a pee with the toilet door open and one arm frantically trying to stop your kid chewing the loo brush. You’ll pump every bit of effort and mental trick to coerce your child into eating lunch. Every day. You’ll push yourself to teach your kids new educational games and words and numbers.
It doesn’t stop, but the payoff is unrivalled. And you won’t always be tired. OK, most of the time you will, but the highs are so giddy that you forget about the lows and the aches and pains.
Being a parent means terrible hours, but your work colleagues are the best.