Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column where real dads talk about the things they do for themselves that help them keep grounded in all the other areas of their life — especially the parenting part. It’s easy to feel strung-out as a parent, but the dads we feature all recognize that, unless they regularly take care of themselves, the parenting part of their life will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous.
Between being a dad to two young daughters and his job as a teacher to more than 30 kids, Tyler Moore, a 32-year-old dad from New York, was burnt out by his schedule and it was effecting his roles as both a father and a husband. So, he made a simple change to his schedule that optimized his productivity — and find the recharge time he needed to be the best dad he could.
In the fall, I returned back to teaching after being out of the classroom for three years. I quickly found that when I allowed myself to be woken up by my daughters super early in the morning around 5 a.m., I was basically with kids from the time that I woke up until the time that the girls went to bed, around 7 or 7:30 at night.
This left me just mentally and physically exhausted by the end of the night, and that I really wanted to do absolutely nothing. I found that I had no time for myself. When we would get to the end of the night, my wife and I were getting into these disagreements. I was constantly wanting to veg out, and she was pointing out that there was all this other life stuff to do.
I can’t go to bed later. My girls still wake up super early in the morning. When I went to bed late, I was just giving myself a consequence of being tired the next day. So, I thought: Why don’t I shift my sleep and start waking up around 4 a.m.? That would give me an hour to an hour-and-a-half by myself.
Once I did this, I had the mental space and energy in the morning to do some of this stuff. In the morning, I don’t want to veg. For me, sitting and watching shows is not the point of waking up; it’s to get up and be mindful and just have these practices that actually support our life as a family.
In the morning, my oldest daughter screams: “Daddy, the sun is awake, the sun is awake! It’s time to wake up!” But the sun is never awake. We are always waking up in the dark. Before I started waking up earlier, my wife and I had tried basically everything to get them to sleep later. We tried all the tricks possible, but their sleep clocks are wired the way that they are.
So now, for the first time in literally three and a half years, I have to set an alarm. But it actually feels good to do that. I’m waking up on my own terms, which I hadn’t in years. Now, when I get up in the morning, I read a little bit. I’m able to sit and drink my coffee. I do some chores around the house. I clean the bathroom in absolute silence. Which is just incredible.
Some mornings, I’ll get up and do workout videos on YouTube. Or I’ll bake treats for the girls for breakfast. Cinnamon rolls. Or maybe bread. It just feels very luxurious: I have this time that was given to me, whereas before, I never had the time.
Most importantly, I feel like that hour is the only hour when I’m not dictated by the needs of kids — my own or those in my class. I’m able to do what I want to do. I’m actually giving myself the best of my day, which feels really good. In those first moments of waking up, I’m really paying attention to myself and what I need for the day. When the girls wake up, I’m so much more excited to see them and be present with them, as opposed to when they used to wake me up when I’d feel like I was lulling myself out of a coma.
In a lot of ways, shifting my sleep took back control. It gave me a feeling of control that was actually somewhat freeing. For so long, I my sleep was dictated by the girls. The reality is, I’m able to take back some of that control for myself. It has then transferred into other areas of my life. The more rested I am, the better father I am. The only way to truly be rested was to shift my sleep. Thanks to this, I actually have time to myself in a way that makes me feel like a human as opposed to just being a parent in a fog.