My wife is a night owl. Or at least I think so. I’m not 100% sure when she goes to bed anymore, to be honest. It could be midnight. It could be 4 a.m. I don’t really know because I’ve long been asleep.
I know for a long time she stayed up to get some touch-free time, which was a concept I struggled with at first. But once she explained how the kids are always clinging to her body, I started to understand. I know she also stays up late to get to some time to do things she wants to do, like watch a movie without an animal protagonist or read a book without pictures, when the house is quite and no one is asking for a juice box.
Conversely, I go to bed early and I get up early. But I wasn’t always like this. When we first got married, I waited tables and I often got home from work long after she’d gone to bed. But now, at almost 14 years, I go to bed at 10 p.m. and I get up around 5:30 or 6 a.m. I get up that early for the same reasons Mel stays up late — so I can have some time to myself to do a few things I really love. Our kids are older now, so they can get up and watch TV and get breakfast themselves, so we don’t have them dragging us out of bed at zero dark 30 anymore.
Basically, what it’s come down to is this: at around 9:50, I give Mel a kiss and say goodnight. And when I get up, I kiss her as she sleeps.
I have to assume that there are others parents on opposite schedules. There is something about becoming a dad that means getting up early. I don’t understand it, but here we are. And perhaps it’s the same thing with mothers. A while back, I wrote an article for Scary Mommy about how my wife stays up late, and thousands of moms commented on how they stay up late to get some alone time, too.
The real question is this: how does it impact our marriage?
Well, I’ll be honest, at first it wasn’t awesome. We used to go to bed together. Then we’d snuggle for a bit and discuss this or that as we fell asleep. I miss the two of us falling asleep together, something that hasn’t happened in a few years. I also miss getting up at the same time, although that still happens sometimes when Mel has to get up early. We fought about it a few times. I didn’t understand her need to go to bed late, and she didn’t understand my need to go to bed early.
I think anyone who is on an opposite sleep schedules with their spouse understands that it can sometimes feel like two co-workers punching in as the other punches out. And there are times when there is still some tension. Because the fact is, unless the kids are sick or hurt or something, or the world is coming to an end, I’m going to bed at 10 p.m. I just don’t care anymore. And sometimes, Mel would like me to stay up later to spend time with her. Sometimes I do, but most of the time, I just don’t. I want my sleep.
On the flip side, there are times when I want her to get up earlier. I want her to do something in the morning with me. But she won’t, for the same reasons I have. She wants her sleep.
But for the most part, it’s totally functional. I get time to write in the morning, she gets time to be alone at night, and we meet in the middle. On Saturdays and Sundays, I let her sleep in as long as she wants and she lets me go to bed as early as I want. During the day, we spend time together. We go out on dates. We talk on the phone. I send her flowers once a month, sometimes more. We send texts with heart and kissy face emojis. Even with us on opposing schedules, we have found a way to make it work.
So if one partner is crawling into bed nice and early, while the other is staying up late, realize that you are not alone. It’s actually pretty normal. The key to making it work is how you spend your time in between.
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