My Kids’ Sleep Time is My Time

sleep time my time
One of the first pieces of advice nearly every new mom hears is, “Oh, well you just need to make sure you sleep when they sleep.” I remember thinking this was great advice. I mean, all babies DO is sleep, right? I figured I would probably be more rested than I ever had been before. A couple of naps a day and an 8pm sleep time? Ummm…yes, please.

Of course, I did not imagine how many time I would be awakened every night because of feedings/diapers/pacifiers falling out of mouths. I did not imagine that for the next 12 years someone would be up at the break of dawn every single day, regardless of time changes, schedule changes or nuclear holocaust. I did not know that my precious sleep windows would become fewer and farther between.

Sleeping when kids sleep makes absolute sense on paper. The small human is finally being still. No one is crying (except you and that’s only from sheer relief). You’ve turned off all the ringers, sent the dog outside and posted one of those “If you ring the doorbell I will haunt you and your family until the end of days” signs on the front door for the mailman. These are ideal napping conditions. Go for it! This is your chance! Sweet relief at last!!!

But…are you kidding me? The small human is finally still. No one is crying. The house is silent and even the mailman is scared to come to the door. This is too good to sleep through.

I read the entire Harry Potter series thanks to nap time. I actually got laundry done. I managed to take a shower. In fact, I’m fairly certain those few hours every day are the only reason I survived the early years. Naps were MY time.

Before kids, “alone” time wasn’t that hard to find. I had time alone in the car. I had time alone when my husband worked late. Even a sick day home from work was alone time. It was everywhere. I just didn’t realize what a gift it was.

After kids, alone time is a luxury. Especially as they get older, there is nowhere you can go to hide. NOWHERE. Not the bathroom. Not your bedroom. Not even the car…that magical place where you used to listen to whatever music YOU wanted. Kids are everywhere. All. The. Time.

Now that nap times are a thing of the past (except with my teenagers who seem to have come full circle), my alone time is rarer than ever. The days are filled with work and appointments. The afternoons are pick-ups and homework and practices. The evenings go late. By the time my kids finally go to bed, I want nothing more than to crawl into my own bed and sleep the sweet sleep of relief that only a tired parent can truly appreciate.

But then I look around. The house is quiet. The now not-so-small humans are finally still. No is crying. And the mailman has already come and gone.

I know that I should still sleep when my kids sleep. I know that, just like when they were little, at least one of them will be up at the break of dawn every single day, regardless of time changes, schedule changes or nuclear holocaust. I know that I need my strength to survive yet another day of being a parent to three busy kids.

But, somehow, even when I am exhausted, the thought of sleeping through those beautiful quiet hours of alone time is too much. Yes, I am always tired. Yes, I know that medical professionals have proven that we need as close to eight hours of sleep as possible. And yes, I know there’s a good chance I’ll doze off in a particularly slow school pick-up lane. Yet, I’m not ready to give it up.

I am reading the entire Game of Thrones series because my kids have finally gone to bed. I actually get laundry done. I manage to get a shower. I have caught up on emails. I have watched non-animated television shows. Those precious quiet hours between 10pm and 2am are the only reason I actually get my tax returns done. This is still MY time.

The day will come when the house is empty when I get home at the end of the day and dinner are quiet affairs. The day will come, and all too soon, when I can spend an entire Saturday sleeping in and catching up instead of hosting play dates and sleep overs and running everyone around for errands. The day will come when I have more alone time than I know what to do with.

But that day is not here yet.

So for now, despite the fact that I use watching a movie with my kids as a thinly disguised excuse to take a nap, I am going to honor alone time as the precious commodity that it is. I am going to savor those quiet hours of late evening (or is it early morning? I’m too tired to distinguish) and revel in my ME time. After all, we can sleep when we’re dead…or at least when the kids finally move out.

Anna Strock
Anna has spent the last 18 years writing, directing creative projects, and trying to be the best mom possible to her three girls. When she's not exploring Richmond for the latest and greatest resources, offerings, and activities, she can be found daydreaming on travel blogs, drinking too much coffee, and running kids to endless activities.