I sat on the edge of the bed with my head in my hands and I cried.
I knew my alarm clock would go off at 6am and I wasn’t expecting to get much sleep before it would remind me to start getting ready for the office.
Weeks of sleepless nights had turned into months and then into years, and I was getting so little rest that I began to measure sleep in minutes rather than hours. I craved sleep like a man lost in a desert looking for water. I had never been much of a crier, but being the parent of a baby with incredible stamina and eyelids that refused to droop was taking its toll and making me emotional. I was exhausted, I was desperate, and I wasn’t sure if I could make it through even one more night.
Your exhaustion may not be due to sleepless nights with a baby or toddler. You may be tired from dealing with a challenging teenager or drained by worrying about an adult child. Perhaps you are facing illness and/or coping with a child’s demanding needs, trying to balance your commitments to work and friends and family. Any words written here will not take away your exhaustion, but they may provide some encouragement, so here are three things to remember:
- You are not alone. It may very much feel that you are, so it can be comforting to know that others feel the same. A letter in a newspaper reassured me; the correspondent wrote that her family had ‘suffered for three years with a baby who regularly disturbed our sleep’, but went on to reassure readers by concluding: ‘our son, now 14 years old, did not emerge from his bedroom until 11.10am today.’ It made me smile and that helped – a lot.
- You are strong. Just because you are at the end of your tether and overcome with tiredness, it does not mean that you are weak or a failure. You have got this far and you are reading this article. You are looking for help and that is a strength. It’s okay to cry; it’s strong to cry. Be honest about how you feel, and that will help you maintain some strength. It is also a strength to seek help when it is needed, so if you feel overwhelmed with feelings of depression, stress or anxiety, do speak to your doctor or other health professional.
- You are needed. Exhaustion can convince us that we are failing, burdensome or unreliable, and even that we are not needed, but that is not true. You are a dad and your children need you, so hang in there, get as much help as you can and try to take life one small step at a time. Often, in trying times, a good strategy for coping is to focus on getting through the next minute, hour or day.
About the author
Mark Chester is the Parent Support Manager at Care for the Family. He is the founder of Who Let The Dads Out? and has been writing and speaking about fatherhood for over 20 years. He has two grown-up children.
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