On “Pushing On Through”

30 Aug On “Pushing On Through”

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 6.9.21


I had a baby 28 years ago, and I think that’s why I am still a bit tired now. I mean, I’ve had a couple of decent sleeps since then, but I suspect as a new mother you learn an approach to life that possibly isn’t serving you so well if you keep it up in middle-age.  

I remember that fog of exhaustion – woolly headed, dizzy, a tinge of nausea – so clearly. My baby was born six weeks early and had to be woken to feed every two hours, but I know full term babies are no guarantee of longer stretches of sleep either. So you push on through, ignoring your body’s and your mind’s need for rest, because this is the Thing You Must Do. There is a new human to keep alive!  

But at some point, all that disregarding of the signs you should go to bed and stay there is not going to be good for you. Tricky though – once you’ve mastered the art of Soldiering On it can be hard to make yourself halt this relentless march and leave the parade for a bit of a quiet sit.  

I seem to recall there was a time when people who were ill went to bed and didn’t get up till they were cured. Now there’s a pill for that which can take away all the symptoms so you can pretend you’re quite well thank you, and maybe go share whatever it is with your workmates, and then they can take a pill, too.  

Possibly this global pandemic has made us better – I hope so – about keeping to ourselves when we’ve got anything that looks even vaguely Covidy. I’ve noticed people with tickly throats or hay fever pointedly identify the cause of their coughs and sneezes as non-pandemic related, as in: “Washoo! Crikey, the pollen is bad this season, isn’t it, Cheryl?”  

I also remember a simpler time when, if we were tired, we’d go to bed and fall asleep with a book. Now when we’re exhausted we sit on the couch and watch just one episode to wind down, and then just one more because at this point we’re too tired to get up and go to bed, so we might as well finish the series.  

One of the reasons I can remember the fog of exhaustion – woolly brain, queasy tummy – is that I am feeling it now. I checked my temperature and it’s not that, so I checked my diary and that would explain it – too many days on, not enough time off due to a tendency to say “yes” to everything except an early night with a book.  

So that’s what I am doing now – consciously paying attention to the signs that I need sleep, or space and calm, and unlearning those new-mother skills (which might have become habits) of “pushing on through”. Habits compounded, no doubt, in those of us who are self-employed or freelancers or instilled with a protestant work ethic that suggests we are defined by our devotion to what we do.  

My late-mother would remind me at regular intervals, when she saw the midnight oil burning at mine, that her yoga teacher would say, “Remember, Donna, we are human beings, not human doings”.  

The baby is all grown up now. I might put myself down for a nap.