This is a new type of tired!
My tired thoughts for all new and/or expectant parents out there: get your rest when you can.
All of you older parents know this truth already.
Let me start at the beginning. When you let people know that you’re expecting a child, probably a top-two response (other than the standard congratulations) is, “Get your rest now!”. You chuckle, smile and reply with some iteration of, “I’ve been told”. But we don’t really know, do we?
Maybe you’ve been to university, or had a huge project in high school and needed to pull an all-nighter, so when people warn you about needing to prepare for sleepless nights you brush it off. Don’t do it. This is not the same type of tired.
Babies are little imitation devices. Hear me out. They are always watching and listening. If you are cranky, impatient, short-tempered, or rude at 2am when they’ve woken you up for the fourth time that night, this is the behaviour they are learning.
So when you wake up to soothe their cries, or change their diaper, or rock them to sleep, it takes much more than physical and mental energy. The emotional energy you expend makes you even more tired. All of a sudden that 15,000 word dissertation on the implication of mass displacement of refugees from the Syrian war on the responsibility of the UN Security Council to invoke Chapter VII, Article 42 of the Charter of the United Nations doesn’t seem so burdensome.
Language acquisition and grammar development is also accelerated during the first few years of a child’s life, so talking with them and reading to them regularly is very important when they are awake. This means as parents we have to also learn to be kind, forbearing, patient, understanding and compassionate when we are really tired, not just when we are happy and alert.
This also means that when your child is asleep, you should be too. Being rested is almost more important than anything else you can do in those first few months/years as you get used to being a parent.
One related thought: house chores don’t stop, but you should try to create a system around them. Maybe clean dishes right after cooking, but before you eat. Maybe relax your standards about bathrooms and floors and clean them weekly instead of your usual routine.
The way I see it, what’s the point of a clean home if you’re too tired and miserable to raise your children in it? Don’t be disgruntled, be gruntled. You’re physical and mental health should come first before your house duties (it should go without saying that the baby’s crib, and any sinks or tubs you use for them, should be kept as clean as possible).
Take all the help you can get from people that offer it, your children will thank you later.