What you need to know:
- Let nobody call you a bad parent for wanting time out from your babies.
- You need to recharge and start pouring out positivity again, otherwise, you can't pour from an empty cup.
It is very easy for us to point fingers and make a parent feel guilty for taking a break and leaving the child behind. So much so that some couples are forced to put a stop to the intimacy and moments that built a bond between them before children came.
After years of sleep deprivation, trying to decode different cries, and putting his needs ahead of mine, I have come face to face with bouts of what is called parental exhaustion. I once considered sitting the baby down, taking a few steps back and kicking him into oblivion like rugby players do with a conversion. That was one such moment, and they happen quite frequently in parenting.
Drowning in the deep end
I knew my mental state was headed south when I started to forget easy things and instead had my mind filled with lullabies and baby songs. I would be sitting at a very serious meeting and suddenly start humming to ‘baby shark doo doo doo doo’ or ‘Johnnie Johnnie, yes papa.’
I had thrown myself so deep into the baby world that my thinking pattern was slowly being reversed in the negative direction.
That is the day I thanked God for not answering my wife’s prayers to have twins because I can imagine that the exhaustion is tenfold. My heart goes out to parents who have twins because the mere imagination of two souls crying their lungs out at the same time or different intervals painted a scary picture. Folks who raise twins, triplets and above, have this grace that not everyone has. They need periodic prayers.
Whenever I bump into a little shoe dangling at a public place, it takes me back to that period when forgetting his things every time we went out as normal. In trying to be supermoms and dads, we cling onto all the baggage even when our bodies are clearly caving in.
It is one of the reasons, men complain that their wives have turned all the attention to their babies and no longer bother with them. From a man’s perspective and experience, that attention can be brought back if the father actively shared in helping the young ones do their homework, bathe, eat and get tucked into bed. But a good number of us see these things from afar until you are left to do them then it all falls into perspective.
Peace and tranquility
The thing about parental exhaustion is that it makes you moody, irritable and agitated, resulting in the negative energy that can easily be passed on to your child, through unwarranted shouting or extreme punishment. It is a time when one can pay anything to have the baby taken away for a day or two, just to enjoy some peace and tranquillity.
I learnt how to navigate that period, the day it dawned on me that there are three sides of me which all needed to thrive. The first, which has been there for aeons, is Hillary, the Duke of Vihiga. The friend, brother, son and husband. The second is Hillary the creative, video producer, author, scriptwriter and man behind this beautiful column you read every Wednesday. The third is the parent, or whom a few call Baba Milan.
The first two above almost got muzzled as I took my mind off them to concentrate on the third. I no longer had the time nor the energy to meet friends or create content. Parental exhaustion was slowly killing my social and professional lives.
Since then, I never judge harshly parents who often stash children into their Japanese jalopies and take the long drive to the grandparents, some opting to leave them there for a while.
There is tranquillity in having the house to oneself a whole weekend without the baby, not because the parent does not love him, but because mommy or daddy needs to remain sane. As long as the baby is with someone trustworthy.
The take-home from that period was that parenting should not be a prison where your own life stops and everything starts revolving around the baby, the exhaustion can turn you mental.
So, let nobody call you a bad parent for wanting time out from your babies. You need to recharge and start pouring out positivity again, otherwise, you can't pour from an empty cup.
Hillary has raised his son on his own from the time he was six months. firstname.lastname@example.org