Five letter words

There is one topic which, without doubt, seems to dominate motherhood.

It isn’t the love we feel for our babies, their latest development or favourite past time. It isn’t the skills we have taught them or food they prefer. It isn’t their future or our dreams.

It’s sleep.

One five letter word which undoubtedly brings along with it another. Tired.

I have lost count of the conversations which began with ‘how was your night?’ or ‘did you get any sleep?’. The mummy messages that discuss, debate and desperately seek sleep solutions.

Before motherhood, sure I knew there’d be night feeds, early mornings and lost Zs. But until you’re in it, and unless you’re blessed with an abnormally exceptional little sleeper, no one and nothing can prepare you for months of broken nights. Not even the pregnancy insomnia which pays a visit to an extra lucky few.

Sleep becomes a goal, a milestone, a dream. A benchmark for success and a measure of failure.

A new normal sets in. Ask me a year ago how I’d feel after four hours straight sleep? I’d wince in horror. Ask me today, I could take on the world.

As mothers, and often fathers, our relationship with sleep changes. Brutally at first. Then, slowly we have to let go of our eagerness to count hours and our readiness to feel tired. We have to reassess how lack of sleep makes us feel and behave. Tired becomes a given, a baseline, its meaning diminished with the same proportion that its scale grows.

We have to silently grin and bear others telling us how tired they are after a big night or a long week. Tired? Anyone except a mother on nightshift doesn’t know the meaning of the word, right? Wrong. They too can be tired, even if their definition fits into the best night’s sleep of our mummying lives.

Now eight months in with a baby who takes us on a nightly game of sleep roulette, I’ve decided I am over hearing those words coming out my mouth. I am past saying I’m tired, the weight of that word has lifted. I’m bored of talking about sleep or lack thereof.

Perhaps it’s time to ban those five letter words.

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