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Once you are a parent, it becomes impossible to ever get proper, fully replenishing rest


By Lia Hynes
11th Aug 2023
Once you are a parent, it becomes impossible to ever get proper, fully replenishing rest

Liadan Hynes comes to the conclusion that once you have children, resting just looks different. 

“You’re never really getting fully rested,” my friend says. “More just clawing yourself back to a level where you feel you can keep going”.

We’re talking about having young kids, and how the having of them creates the impossibility of ever getting proper, fully replenishing rest. You are never fully reset.

The work week

I don’t think this is necessarily a ‘single parent’ thing. I think it’s just a parenting thing. Most of my friends with children are doing a variation of the same theme: work/ children/ keep home running/ have a semblance of social life/ work again once the child is in bed.

“It’s the new working day,” a woman said to me recently. Morning until pick up time; at computer barely breaking for food, then do not come NEAR me from the hours of two-to-seven, because I’m in the middle of homework/dinner/bath, then back onto the laptop once they’re in bed, she said, outlining her day.

In all of this, there are few moments between the life stuff, and the work stuff, to just do nothing. To rest.

Weekends

Weekends are not that different. I know there are people who manage to knock out weekends that seem to encompass everything from bringing several children to activities, to food shopping, me-time, friend-time, gym time, relaxing roasts and movies time, to possibly even getting some work done.

This sort of all-roundedness is beyond me. At weekends, I want to spend large swathes of time with Herself. I also want to go out with friends. And have people over, cook a big meal. But also do nothing, a country hike, and take Herself swimming. It rarely feels like all (or most) of this actually happens.

The biggest shock of having a baby, for me, was Saturday mornings. Trained for it, my body would start trying to wind down; off the Monday-to-Friday up-and-out and ready-to-go merry go round. Except you were not off the merry-go-round. Saturday mornings you still had to just push through. No rest. Because babies do not differentiate between Monday morning and Saturday morning.

With children

This, to a large extent, does not change. Weekends with kids are not about resting. Even when you are co-parenting, those hours where the other parent has them can almost induce panic; to Prosecco brunch, or gym it, or lie on the couch dozing?

As for holidays? Anyone who has holidayed with young children can join me in a hollow, mirthless laugh right now, at the notion that there is anything restful about going away with small children. Fun? Yes, but restful? You are away from all your usual supports, and they are out of whatever routine they have at home. The sooner you accept that holidays with kids are not where you go for rest, and get on board with the fact that coming home will feel more restful, the better a chance you will have of actually enjoying it.

So I have come to the conclusion that actually, at this stage of life, resting just looks different. The focus goes on things that are restorative, rather than lounging around doing nothing. For me, that is time with friends.

A break

My friends provide a break. A time out, a space between the doing of work, and the looking after of a small child. Because work can seep into all corners, and small children are wonderful – but exhausting. ‘The best thing you can do for someone with small children is to take those children away from them’, is one of my mother’s rules to live by. She doesn’t mean indefinitely, obviously, but for a period of time, so they can rest.

This week was book club week. Beforehand, I felt I might actually pass out with the tiredness; that end-of-the-week Friday exhaustion.

And then the six women arrived at my house, and bustled about putting together the food we had all purchased, so much we are still eating it three days later, and opened bottles, and took off shoes, and for the next few hours did that thing women do, that form of communication that is a combination of shout/scream/laughing.

It was a break, a moment out, a total re-energiser. And even though I know the exhaustion is hovering somewhere back there, for a few days afterwards, it disappeared.

Photo: Sean Roy via Unsplash

This article was originally published in March 2023.