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The 5 Stages of Parent Exhaustion

My daughter is a dream baby the vast majority of the time. She has been sleeping through the night since she was 2 months old, has the sweetest disposition, and rarely ever cries for long. I actually feel bad ever complaining, because typically she is so easy to be around. Recently however, we have entered the teething zone. A place where there have been a handful of particularly fussy nights (occasionally a succession of fussy nights), which have left me considering the possibility that I may never sleep again.

Those are the nights when we inevitably cycle through the five stages of parenting exhaustion.

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1. Reasoning

This is the stage in which I attempt to embark upon enlightened conversation with my 5-month-old, as though she might be capable of listening to reason. It is during this stage when I might say things like:

“Honey, mommy has to work tomorrow. And you have to play. We both need our sleep. So why don’t you just stop crying now, and go to bed? Mommy’s so tired.”

2. Bargaining

Bargaining is the first stage where my exhaustion really becomes evident. This is the stage when those conversations with my daughter might include sentiments such as:

“Sweet girl, how about I get you another bottle and you fall asleep eating it? Or we could sing your favorite song? Read just one more book? I will buy you a new car if you fall asleep right now. Whatever you want, just go back to sleep. Please, mommy’s so tired.”

Maybe a little whiskey on your gums wouldn’t be the end of the world.

3. Threatening

I’m not always proud of the words that come out of my mouth during the threatening stage:

“If you don’t stop crying right now, mommy is going to put earplugs in and ignore you. Or I’ll bring you over to the neighbors. I know you barely know them. Heck, I barely know them. But they totally offered to take you if I ever needed any help. I have no problem calling that favor in at 2 a.m. Don’t test me kid, pull it together. There’s no crying in baseball, and mommy’s so tired.”

4. Desperation

The stage when I inevitably begin crying right along with her:

“When was the last time you had Tylenol? Is it too soon for another dose? How about teething tablets? Motrin? Maybe great-grandma was right. Maybe a little whiskey on your gums wouldn’t be the end of the world. So what if I’m totally opposed to the idea in the light of day. People did it for centuries, right? It can’t be that big of a deal, could it? Don’t look at mommy like that. I get it. I know booze isn’t the answer. Not for you, and not for me. But mommy’s so tired!”

5. Acceptance

Eventually, I always reach a point of acceptance, the stage when I realize we are just going to be up all night—taking turns with our tears:

“Fine then. I guess neither of us will be getting any sleep. And tomorrow you will be cranky and unmanageable, and I will be a hollowed out shell of a person incapable of interacting with others or hiding the bruise-like appearance under my eyes. Awesome. Sounds like a heck of a day. Screw it, mommy’s making coffee.”

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Disclaimer: This mommy, personally, has never actually left her baby on the neighbor's doorstep at 2 a.m., resorted to ear plugs to drown out the tears, double-dosed her kid on pain medications, or rubbed any amount of alcohol on her daughter's gums. Doesn’t mean she hasn’t thought about it, though…

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