Apparently I look tired.
I know this because everybody says it to me about every 5 minutes. I mean, I feel tired, but sheesh! I must look like a bag of gravel. It’s starting to give me a complex.
However, I’ve come to realize this is just what you say to new fathers. “You look tired!” It’s the new hello. The female equivalent for new mothers is apparently, “You look good!”
Sara is particularly bemused by everybody telling me how tired I look. “HE looks tired?” she says, bemusedly. “HE looks tired?” It’s true: my nightly contributions are relatively minimal. A couple of diaper changes and that’s it. Of all my many faults as a father, my inability to lactate is chief among them.
Like it or not, it doesn’t change the fact that I am (apparently visibly) tired. I know it’s not fair, but there it is.
Sleep and I have a very complicated relationship. Just after I graduated from high school, I had a sleep study to determine the cause of my constant sleepiness, especially falling asleep in school and falling asleep while driving. They stuck all these electrodes on my head and told me to go asleep so they could monitor me for things like apnea and narcolepsy.
Now, some people might find it difficult to go asleep in a hospital with a bunch of electrodes glued to their head, but then again that’s kind of why you’re there in the first place: *falling* asleep isn’t really the problem.
After a full 8 hours of sleep they have you try to take a nap every 2 hours the following day. “Don’t worry if you can’t sleep,” they said, “just do your best.” Every time they would come in afterwards I would say, “Sorry, I couldn’t fall asleep this time,” and they would say, “You’ve been sleeping for 30 minutes.” My average time to fall asleep was under a minute.
(Side note, I never thought I would find someone who could fall asleep faster than me, but Sara always has. If she can stay awake for a whole minute after she lays down, I’ll eat my hat.)
So, after the sleep study, the doctor said, “We don’t know what’s wrong with you, but obviously something is, so we want to put you on medicine.” I didn’t like that line of thinking, so I got a second opinion. This time I agreed with him.
“You just need more sleep than the average person: you need 10 hours a night, and you’re getting 8. So you’re shorting yourself 2 hours of sleep every night. Of course you’re tired.”
This was an amazing revelation to me, and after that I have made simple modifications to my life: trying to go to bed earlier, not driving at night, etc. I did finally realize that everything in my life is better when I’m well rested: I have more patience, I’m less grumpy, I feel better physically, I can do more at work, I think I manage my weight better. So it’s definitely worth it to go to bed early (most of the time…). And I think as I’ve gotten older I don’t need *quite* as much sleep as I used to, or else maybe after all this time I’ve just gotten used to always feeling tired. (I also drink a lot more coffee now.)
Anyway, back to babies.
Because of all of this, it’s really just not fair. If Sara has 4 hours of sleep, and I have 6, we’re basically going to be at about the same level, sleeping-wise. However, I can’t fault her, sitting back there at 4 hours of sleep and saying: I would KILL for 6 hours of sleep! Don’t you dare complain! Wouldn’t blame her at all for that. And at the same time…I don’t know. I’m just really tired, I can’t help it!
Now, the good news is that we’ve been married for 11+ years and this is our 3rd child. We’ve kind of figured things out at this point. The water has found its level. I think that she probably did hold stuff like that against me back when Evelyn was born (at least a little bit), but at this point she just says, “Hey, why don’t you get some sleep?”
And of course I take her up on that, because I’m really, really tired. But then I’m also really, really guilty for not being a better partner, and a better father.
Just one more reason raising kids is hard.