18 Things That 'Night Owl' Parents Know

by Leigh Anderson
Originally Published: 

I’ve always been a night owl. My circadian rhythms run about three hours later than is practical for the working world: I like to hit the sack around 2 a.m. and wake up around 10 a.m. When I was single, I made it work by taking only jobs that had a late start. But you know who isn’t okay with a late start? Kids. I know I’m not alone—I’ve commiserated with a lot of fellow parents who, pre-baby, had never seen 7 a.m. on a clock before. Below, 18 Things That ‘Night Owl’ Parents Know.

1. If you’re lucky, you married an early bird, so in the infant stage you can split the overnight shift, with the night owl giving the last feeding and the early bird doing the first one.

2. If you’re unlucky, you married another night owl. Somehow you’ll both be awake at the 2 a.m. feeding, saying irritably to each other, “Go to bed. You need to get up with her in the morning.”

3. You’ll spend $9,000 on child-proofing stuff to turn the living room into what is basically a padded cell, so you can doze on the couch while your baby plays at 6 a.m. You can grab some sleep, in 30- to 40-second increments, until the kid sticks a Lego in your mouth. Totally worth it.

4. Go the fuck to sleep! You scream at yourself as you fart around on the Internet at 2 a.m., when your kids have been conked out for hours.

5. But the nighttime hours are the sweetest hours. You’re the only one awake. The world is full of possibility, far away friends to chat with, and comforting episodes of “Mork and Mindy.”

6. When it’s your spouse’s turn to sleep in, and he mentions that it would be nice if you brought him a cup of coffee in bed, you might spill a bit of the scalding, 4-hour-old brew on him as you hand it over.

7. You play “would you rather?” with yourself: Would you rather be woken three times at night but then everyone sleeps till 8, or would you rather have a solid 8 hours’ sleep but get up at 5:30? Answer: It doesn’t matter, who can fall asleep at 9:30?

8. School starts way too fucking early.

9. Who are these mothers with brushed hair and non-puffy faces? Where are their yoga pants and flip-flops?

10. When the parent–teacher conference sign-up sheet goes up with choices ranging from 7:05 a.m. to 8:10 a.m., you scribble, “LOL WHO CARES WHAT YOU SAY!?” on the sheet.

11. When you finally get a chance to go out with your friends from the old days, you think, as you roll home at 2 a.m., “Why don’t I do this more often? So rejuvenating!” right up until the piercing cry that means “I need breakfast,” stabs you behind the eyeballs.

12. When it’s your husband turn to get up with the baby, but he doesn’t hear her crying, and you have to poke him awake to get up and take his turn, well, that’s grounds for divorce.

13. The cruelest mornings: When the sheer volume of the children wakes you when it’s not your turn.

14. You are obsessed with whose turn it is.

15. You fantasize about your own apartment, in which you could wake up at your own pace, with the customary nine cups of coffee. The apartment doesn’t have to be far away. A mother-in-law suite would do, or even just a tiny bedroom where no one can place Cheerios on your forehead as you sleep. Okay, fine, you’d take a closet with an inflatable inner tube as a mattress. Anything for a little alone time in the mornings.

16. You know that being unexpectedly woken in the morning is like being a fish in a warm, sun-dappled stream, who’s swimming lazily about, only to be violently hooked and yanked into the cold, airless, screaming world.

17. You come up with a lot metaphors for what being woken up too early feels like.

18. You think, how young is too young to make himself breakfast? Five? Six? If he burns himself, I dunno, kids heal really fast.

At this point, my circadian rhythms are completely messed up—I wake early, sometimes even before my kids, even though I don’t even want to. But this can’t last forever, right? I mean someday they’ll be able to get themselves dressed and off to school. And then I’ll probably have to find a job. Preferably one with a late start.

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