As a father of three, one thing I’ve become accustomed to over the past five-plus years is coping with being in a constant state of sleep deprivation. I freely admit that some of that is my own doing: most weeks I’m burning the midnight oil way past that allotted hour ‘working’ on my various blogs three or four times. (As Heather often reminds me, it’s ‘only’ a hobby – to which I nod silently in agreement. Obviously it’s much more than that, but let’s just keep that to ourselves, eh?)
But the reality is that when you have one son who considers anything beyond 5:30am to be late and an almost-toddler of a daughter who still can’t quite make it through the night and finds it easiest to get back to sleep when cuddled by her dad rather than her mum, the concept of eight hours’ sleep is about as realistic as the tooth fairy. Or expecting a football crowd not to engage in ‘industrial language’. Or me being able to say no to a finger buffet. (Am I the only person in the world who actually quite likes cold samosas and chicken goujons?) And don’t think that holidays are any better – if anything, they tend to be worse.
(By the way, I recognise that it’s at least as bad for Heather, who has spent months being woken up every 2-3 hours for feeds and even now usually turns into a pumpkin by 10pm.)
A good night for me is six hours’ uninterrupted sleep on a weeknight, or four plus an hour or so up with the boys first thing in the morning followed by another couple of hours back in bed and a 20-minute power-nap – okay, ‘lazy-nap’ – in the afternoon at weekends. I can function for weeks on end like that. I’d be lying if I said I was full of beans every day but I manage – and work colleagues get used to seeing me pumping myself full of caffeine and shuffling around with a degree of listlessness which makes zombies look like Usain Bolt.
Seven hours’ sleep in one go is a luxury which occurs only (a) once in a blue moon – every 2-3 weeks if I’m lucky – or (b) when I’m ill.
Guess what? I’ve had lots of sleep over the past week. The moon hasn’t been blue. And I’m even more tired than ever.
The details aren’t important. Suffice to say that for the past month there has been at least one member of the household ill at any given time. Heather, who returned from her maternity leave two weeks ago, has already missed several days due to Kara being ill, which is a far from ideal way to return to work after 13 months away. I came back from our Easter week holiday with a combination of a cold and a bad stomach bug which essentially confined me to bed for the entire long Easter weekend. And then a particularly nasty throat infection left me quarantined in the spare bedroom for the best part of five days – even Heather agreed this went beyond mere man-flu – by the end of which I was desperate to get out of bed and yet still utterly drained, and with an enormous backlog of meetings at work to return to.
Heather has had to cope largely single-handed with all three kids for much of that time. (In my defence, I did as much as I could given that, at my worst, I wasn’t able to stay awake for more than three hours at a time.) It’s at times like this that I’m thankful that I don’t have to cope with being ill as a single parent – now that’s a tough gig!
But as the pop singer Anastacia once sang:
I’m sick and tired of always being sick and tired.
Being ill is bad enough, but it’s the pincer effect of being both sick and tired that’s the killer. Much though I complain of pining after my old Sunday morning lie-in, I can cope with merely being tired. I can take a break from blogging for a couple of days or turn in a bit earlier one evening. Tired is fine. Sick and tired, no thanks. And twice in the space of one month is not something I’d care to repeat. You have been warned, germs. I’m now fully armed with Lemsip and cough syrup. Next time it’s personal.