By Lisa Cucinotta
“He needs a back-up alarm” my hair stylist told me, after complaining that the guy who was supposed to open the salon that morning had overslept. “You know, I always have my phone alarm, and then a back-up, like an alarm clock or my boyfriend’s phone” she said. “Especially in the winter, when it’s dark and you’re so snuggly, and you just can’t get yourself out of bed, you know?”
I did know, once upon a time. I remember those days. In fact, I probably slept more than most people. I spent my early twenties doing freelance jobs and working for myself, which meant a lot of flexibility in my sleep schedule. I could sleep some days until noon. When I was depressed, on my days off I’d sometimes sleep all day, waking up just to go to the bathroom and eat.
But when you have children, sleep is something you dream about… and get woken up from. I suspect I’m luckier than many because currently both my children sleep through the night in their own rooms. I don’t have enough hands to count the number of friends I have who either intentionally, accidentally, or by sheer exhaustion end up co-sleeping with their kids at least some of the time. Brian and I decided in our earliest parenting days that we were going to set boundaries on the co-sleeping, so other than when they slept in bassinets with us as babies we’ve never done it.
Neither Julia or Luca slept more than three to four hours at a time until they were about five months old, probably a product of them both being such skinny babies. But both became pretty good sleepers after some basic sleep training. We certainly had some rough times with Julia between ages 2-4, nothing unusual, just the basic stuff like nightmares. I suspect we’ll go through it again with Luca as he gets older. He’s still in a crib at two and a half, but based on his personality I suspect we’ll have trouble keeping him in his big boy bed once he gets one. So I’ve got that to look forward to.
Both our children’s optimal bedtimes are quite early, which I’ve mentioned before – 6:15 or so for Luca and 7pm for Julia. So we have whole evenings to ourselves to eat dinner, watch tv, catch up on work etc. But the trade off is that we got woken up EVERY SINGLE DAY at 6am. Now, as I’ve also mentioned before, this works for us 5 days a week, because that’s around when we wake up for work anyway. But getting up at 6 am on weekends is kind of brutal. At this point, it doesn’t make me too tired anymore, because my body has adjusted. In fact, it came in handy when Brian and I went to Universal studios by ourselves this fall because we had no trouble getting up for early admission. But our trip to the Dominican Republic last year where we fantasized about sleeping late – that one was a damn shame to wake up every day by seven.
The early wake up is a double edged sword. I’ve done more by 8:00 in the morning than many childless people do in a full weekend day. Even with lounging in bed with the kids for early morning TV watching, by about 8:30 on a Sunday we have usually cooked and eaten breakfast, emptied the dishwasher, tidied up the first floor, looked up something or other on the internet, broken up at least one fight, and changed a few diapers. The trade off is that there is so many more hours in the day during which we need to entertain the kids. Bored children are no fun. If I was a perfect Pinterest mom I’m sure I’d have long lists of craft projects and inventive games and would love every minute of every hour of the time I spent with them. But sometimes mom just wants a nap.
Brian and I have this fantasy for the future. Some of it revolves around sleeping later once they kids are able to take care of themselves when they get up. But our particular favorite one is for when the kids are teenagers who will inevitably sleep super late on the weekends. We’ve decided at least once we’re going to throw open their door as loudly as possible, run into their room, jump into their bed full force and immediately demand that they get us breakfast and put the tv on for us. There’s even been talk of banging pots and pans. But we’ll decide when we get there, since I suspect we’ve got miles to go before we sleep.