I guess one of the things parents with young kids complain about most often is lack of sleep. The frazzled, exhausted mother of a toddler is a pretty common image in our society.
But, lack of sleep is not the issue at our house. Paprika loves to sleep. She loves to nap. She loves to sleep for eleven or twelve hours straight and take two or three hour naps every day.
No, our issue is the time in which Paprika likes to sleep, and the time she likes to be awake. Paprika likes to go to sleep at 4 am and sleep til 3pm. She likes to nap around 11pm and wake up around 1am. It is very hard to get her to sleep at any other time.
I was looking back through old journal entries, and I have found that, overwhelmingly, this has been the case since birth. It doesn’t matter what time zone we’re in, where she’s sleeping, or how late or early she’s been up the night before. I have read every sleep book on the market, done all the “tricks” in the book, and yet…still she prefers to stay up all night and sleep all day.
If you go into her room before 1pm to wake her, she will pull the blankets over her head and say, “Not now, maybe later” or “Go Away!”
Mr. Mustard has been working nights (6pm to 6am) for a few months now, which makes our schedule even weirder. He comes home around 6ish in the morning, we have dinner (usually I throw together some sandwiches before he gets home), then we read Harry Potter in bed together and go to sleep by 7:30am. In the middle of winter, it was still dark at 7:30, but now it’s light out when we fall asleep, and that’s a bit hard on me to try to fall asleep when the whole world outside is waking up.
We sleep til 2ish, then I run into Paprika’s room, wake her up, throw her clothes on, do a quick breakfast, and we run out the door in time to catch the last of the afternoon daylight. It’s very important to me that she has at least a few hours a day of outside play time, so I make it a priority for us all to get up and out and to the park every single day.
Of course, Mr. Mustard’s job has a lot to do with our crazy schedule. I am so grateful firstly, that he has a job (especially in this economy). I am also very grateful that he LOVES his job. I know so many of our peers who can’t stand going to work every day. Mr. Mustard loves his work, loves the people he works with, and is very very good at what he does (I would say he’s the best but I know he’ll disagree).
He loves to work on challenging shows and often works on pilots (new shows that have never aired) because he gets to be more creative. Pilots tend to take a lot more time because they’re figuring out the format, the story, and ironing out lots of kinks. Over the past few years, most of the shows Mr. Mustard has done have been pilots, with a few big, established staples thrown in there like Dancing With the Stars, The Amazing Race, The Bachelor, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Most of the shows Mr. Mustard has worked on have had crazy hours- the kind where you never know if he’s going to come home at 10pm, 1am, or 4am. In general, when he’s working a day schedule, I know I can expect him home by 9 or 9:30pm. So, all things considered, that’s still not that early in toddler-time.
I made a decision long ago that the most important thing was for Paprika to get to spend time with Mr. Mustard, and that we would shift our schedules accordingly so that she could have maximum time with him. It’s made life a little weird for us, to be sure. We have never been the family that can get to the playdate by 10am. When Paprika was younger, I signed us up for all sorts of expensive classes- like KinderMusik and My Gym- in an effort to get her into social activities and to meet other moms. More often than not, the classes collided with her naptime, so we would end up skipping the class or we would go and she’d be tired. Not worth it.
So, what do we do for all of the hours when Paprika is awake during the middle of the night? We paint, draw, read books (lots and lots of books), play music, build kingdoms with blocks, play trains, build puzzles, and create with playdoh. Paprika’s stuffed animals and dolls become characters in the plays we invent. She takes two hour bubble baths. I imagine it’s the type of stuff that any kid her age does at home or at preschool, except since it’s just me, she is always getting my undivided one-on-one attention (and she has a very ready playmate who is always willing to bend to her every whim).
I have been feeling a lot of pressure to put Paprika in preschool (a post for another day)- and I think that if I can find one that fits with our lifestyle, then that’s a good thing. But the truth is that I don’t think, all things considered, that she’s missing out on much. Paprika is certainly not behind in any area developmentally or academically. She reads simple words. She performs her own plays and songs in front of the mirror for hours. She has been able to recognize all the communist leaders by sight (Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Castro, Marx) since she was 20 months old- Mr. Mustard showed her a t-shirt one time with their pictures on it and she still remembers every single one. Colors, shapes, numbers, letters- those things she passed a long time ago.
And as far as social interaction, I guess in the balance of things, I would rather her spend time with Mr. Mustard than anyone else. There was a period of time when I was waking her up much earlier and we were going on playdates with other moms around us, and it was great except that Paprika’s relationship with Mr. Mustard really suffered. She was always asleep by the time he got home, and he never saw her. She stopped wanting to spend time with him. Now that we’re back to synching with his schedule, her daddy is her favorite person in the whole world (he gets to be her favorite because he is pure “fun”- that’s okay with me).
What’s lost in the balance is my ability to spend time with friends, and to get together with other moms. If a friend wants to get together for coffee at 11am on Saturday across town, that is just not going to happen. A 10am playdate at the park? Not do-able. I understand that 99% of the other moms out there have a different (normal) schedule, and when I’m free, it’s not the time that is convenient for them (because they are getting ready for their husbands to come home from work, or making dinner…or sleeping!) That part makes me sad because I miss being able to hang out with my friends on a more regular basis.
Well, long story short (and this has become a long story), is that I spend a lot of time thinking about this topic. Mr. Mustard goes back to days next week on Dancing With The Stars, and so we’ll be shifting our schedule again. I can’t say Paprika will be waking up at 8am, but I do hope to get her on a more normal schedule…one that doesn’t involve naps from 11pm to 1am and bedtime at 4am. I started the process today by going in her room at noon and gently rousing her. She has been a pretty cranky all afternoon (she doesn’t like to be woken up), but hopefully I can slowly start to peel back the clock so she goes to bed at a more decent hour. Baby steps.
I also wonder how if/when a new baby comes home, we will be affected by this new person’s sleep schedule. What if this new baby is a morning person and likes to wake up at 6am, as I hear some babies do? That’s when things will truly get interesting! 😉