On November 3, 2020, millions of people will stay up late hoping to get some notion of who has won the presidential election, plus some idea of whether or not their preferred political party is likely to have control of Congress. Spoiler alert: If you have a child who is not a teenager, they don’t care. Biden winning might help some parents lower their stress levels, but your 3-year-old genuinely doesn’t give a shit either way. All your kids care about is how you treat them. Which is why you should go the heck to sleep on election night.
Even the most anti-science politically minded people agree that sleep matters. If you don’t get enough sleep you’ll act like a jerk. As a group, parents are the most-sleep deprived people on the planet, save for maybe immortal vampires. But, here’s the thing, you are not an immortal vampire. You can’t stay up until midnight if your child gets up at 6:00 a.m. If you have a toddler or grade-schooler, who, for some reason, sleeps in until 10 am, then, maybe you can stay up super late and look at election results. But, honestly, even if you get enough sleep that level of anxiety is still going to drive you nuts.
Anxiety isn’t a made-up thing. Human beings are not cold, stoic Vulcans capable of quickly compartmentalizing tumultuous events like historic elections and unrelenting pandemics. I would advocate for some Sherlock Holmes-anxiety-management right now — meaning, you might need to figure out a way to hide away in your mind palace while all of this shakes out. Plus, most projections indicate the candidates and the new mainstream news won’t be able to “call” this election until Thursday or Friday anyway. We’re gonna be living with this stress for several days. You can’t let your kids suffer.
Many parenting books, like Simplicity Parenting, advocate for “filtering out the adult world” when it comes to news-addicted parents. While this strategy isn’t completely practical, and there is a good reason to talk to older kids about major news events — like Black Lives Matter — having a 24-hour news house is bad for your mental health. And what’s bad for your mental health is bad for your kids.
Most parents know this. We all know we need to put down our phones and not phub our kids or our spouse. But this time we really fucking mean it. This election is stressful. Don’t wait for the results on Tuesday night. Force yourself to watch a DVD you like, maybe a James Bond movie. (Don’t even screw with streaming though, you might be tempted to toggle to the news.)
So, that’s our advice. Watch a movie at like 8pm. Have a glass of wine, but not five glasses. Go to bed by 10 pm. Wake up, look at the news. And no matter what the news tells you, go hug your kids.