Every night, as the clock ticks towards 9 o’clock, the countdown begins. Much like Cinderella rushing breathlessly out of the ball, forgetting essential items along the way, I am eager to make my quick departure. Except there’s no pumpkin or prince, and the only place I’m rushing to is my bed. Because after our kids are tucked safely in at nighttime, this mama is officially off the clock.
What do I mean by that? Well, it means that after many long years of back-to-back pregnancies and breastfeeding, I have unofficially-officially turned the reins of parenting at nighttime over to my children’s father. This means that at nighttime, one of the following situations usually goes down:
You don’t feel well, you say? Daddy will investigate for you.
You need another glass of water, do you? I’ll send Daddy up with one!
Think you saw a mysterious shadow lurking in the corner? Have no fear, Daddy is on duty.
Meanwhile, I am happily tucked into bed, reading a book, or snoozing away before my alarm wakes me up early to work. Aside from the true emergencies, like a puking kid or that one time my daughter heard a mouse scratching above her head in the wall (shudder), pretty much and any all nighttime parenting duties fall to my husband these days — and I have no shame about that. Although there has never been a formal or official discussion of this role between my husband and I, the shift has naturally occurred over the years as we have transitioned from a family with a bunch of little kids to a family with older kids who are all relatively self-sufficient.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself that I am some kind of monster or poor, pitiful excuse of a mother. Perhaps I am — but before you turn me into the Mom Police, allow me to outline a few reasons why our particular arrangement seems to be working for us at the moment.
1) I am the at-home parent, which means that I’m on duty all day long, primarily existing to make everyone else’s life possible.
This, admittedly, does not come easily or naturally to me, and by the end of the day, I am just plain worn out. I like to think that my husband recognizes this and supports me in the only real way he can, since he works out of the home a lot, by granting me some extra downtime at night to allow my introverted self to recharge a little bit more.
2) I also have a full-time work-at-home job.
Fitting this in while also performing #1 requires me to wake up quite early in the morning before anyone else in the household is up, so an earlier bedtime is ideal for me to make that happen.
3) My husband is naturally a night owl.
You know that meme about neither being an early worm or a night owl, but rather, a permanently exhausted pigeon? That’s definitely me. I just can’t hang past 9 p.m., so after a few years of trying and making everyone kind of miserable, I decided to throw in the towel. I figure if my husband is staying up anyways watching TV, it only makes sense that he be the water-fetcher, right?
And let’s be real: Now that my kids are well past the breastfeeding stage, if you really think about the parental equation of nighttime duties, it has to even out somewhat by this point, right? After almost six straight years of pregnancy and breastfeeding, surely I have logged enough middle-of-the-night hours to be granted some vacation time … right?
Even if that ridiculous scale did exist, the truth is by now, I don’t exactly care either. I’m too far into the parenting game to try to keep up with the impossible standards set up in order to be a “good” mother. Maybe a “good” mother would sacrifice everything, including her own sleep, even if she has a partner perfectly willing to parent, in order to adhere to what society deems to be proper parenting, but that’s not just me anymore.
I guess I just see the odd nighttime wake-up call as a part of parenting, not specific to either of our genders, and if my husband happens to be cool with taking it on, well, that just seems like a win-win to me. No one would ever question if Mom was the “default” parent for nighttime duty, so why question it if Dad happens to be?
I’m not sure why “good” mothering became equated with “person who does all the things of parenting 24/7,” but in our house, I am happy to be the type of mother with a partner who is willing to take over at nighttime. I guess now that I think about it, maybe I do have a prince in this scenario after all …