10:30PM — the night is young. I still have two, maybe three hours. Time to finish tasks I couldn’t complete while chasing our toddler, teaching high school English, or shuffling our preschooler from school to therapy. Time to actually read (skim) my email. Time to catch up on my shows from two weeks ago. Time to do whatever the heck I want.
I’ve found a lot of moms keep similar hours — because I see you guys lurking on social media and sometimes strike up a chat or shoot you a text. Most of us have the same reason for putting off our “zzz’s”: We need time to ourselves. The still of the night, once everyone is in bed, provides space for much-needed decompression and the opportunity to get stuff done, uninterrupted.
Take our holiday cards, for example. A labor of love. Goes like this: I update our address spreadsheet and design/order our card one late night in November. Then, one late night in December, I stuff, address (I print labels at home after doing a mail merge), and affectionately stamp our season’s greetings. I know my husband could help (not sure if he’d want to…) and that toddlers love assisting Mommy with chore-like tasks, but I also know I can accomplish this feat most efficiently by myself at 11PM.
Speaking of the holidays, because I’m now conditioned to staying up late, Christmas Eve night is my time to shine. Whether it’s a kitchen, easel, or indoor trampoline that requires watching two different Youtube videos to figure out assembly, I’m your gal. I don’t feel the same pressure as other panicked parents — I’m used to burning the midnight oil. Give me a “some assembly required” gift that has mere illustrations for instructions, a movie I’ve already seen playing in the background, and a screwdriver, and I’ll give you a fully constructed masterpiece come sunrise.
Since I’m up, sometimes, I go to the grocery store pretty late at night because then I can go alone. Besides the luxury of walking the aisles without any extra hands grabbing more boxes of fruit snacks or a sibling slap-fest in the cart, I now understand why there are grocery stores open 24hrs a day…for the mom who just remembered her daughter has snack this week (because at 10PM on Sunday night she ate the last veggie straw while sitting down to binge watch The Crown). In case you’re wondering, that mom was me.
However, over the last six months or so, my late bedtime has gotten a bit out of control. I fall down the rabbit hole of current events, or binge watch my guilty pleasure (Dylan and Brenda forever!), or get sucked into a parenting article vortex. What was once valuable and productive “me time” has begun to have the reverse effect. See, I’ve come to realize that I’m not actually using the time to decompress. The tasks I planned to do between the hours of 10 PM and midnight get pushed aside for mindless scrolling of social media. And mindless scrolling tends to make my mind race. Rather than being relaxed and ready for sleep, my brain shifts into overdrive right before I need to shut down for the night, which leaves me feeling restless. And, no surprise here, I’ve noticed a gradual uptick in my anxiety. Apparently, the recommended amount of sleep is recommended for a reason.
My husband is usually in bed by 10PM. We often don’t climb into bed at the same time because I stay up so late. In trying to find a pocket of time for me, I’ve taken time away from my marriage. Sounds pretty dramatic, but it’s true. Sure, we’ve been going on more regular date nights, but getting in bed together (romance aside) offers a consistent opportunity to really talk without distraction. Until my husband started pointing this out, I hadn’t realized the trade I was making — it’s important to note my husband has also been getting tired (ha!) of my morning exhaustion.
Self care comes in a lot of forms. And, sometimes, habits we think are helping us may be doing the exact opposite. I won’t be able to shift to a 10PM bedtime completely, nor do I want to, but I’ve been slowly changing my night owl status. Instead of staying up late every night, I’m limiting myself to three nights a week (sometimes four) and aim to be in bed by midnight when I do stay up. You know, we spent a long time establishing a bedtime routine for our kids. Seems about time I establish a new one of my own.