Sleep Schedules: What I Wish I’d Known Before Becoming a Mom

At a wedding a few years ago, I made a promise to myself and to my husband: We would not be the kind of parents who were psycho about our (future) children’s sleep schedules.

This conversation started around 11 p.m. on the dance floor. There was one kid left at the wedding: a toddler, going nuts to “Don’t Stop Believin’." None of us could get over this adorable tot. Everyone wanted to dance with him and he was having a blast.

There was another kid at that wedding earlier in the night. His parents made him go home right after the ceremony — they wouldn't even let him stay for the buffet — because they didn't want to miss his bedtime. Like the childless, judgmental fools that we were, we derided his parents and pitied the boy for his rigid childhood.

I decided that I wanted to be the kind of parent who lets her kid stay up late dancing for a special occasion like a wedding. I would be relaxed and cool about bedtimes. I did suspect, though, that this might be challenging for me, based on other aspects of my personality. Structures and schedules help me thrive; I’m not really a "lets just see where the day takes me" type of person, as much as I would like to be sometimes.

Now I have two little kids and I am exactly the type of parent who would make her kid leave a fun wedding because it was getting too late.

To be clear, I wouldn't make her leave before the buffet. But 11 p.m. on the dance floor? No way. Because what naive 2008 Rachel didn’t know is that it’s mom who pays the price when her kid's sleep schedule gets effed up, and the price of those two or three extra hours of dancing is steep. Managing an overtired child the next day is brutal; there are probably going to be tears, temper tantrums, power struggles, and even more missed sleep (because sometimes my kids get so over-tired, they can’t or won’t sleep).

Now that I’m almost three years into the parenting game, I’m starting to truly understand the cliché “never say never.” It helps remind me to try not to judge other parents, because I don’t know the specifics of their families. For instance, leashes. I have a hard time withholding judgment on parents who use leashes on their children. But what if that child has a disability and tends to run into traffic? Would I use a leash in that situation? Totally possible.

That late-night wedding conversation comes up between my husband and I often, because with an infant and a two-year-old, we’re constantly squeezing activities around someone’s nap or bedtime. When I’m putting the pressure on to leave somewhere for the sake of sleep, he’ll remind me, “Remember what you said…?” Yes, I remember, but that was before I knew anything about having very young children. I try to take a deep breath and chill, but in my head all I hear is “tick-tock.”  

So, yeah, I’m the mom who is psycho about her kids’ sleep. It’s not cool, it’s not relaxed, but it is usually what works best for my family. 

What kind of mom are you?