This morning, after stumbling down the stairs precariously carrying the baby whilst trying not to trip over the three year old who must go first otherwise a tantrum will ensue, I lay down on our too-short couch and closed my eyes again. They had barely opened in the first place, but I literally couldn’t keep them open. From being woken up by the three year old, to the point where I felt vaguely like I could carry on with the day, took nearly 30 minutes. Until that point, I was questioning whether the kids would be ok if I just took a little nap. I was pretty sure the three year old would survive, but the thought of the just-crawling baby braining herself on the side of the fireplace just about kept my eyes from closing. Well, one of my eyes. It’s been a rough few weeks, what with teething, and snotty noses, and coughs, and ‘I’m scared’ wake-ups, and wake-ups for no reason whatsoever. I have not been getting a huge amount of sleep…
So, I did what any self-respecting modern mother would do, and I googled ‘the tiredest thing in the world’ on my phone while I was waiting on the kettle to boil for the baby’s bottle. And, after Google had asked me whether I meant ‘the weirdest thing in the world’, and I’d skipped past some youtube videos of a tired dog, I found an article from the Chicago Tribune dated Dec 21, 1958, titled ‘What is a Mother’s Tiredest Time of Day?’
It describes fatigue as “the occupational disease of motherhood” and goes on to say that “what is not generally known by the average mother with a child under two is that every mother with a child under two often gets so tired she could cry.”
The article is based on some scientific research done by the Michigan State University Department of Home Management, which had asked 98 mothers to keep a diary of their tiredness. Mothers get most tired during the week between 4:30pm and 5pm, and 5:30-6pm. At weekends, it’s 12:30-1 and 7:30-8pm. There’s some lovely archaic banter about getting your husband ready for work and making sure that he doesn’t get cross by having his dinner on the table when he gets home, but it got me wondering what the results would be like today if they repeated the study. As homemakers today, we have a wealth of technology to help us manage our homes. We can do our shopping online and have it delivered straight to our kitchen counter, whereas mothers in the 50’s probably had to shop every day around the local butcher’s, greengrocer’s and bakery. We have advanced vacuum cleaners and washing machines and dishwashers and dryers which take a lot of the pain out of keeping house. A lot of women in the 50’s didn’t even have a fridge. We have the internet for god’s sake, and phones which double as gateways to knowledge and other people, and videos of cats doing funny stuff. Videos of cats, while not a recognised cure for tiredness, can keep you going for just long enough to get the kids into bed, laughter being the best medicine and all that.
6 of the women in the study reported never feeling tired. (Who were these women? What drugs were they on?) Some reported feeling moderate tiredness occasionally. The majority though, some 75%, reported very much fatigue. And the mothers more likely to report fatigue had:
-at least one child under 2
-tried to do between 4 and 9 things whilst feeling tired
-got upset because she couldn’t get her work done
-received more hindrance than help from her partner
-lived in a house which had inadequate household arrangements like a lack of storage or no place for the children to play.
I hear ya, tired 50’s mums. You’re not so different from us after all.
Here’s a video of some cats sleeping in funny positions to cheer you up.