Confession: I am addicted to staying up past my bedtime.
I am an incorrigible night owl. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, I loved the dreamy, quiet dark after everyone was in bed. I used to read well into the wee hours, and pined for the summer when I could give away to my nocturnal inclinations with the tired consequences of an early school day. I believe this is a biological trait: I remember well my mom tinkering around the house at 2 a.m., finding her creative juices in full-force in the middle of the night. My daughter is only 5, but I already see her following the same path. I often find her reading in her room hours after I put the kids to bed, and often have to force her to turn off her nightlight and go to sleep.
Most of my life, I’ve been able to compensate for my nocturnal proclivities. I was a theater major in college . . . a profession that tends to attract night owls. We would put on shows until midnight, often followed by a dash to a late-night restaurant or congregating at someone’s apartment. It was kosher to sleep until noon when you were “doing a show”. When I moved on to practicing psychotherapy, I was also able to make my own schedule. Most of my clients had 9 to 5 jobs, so it was easy to see people in the evening and avoid morning appointments. For most of my life, I’ve been able to maintain a steady 2 to 10 a.m. schedule, with little consequence beyond the scorn of morning folk.
And then kids came along.
It’s an understatement to say that motherhood threw my sleeping schedule for a loop. It’s also fair to say that, seven years in, my sleeping issues remain my biggest challenge. Having newborns who didn’t sleep was tough . . . but that’s tough on every new parent. I actually hit a stride during the toddler years. My kids were sleeping through the night, and with the help of some serious black-out curtains, they stayed up late and slept in late to match my natural body clock. It’s the school schedule that really threw a wrench into everything, and with each passing year it seems to get even worse. Next year, half of my kids have to be at school at 7:45 a.m.. Which means I’ve got to wake up closer to six. SIX!!! I’ve barely gone to bed at six!
Now, people with typical body clocks may be reading this and thinking that I just need to go to bed earlier. I’ve tried. Oh boy, have I tried. But each evening, the dark, quiet house beckons me to stay up just a little longer. It’s an addiction and I just can’t quit. In fact, if anything it’s gotten worse since I had kids. Now, the evening is the only quiet space I get. Perfect for thinking, for writing . . . for just sitting in quiet. (Did I mention the quiet?) Every day, I vow I will go to bed earlier, and every night, I get as greedy as Gollum with my precious alone time.
I’m curious to hear from other night-owl parents. How have you compensated for the early-morning schedule inherent in having school-aged kids? Have you been able to change your body clock? Or, like me, are you just resigned to being perpetually tired?
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