Mums get used to the fact of never having a full night's sleep, but it can take its toll.
Mums get used to the fact of never having a full night's sleep, but it can take its toll. SolStock

Dreaming of balance in the role of a parent

I HAD hardly any sleep last night.

Not the romantic Valentine's Day kind of "no sleep”.

No, I was slapped in the face twice by two different small people. Having separate nightmares.

I was also woken four times by a third person who decided it would be fun to set their alarm for 4am because "Fortnite something something”... turns out that child only knew how to hit snooze.

Said child is lucky I didn't throw that watch against the wall.

Still, it was a gift from Santa. Wouldn't that have gone down a treat?

And, still before daybreak, our new dog decided that since everyone else in the house was in my bed, that's where she ought to be too.

I would say that the next day was a complete write-off but that would be a lie.

You see, I've not slept through the night in so many years, I don't think my body would recognise a solid eight hours' uninterrupted sleep even if a horse tranquiliser was forced down my gullet.

I have slept wedged against a cot. I have slept in a single bed with two other people.

I can sleep while sitting up and patting a person's back to break up phlegm.

And after all these sleepdeprived nights, I have got up the next day to do everything as normal.

Except sometimes I hit a wall. I met it last week. A long day, too many tantrums (mine and those of my children - let's be honest) and when a friend asked how I was, the mask slipped.

Amid tears, I told her I was fine. I mean, I was, I am. I knew exactly what was wrong.

There was no dramatic scene that brought me to tears.

Just the wall.

I hit it hard and a friendly face was all it took to make me crack.

I am new to the notion of self-care, of recognising that I don't just have to look after three children, but that I need to take care of me too.

And it's clear I'm still working out that balance.

I am great at organising future rewards to counter my endless to-do list. But not so wonderful at finding moments in the day to relax.

The laundry, the newspaper, the school lunches, the column, the dog, the mess in the sink, all clamouring for my attention are much louder than my clenched jaw and churning stomach warning me that the wall is drawing near.

I am a work in progress. Sleep permitting.

Peta Jo is an author and mother of three.