You don’t need to tell me I’m tired
Stop telling me I look tired.
Never, in the history of verbal communication, has there ever been a more pointless way to open a conversation than by telling a mother she looks tired.
If a mum looks tired, it’s because she is tired. She doesn’t need to be reminded of this fact. And, by pointing it out to her, you may have inadvertently made what was already a testing day a few degrees tougher.
It doesn’t matter how well meaning you are when you mention it, or if the words were uttered with as much empathy as you can muster, a mum will usually assume there is some hidden subtext .
Her brain will automatically translate the phrase ‘you look tired’ into ‘you’re not coping.’ And no mum needs that notion swirling around inside her head. She already has enough to deal with.
Part of the problem is that society often fails to accept tiredness as a normal part of motherhood. Instead it’s seen as a weakness or a sign of bad parenting.
People assume that a tired mum is one who wasn’t disciplined enough to sleep train their child, instead of one who, in reality, simply had the bad fortune of birthing a bad sleeper.
But even the mums who manage to get a decent eight hours every night will have probably dealt with a day’s worth of dilemmas within the first hour of the day.
Most mornings she’s already had to change at least one explosive nappy, sing a dozen nursery rhymes to a grizzly toddler and extract chewed-up cereal from the radiator grill - all before most people have had a chance to hit the snooze button.
For a mum, tiredness is never a weakness, it’s an inevitability. And we should never be made to feel ashamed of it.
And on the particularly bad days, the ones where we look as burnt out as we feel, it can take all the reserves we have left in us to make it through the day.
So please, next time you see a mum who looks like she could use a few extra hours sleep, don’t make her day any worse.
Instead, why not ask her how she’s feeling? She might not fancy talking about it, but at least she’ll know you care.
Or better yet, say nothing and just hand her a large cup of hot coffee. She’ll certainly thank you for that.