No matter what time I go to bed, my toddler wakes up at 6:30 every morning. It’s the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn as a parent, and as a night owl, and I’m not entirely sure I’ve caught on. I still find myself up late on Friday nights, if just to read another article or watch the game, thinking tomorrow will be the day she finally sleeps in like a teenager. And we’ll all enjoy a relaxing morning in bed.
It hasn’t happened yet.
What has thankfully happened, however, is that my wife and I started taking turns sleeping in on Saturday mornings. And, thus, I no longer have to fully pay the price for my poor decision making the night before. Admittedly, this is a pretty basic, no-brainer idea that should have inherently popped into our heads as soon as we brought our baby home. One person gets up to take care of the kid, the other stays in bed. Weirdly, it did not.
Neither of us were that big into sleeping in even before having a child ⏤ 9 a.m. was about our cutoff before the guilt of a wasted day would set in ⏤ so when the baby started waking us at sunrise, we both just got up. We were already waking up Monday thru Friday as a family and, without questioning why, just kept doing so on the weekends. Honestly, we never even gave it a second thought. Plus, it hardly seemed fair for one person to get to sleep in while the other had to slog out of bed. Afternoon naps were our extra rest and we took them religiously. But sleeping in, not a thing.
It wasn’t until visiting my wife’s family on vacation that we were reminded of this glorious alternative. Both of us, awake one morning, were joined by my wife’s sister. Where was her husband, I asked? Sleeping in, of course, and she explained a concept that shouldn’t require explanation. We take turns getting up on the weekends. My mind, quickly flashing back to pre-kid days of leisurely Saturday mornings that didn’t begin at the crack of dawn, was blown. Sad, I know, but true. Why on earth were we not doing this too? How is it possible that this simple concept hadn’t crossed our sleep-deprived brains?
In retrospect, I’d like to think we were blinded by new parenthood, by an insatiable desire to always be with the baby. In reality, though, I think we subconsciously decided that both of us waking up was the most equitable and fair solution to an unfair parenting challenge. Especially since my wife was breastfeeding and pretty much forced to get up most mornings, the thought of one person sleeping in (most likely, me) was somehow less fair and selfish. And as such, we didn’t do it.
What we failed to realize, however, was that the benefits of sleeping in ⏤ namely, getting more damn sleep! ⏤ far outweighed any possible negatives to either our relationship or our kid. Unless you have twins or a particularly colicky baby, you probably don’t need backup for an hour or two on a Saturday morning. You’ll be fine. Also, while yes, you want to be a part of your baby’s every waking moment, you’re not missing out on that much. Especially, when they’re an infant. They’re probably not taking a first step or reading Moo Baa La La La! aloud. Stay in bed, if only to read, catch a breather, or enjoy some quiet time. You’ll benefit more from the sleep than you’ll miss out on their lives.
Somehow, just hearing about other parents doing this set us free. As long as we alternated, or at least one person didn’t start taking advantage, it seemed like a no-brainer. (Note though: if your partner is breastfeeding, that doesn’t mean you get the extra Zzzs every week. Prepare to take over and let her climb back in bed.) Our daughter is now two-and-a-half and we still swap most Saturdays (although only for an extra half hour of sleep these days), with one person getting up to start breakfast and watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Sunday is still everybody up for church.
Look, I have no idea whether our view on sleeping-in is normal among new parents or an outlier ⏤ I have to presume it’s the latter, and maybe we just aren’t that bright. But for parents who may be caught up in the routine and excitement of having a new child, and who find themselves both waking up with the kid on weekends, resist the urge. Take turns sleeping in instead. And yes, this may be common sense advice but let it at least serve as a friendly reminder ⏤ one of you needs to go back to bed.