Jen Brister is a mum. No, not that one. The other one. This month, she’s becoming a sleep Borlympian. Deal with it.
I’ve never thought of myself as particularly competitive but since the birth of our twins I’ve discovered a newfound desire to win and win hard.
I know, who the hell talks like that, apart from twentysomething stockbrokers with a self-awareness lobotomy? I’ll tell you who: parents, that’s who. But this competitiveness isn’t about our children; no, we reserve this competition solely for our partners.
The winner is of course the person who can convince the other that they are the most tired. To be honest, there are no real winners in this so-called competition but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone:
“I only got three hours’ sleep last night.”
“I feel like I’ve had three hours’ sleep all week.”
“You had a lie-in yesterday.”
“I didn’t get to bed till 2am!”
“I didn’t get to bed till 1am and I was up at 5am.”
“Well, I got less sleep because I got up three times in the night!”
“I literally never sleep! Ever. I work 23 hours a day and I survive solely on caffeine and did I mention I double breastfed our children for six months!”
“I don’t think you appreciate how hard it is to stand up in front of a room full of people for 20 minutes! OK FINE! You win.”
Obviously I’m paraphrasing. I can’t repeat a lot of what is actually said – or so my editor has told me.
“No party, no movie, no celebrity premiere, nothing and no one can compete with the mere thought of eight hours’ sleep, OK make it nine. Sod it, if we’re fantasising, let’s make it 10.”
Sometimes it’s hard to empathise with your partner when you are so tired you fantasise about being Lenny Henry in the Premier Inn ad. The truth is I probably would get a better night’s sleep in the middle of Waterloo station at rush hour.
There have been times when I have woken in the night to hear one or both of my boys crying and looked at my girlfriend sleeping soundly without a care in the world and thought, “She must be exhausted, she got up early this morning and she’s worked really hard all day… but I did get up twice already so, strictly speaking, it’s her turn. She needs to wake up now… What the hell is wrong with her? Why can’t she hear them screaming? Is she pretending to be asleep? I bet she’s pretending to be asleep! Well, it looks like MUGGINS HAS TO GET UP AGAIN!”
Of course I get up; I tend to my children, I cuddle them, reassure them and sometimes even rock them to sleep. All the while making a passive-aggressive mental note of what a perfect parent I am to throw back in my girlfriend’s face at the mere inference that she might be tired.
I know what you’re thinking: how petty are you, Brister? I’m petty. I’m very petty. I’m the Tom Petty of petty. Why? Because I’m KNACKERED! I don’t think you understand just how tired I am. I am literally obsessed with sleep. Nothing gets me going more than the thought of my perfect bed, with the perfect pillow and the perfect mattress. No party, no movie, no celebrity premiere, nothing and no one can compete with the mere thought of eight hours’ sleep, OK make it nine. Sod it, if we’re fantasising, let’s make it 10.
Obsessions are never healthy and they make you boring. People who are obsessed with anyone or anything are generally tedious. Just ask the partner of any Olympian. Sure they’re proud of their achievements but somewhere in the back of their mind they’re thinking, “I love that Jean is so good at hurdling, but Christ she’s dull.” For anyone reading this who is an Olympian I’m sorry you had to find out here, but just know we’re all thinking it.
I don’t know why I’m being quite so smug because my obsession with sleep has firmly placed me among the BORLYMPIANS. Any conversation I have is basically led by how tired I am.
“How are you, Jen?”
“Mate, I’m sorry to hear that. But I guess if you have kids…”
“I don’t think you understand how tired I am. I think you think you know, but you need to know that you don’t know. You don’t know what actual exhaustion feels like. I’m actually buggered from the inside out. I think I might be dead. I think this conversation might be a dream I’m having.
“I am so tired that when I went to a farm the other day with the kids and saw a goat asleep in some hay, I wished I could be that goat, sleeping in a pile of what was essentially dirty grass and its own excrement. Because watching it asleep in a pile of its own faeces made me realise that the goat’s quality of life is probably better than mine. I am that tired. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME NOW? DO YOU??”
OK, so maybe boring and mental.
“I tend to my children, I cuddle them, reassure them and sometimes even rock them to sleep. All the while making a passive-aggressive mental note of what a perfect parent I am to throw back in my girlfriend’s face at the mere inference that she might be tired.”
When the kids were newborn I’d hear other parents say stuff like, “The first six weeks are the hardest.” And with that in mind I waited for the six-week mark to arrive and alleviate me of the misery of sleep deprivation. No change there, it was as horrific as ever.
“Wait till they get to six months, it eases up then.” Nope, still a horror show.
“When they’re a year old the fog will lift!” Can’t say that I noticed that.
I don’t know if there is an unsaid rule with other parents to hold back on the truth until the kids reach two, but I have definitely noticed a certain shift in tone.
“Twins! Oh my god I don’t know how you do it. I remember when my kids were two and four, it was so hard, there were times when I used to joke with my husband, ‘I think those bastards are trying to kill us!’ They’re 17 and 19 now and they’re still a bloody nightmare.”
It’s encouraging conversations like this that have made me realise that I need to stop talking to other parents.
Fortunately my girlfriend and I are very supportive of each other’s needs as well as being incredibly passive aggressive, so I’ve been told I can lie in tomorrow morning, because, “Some people obviously need more sleep even though they got a lie-in at the weekend…”
Whatevs. I’m going to sleep like a goat lying in its own poo. Night.
Read all of Jen’s other mother tales here.
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Jen Brister is a stand-up comic, writer and comedy actor. A regular performer on the UK and international circuit, she has also written for BBC Scotland and presented for BBC 6Music.