When I first started off in the field of animation, I worked for a studio that wasn’t particularly concerned with their employees mental health and so they would promise their clients ridiculously early delivery on complicated and time consuming projects. The animators were the collateral damage and we worked pounding hours that most salt miners in Siberia would blanche at. They would also glibly suggest that changes to animation and design could be completed by the next day, as if by fairies, and we would animate through the small hours until our corneas bleed out onto the keyboard. I remember starting to think everything in splne graph form.
The most I did was 60 odd hours in a row; no breaks, save the odd trip to the loo and sitting down to eat snacks. I was pretty wrecked, knocked off at 7am and the studio kindly suggested that I could come in at lunchtime – as a good will gesture. I would love to name the studio and it’s non-benign directors but the CEO is a pitbull in heels with the added danger of a law degree and would cut me a new poo hole, that I would obviously have to pay for.
We have all – at some time or another – done an all-nighter for work, for pleasure or for neccessity; and they take a day and a night to recover from, I reckon. But the sleep deprivation you get with having small children is so much worse as you don’t get a recovery period.
For example, last night we did our own version of Carry On up The Alps. I had to work until 12.00am and then crashed but our daughter woke up at 12.30am (for no discernible reason) and after trying to settle her three times we decided she should sleep in between us in our bed at around 1.30am. DW had to go to work in the morning at 6.30am so she went to the spare room…but all this kerfuffle woke our son, who went to sleep with DW. He didn’t settle until 3.00am and DD didn’t settle intil 4.00am. DW woke up at 6.00am and crept – like a ninja – into our room to get her work clothes but this woke DD…so, I managed to get 2 1/2 hours of broken sleep and DW 3 hours. Tops.
The problem is that tonight we have no guarantee that our children are going to sleep a full night and so our lack of sleep will be compounded. We might have the same amount or me might have a full nights sleep. If we have two full nights in a row, we’ll recover – but we haven’t had that in a long time.
There are probably a few of you out there reading this, thinking: well, my children have slept through the night since the age of three weeks…you should get tough / gently sooth / stick to a routine. Well, I have a newsflash for you: we have tried all of these techniques. Yes we have tried getting tough (just wakes everyone up). Soothing (you end up in a vicious cycle of your kids can only sleep if you stroke them for 45mins – what if you have two children or three and there is only one of you? Huh? Huh? Not feeling so smug now, are you?) and rigid routines (have followed Gina Ford to the minute with no luck. That woman needs to have kids, in my opinion. It’s a lot tougher when it’s your own flesh and blood hollering like they’re having their teeth pulled out…).
The upshot of all this is that this morning I woke up grumpier than a bear in a shit factory and growled and snapped around my kids but managed to just about keep my cool, god knows how. This is how our morning went:
Darling Daughter: Crispies!
Mrshev: [After the night I’ve just had and all she can say is CRISPIES? HOW ABOUT: SORRY, DADDY, FOR MAKING YOU GRUMPY BY ARSING AROUND ALL NIGHT] Okay, I’ll get you some Crisipies as soon as I can.
Darling Son: Could I have Weetabix?
MrShev: [How many bloody times do I have to say it: PLEASE!] What’s the magic word?
I pour some Rice Crisipies into a bowl and some weetabix as well and put them on the table.
DS: I want them without milk…but could I have milk to drink?
MrShev: [ARSEACHE! Why would you possibly want to eat a dry Weetabix, what are you? An ex Guantánamo prisoner or something?] Sure, I’ll have this one. I’ll get you some dry ones.
DS: Could I have my Spiderman Spoon?
MrShev: [What difference does it make that you have your flippin’ spoon endorsed by a comic book character? AND IT”S IN THE DISHWASHER SO I”LL HAVE TO BLOODY WASH IT AS WELL!] I just have to clean and dry it…
DS: …and my Spiderman fork, too.
MrShev: [YOU WON’T EVEN USE THE BLOODY FORK] Sure.
I finally sit down and start eating my Weetabix that has now turned into a splodge the exact same consistency as an hour old cow pat. DD spits out crispies into her bowl and pushes it away when she sees the splodge. She tries it, spits it out and starts smearing it over the table and herself.
MrShev: [FFS, you take my shitty, secondhand breakfast and now you use it as PAINT. DON”T YOU KNOW THERE ARE STARVING CHILDREN IN THE WORLD WHO WOULD LICK THAT OFF THE HIGHCHAIR AND BE GRATEFUL. NOW I HAVE TO CLEAR IT UP. WHEN AM I GOING TO EAT SOME BLOODY BREAKFAST] You finished darling? Let’s get you out and cleaned up.
DS: I’m full (he pushes away bowl that is still mostly full)
MrShev: [YOU ARE NOT FULL. YOU’LL ASK ME FOR BLOODY RICECAKES IN FIVE MINUTES AND SAY THAT YOU’RE STARVING HUNGRY SO JUST EAT YOUR BLOODY BREAKFAST] Have a couple more mouthfuls…then you can watch Cbeebies.
That’s what happens (the words in brackets obviously were in my head). You turn into an arsehole and a bad parent, when all you want to be is a good parent and I wonder if this is some kind of test so that you know with full nights of sleep you can deal with your kids as teenagers. Or something.