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“You Look Tired”
If I had a dime for every time someone told me I “Looked Tired,” let’s just say I wouldn’t be a “starving writer” anymore.
It’s utterly exhausting having to care and nurture a newborn baby. Or even an infant, or a toddler that wakes in the night. Actually, even if they sleep all through the night. Because just chasing them, and playing with them can wear someone out. Not to mention, the whole “living and working” thing you have to do for yourself. So it’s no big surprise that the majority of Parents are tired. And if you are a Mother, then that statement goes double for you. Not to downplay Fathers, but typically Mom carries a heavier “child” load. That’s the one kids go crying to when they are hungry, scared, tired, hurt, bored…the list just goes on. But, I’m not talking about that today.
Today, I’m going to explain why we need to stop telling Parents that they “look tired.” And give you some pointers on how you can actually help them.
Now, before anyone get’s upset, I do realize that most of the time, those comments are just a way of initiating conversation. It’s someone checking on the person they love. They wanna make sure that parent is ok. And they need to be doing that! But from the perspective of someone who gets this a lot, it can get very tiring itself. Especially when you don’t have much of a choice about how much rest you actually end up getting. And honestly, after repeating the same answer over and over again on why you aren’t looking like a freshly rested daisy every day, you really don’t want to be bothered with enlightening someone on sleep-deprived trials of parenthood, again.
Parents know they look tired…
Mainly because they are tired. And I’ve never once responded to that statement with shock or surprise. When you’ve been up half the night with a feverish, teething infant, not to mention the normal routine of the day, guess what? You’re gonna be tired. Can’t get the kids to bed until two hours past everyone’s bedtime, you’re gonna be tired. Stating the obvious doesn’t really help the exhausted one become any less exhausted.
If it’s someone I know well making comments like this, I know it’s more out of concern than anything else. But even then, it’s rare I get an offer to watch the baby while I take a break. But sometimes, we get these comments at very random moments-such as at the grocery store, or work, or even at social gatherings – by people we don’t really know. In a way, it seems even more useless to me; I’m struggling to get my kid’s shoe back on his foot in the shampoo aisle (SO not happening during this toddler tantrum), while a random person has stopped to comment on how cute his outfit is, only to part with a sarcastic, “You have a handful there! No wonder you look so tired.”
I get it. With my complexion, I have permanent dark circles. The lines are getting deeper, more with age than by children, and spoiler alert: I’m not in my indestructible 20’s anymore.
The thing is…
You must understand something. Telling someone they “look tired” without offering any real support (such as watching the kids, helping with a chore/errand, or even offering to buy a cup of coffee), is more annoying and unnecessary for the parent, than anything else. No mom is ever going to stop dead in her tracks, immediately place cucumber slices on her eyes, and veg out in the bathtub, because her Mother-In-Law mentioned that she should “probably get some rest”. A parent’s priorities don’t work that way. If it takes staying up all night to care for your child, sleep comes second. Or last, or not at all.
And honestly, when you’re running on six hours sleep in two days, this is the last thing you want to hear. Mom knows she needs sleep. She also knows the baby is cluster feeding every two hours. The toddler is going through a growth spurt, and has no sleep schedule. And she is working a full-time job, and trying to spend as much time awake as possible, to run a household. And spend time with her family. Sleep is probably the last thing she’s thinking of.
Ways you can help
Instead of basically telling a parent they look like stir-fried poop (only, in a subtle, less rude way) by commenting on how “tired” and in “need of some rest” they are, try providing a solution instead. Offer to take the kids on an adventure. Doesn’t have to be for very long, but enough time so Mom can catch up on chores or even better, take a nap! She may not take you up on the offer immediately, but at least it’s a way to support her after you’ve brought up the obvious. You could also offer to run errands, finish a load of laundry – something to help lighten her load. Because if she’s too busy to sleep enough, then she needs actual help, not just well wishes for future “rest.”
And whether you know this parent very well, or not at all, if you must inform them of the apparent sleep they are lacking, you can also always cushion the blow by giving them a cup of coffee. Or tea. Or an energy drink. However they derive their liquid fuel to get them through the day! It looks and sounds way better to follow, “You look so tired!” with a steaming cup of Starbucks. Then, there’s also more of a point to bring up their exhaustion, which trust me, they are very aware of.
Also, great upcoming gift idea here: Get them some different brands of coffee (or other energy) to try out. The point here is to let that parent know that you aren’t just making remarks, but you are interested in their well being. And if they don’t (or can’t) accept help in any other way than accepting coffee, then it shows that you are trying to help in the least way possible.
Alternatively, you can also just give them a gift card! To be used at any time – trust me, someone running low on energy, with no choice but to push on, will be grateful for it.
Everyone needs support
And support comes in a variety of ways. But well wishes for rest and relaxation don’t really provide a solution for a sleep-deprived Parent. So, on behalf of all the “tired looking” Moms out there, can I just please ask this; if you must comment on my haggard appearance, please…just bring me coffee. And it’ll all be Ok.
I have to start by saying that being a Mother is both one of the hardest, but most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Did I mention it was the hardest?
Being a parent definitely isn’t easy. But at the end of every day, we get it done. Some days are easier than others.
I think every new mom goes through those times, where occasionally they might think, “How will I ever get through this?” or, “Am I even doing this right?”
I usually think this when Bruce is having a “no nap” day. Or is up all night teething, crying with pain at the top of his lungs. As a parent, I think those times hurt me emotionally more than it does him psychically, because I can only do so much to try to ease his suffering, and beat myself up more because I can’t just make it go away.
Not to mention those days, where even if the baby is happy and all smiles; you still may fall behind on chores and errands, and become so busy with other things, that stuff that you really need (or want) to do just isn’t accomplished. And stressing out about these things can really take a toll on you, both mentally and physically.
Shoot, even just a normal day can leave you exhausted and even feeling a bit down.
Postpartum depression affects an estimated 10-15% of new mothers (This is a number going off those who seek treatment). It is treatable, and important to know the signs and talk with your Doctor when you feel you may be experiencing it. However, I am not a doctor, so I won’t go into the details of the condition itself. Instead, what I do want to mention, is just how important it is that you connect with the Mother’s in your life and see how they are doing.
Call your friend who has just had a baby. Take her a hot meal, clean up the kitchen, run a load of laundry for her. Play with the baby while she gets a shower. Talk to her. When you’re cooped up with a newborn all day, you don’t get much adult interaction, and you need to be able to have a conversation outside the realm of dirty diapers.
This not only applies to mother’s or newborn’s, but all really, no matter what age of their children. Humans are social people, and sometimes we don’t even really know how much we require the interaction until we haven’t had any in awhile.
And like all habits, once you’ve fell into a routine of just taking care of the homefront and the littles, or even just working a job all day and then running the household at night – you become used to it. Reaching out for another adult to conversate with can be so out of the ordinary, that you never think of it, or even actively seek it.
But I think we need to start checking up on our friends and family who have children. Stop by the house and see what they need help with. Go out for coffee (or better yet, take them coffee!). Plan shopping trips. See how your friend is doing. Because the sad fact is, and the reason it fell on my heart to write this, is because some of our fellow mothers are suffering from this condition. And losing their battles.
And no, having coffee with a friend and discussing how the baby may have kept them up all night isn’t the end all cure for PPD…but it’s a start. Because first, we need to be able to talk. And realize that maybe something isn’t quite feeling okay with ourselves. We need to find someone to talk to…and listen. A really good quote that I have found that I think applies well here, is that,
In other words, most of the time, people don’t ask “how are you doing?” to find out how your day is; it’s just a precursor to informing your of how their day is going.
My belief is that, as women and fellow Mothers, we need to check on our Mother friends to make sure they are ok. We need to help them. We need to listen.
So check on a mom friend today. If she’s stressed with a chore list, go help her. Take some of the pressure off by eliminating an item off her to-do list. And have a conversation with her. By listening, instead of just talking.
Because we all need support. And you just might save someone, someday.
If you suspect you might be feeling depressed, or someone you know might be suffering from Postpartum Depression, there is help. Check out Postpartum Progress for more.