11 Feb

Time to Change

Much in the same way one might come to the unfortunate conclusion that to change one’s body for the fitter/slimmer one must exercise and regulate one’s intake of fun-size Milky Ways, Simon and I have come to the conclusion that to change our life for the less chaotic, we need to front-load our days, which is just a fancy way of saying we need to go to bed earlier so we can wake up earlier. That we came to this decision at 11:45 p.m. on a school night is worth a point and a laugh, so go ahead, we deserve it.

Simon and I usually go to bed around 11ish and get out of bed–verrrrrry reluctantly–around 8ish, having been woken up at 6ish by the sole member of our family who can function happily on less than eleven hours of sleep. (It’s fair to say I resent him for this at the same time I’m jealous of his superpower.) If those of you who wake up at 5:30 every day will kindly unwrap your fingers from my throat, let me acknowledge loud(ly) and clear(ly) that we’re incredibly lucky to have schedules that allow us to roll in to our roles at around 9:30 or 10 each day, even though that flexibility is doing nothing for the larger problem that is always feeling like we don’t have enough time to take care of basic necessities, which on too many days includes showering (gross).

Since our usual post-kids-in-bed routine is to flop down on the couch enjoy (well, “enjoy”) some quality programming (recent gems have included Big Trouble in Little China (a.k.a. Big Budget for Little Value) and Funny Games, which we turned off after it turned our stomachs too many times in the first ten minutes), obviously this mindless media-fest, cherished as it is, is the most expendable of our daily activities and therefore the first to be marched, blindfolded, to the chopping block. Of those two hours we spend on the couch each night, if we subtract at least one from the end of the day and add it to the beginning of the day, will we magically find our lives transformed for the better? I don’t know. And I don’t really want to try, although I’m going to do it anyway because blah blah “being an adult.”

(But oh god, don’t even get me started on the time change coming in three weeks. I’ll trade an hour of daylight for an hour of shut-eye every single time.)

What I need is to find a way to make my first zombie hour of the day more productive than my last zombie hour of the day. Or I need to find a way to be less of a zombie. Actual question: Is there a way to train oneself to live on fewer hours per sleep each night? I feel positively rotten if I get less than ten hours–always have–but the fact is that I need more than fourteen waking hours to do all the things I need to do, and although I’m not so great at math anymore, I think this means I need to sleep less.

You people who seem to have time to read a book per week and keep up with multiple television shows and never go to bed with dishes in your sink–how in the world do you do that? One of my pseudo-resolutions for this year is “Thou shalt not compare thy own household to households that include any combination of the following: (a) a non-working parent, (b) a housekeeper, and/or (c) zero children,” but that’s obviously not going to stop me from grasping those people by the hands and begging them to tell me their secrets. Is there a potion? I will drink your potion.

By    78 Comments    Posted in: Regular Entries


  • Two working parents, one dog, one baby, and “non-traditional” schedules on all parts. We do have a nanny but she really just takes care of the kiddo, so I don’t think that counts.

    I live by a schedule and I take advantage of the weekend early wake ups by the baby. I hate getting up when she does, but ineveitably if I do and I start doing things I can knock out groceries, clean bathrooms and 2 loads of laundry by 10 or 11 in the morning…which leaves plenty of time to do more enjoyable things later in the day. I also try to do a load of laundry every day and my husband and I try to split household duties.

    • So what you’re telling me is you just suck it up? I was afraid of that. :/

      (Seriously, I really do suspect this is the problem. I’m SO grumpy about waking up before I’m ready, but I’m thirty-four years old and need to just get over it.)

  • I don’t have any kids, so feel free to give me a swift kick to the shins for this suggestion, but I gave up tv a few years ago in grad school and haven’t really looked back. I’m hopelessly out of touch with pop culture, but I have what feels like a LOT more free time in the evening, and when I’m tired of doing stuff (cooking, taking care of household errands, reading, crafting, puttering around, etc) I go to sleep instead of zoning out in front of the tv like I was used to doing. It means I can get 9 hours of sleep a night and still have my butt in my chair in time for my 8-5 inflexible job.

    • This is what I’m trying to figure out, because we don’t really watch that much compared to what I hear from others. Is a 1.5-hour movie at the end of the day really responsible for our undoing? I feel like other people with jobs and small kids are following three or four t.v. series AND reading for pleasure all the time and I’m like whaaaa? How is that mathematically possible?

      (And obviously it’s not going to do me any good to say “But SHE can do it X way” when the reality is that X way just doesn’t work for us. Boo.)

      It also just occurred to me that one thing that takes a big chunk of time is dinner. We eat cooked-from-scratch meals at home 5 or 6 times a week, and that takes about an hour and half, not counting clean-up. Is everyone else just ordering pizza or what?

      • This, exactly. We try to eat healthy-ish and at home a lot so it means a lot of prep/cleanup but spending the money on more processed/takeout food doesn’t seem like a fantastic trade. And sorry, I’m not going to spend 1/2 my Sunday meal prepping. That blows.

  • It’s some combination of lowered standards and sucking it up.

    Two kids, two working parents, a dog and a cat. Oldest in kindergarten, both in Little League. Family dinners are priority for me.

    The playroom door is shut every night for a reason: so I don’t have to look at the mess. I did break down and hire a once-a-month housecleaner, because otherwise, my floors, toilets and tubs were never scrubbed. I believe the kids benefit from unscheduled, free play — really, I do, but I also like this belief because it gives me time to pack lunches in peace OR read my book on Sunday afternoon. We have a tradition of Saturday morning cartoons, which means Saturday morning shows for me on the iPad.

    I think it helps we have a small house. Less to clean. No way to get away from each other.

    I’m being a little sarcastic here, but really, it’s a constant decision: Do I want to read or watch TV, can’t do both? Do I want my laundry done in one fell swoop or a day at the park with the kids?

    • This cracks me up because, oh, our standards are already pretty low. :)

      A lot of what you guys do sounds a lot like what we do, but the way you put it–always looking at a chunk of time as having a choice between several options–is really helpful. That’s how I was dealing with healthy vs. unhealthy snacks when I was dropping the baby weight, and that mindset works for me. Thanks!

  • This is so my household! Except that my kids like to sleep in too, so we have to drag their sorry bodies out of bed and nag them dressed and so on and so on every weekday. Like you, I am lucky to have a lot of flexibility in my workday, but it is getting ridiculous. I don’t need that much sleep, but I have trouble getting up. If I can get past the first 5 minutes, I am fine. I just lack willpower . . . . And I always regret the extra 30 minutes I spent in bed instead of getting stuff done.

    And I like your non-comparison policy. I am routinely embarrassed by the condition of our home. But, I prioritize other things that make me happier than a spotless organized home. Like TV and a drink with my husband every single night. It is honestly my favorite part of the day and I will not give it up!

    • Yes! For the longest time I was able to remind myself that my house was crazy because we were spending time having fun together instead of scrubbing tile, but lately I’ve felt that maybe a little more balance is in order. Specifically, last week I had a few days off work to do a semi-major cleaning/organizing session in preparation for W’s birthday party, and when it was done and there was space to WALK and LIVE and BREATHE, I felt SO MUCH BETTER. (Let’s not talk about all the things that were simply shoved in to closets to be dealt with later.) I know we’re always going to live in a fair amount of chaos because (1) small children and (2) fun family togetherness is better than chores, but yeah, balance. I don’t have to completely give up one lifestyle to enjoy the benefits of the other.

  • You can try my solution, which is to take Unisom every night for six months (for morning sickness), then finally stop and magically find yourself MUCH more awake in the mornings. It’s sort of like that parable/fairy tale/whatever where the family who thinks their apartment is too small is told to get an elephant (or something like that, I don’t know). Once the elephant is gone again, WOW so much space! Aka, once the sleeping pill is gone, WOW so less tired!

    I just typed WAY to many words for a fake and unhelpful solution.

    • Haaaa. This is awesome. (One of W’s favorite books as a toddler was “A Squash and a Squeeze,” which tells that story.)

  • I will drink it too. Tell me when you find out what it is.

    • What we need to do is find a recipe so we can make our own and then distribute it. We’ll be rich! Rich enough to hire housekeepers!

  • I am just as attached to sleep as you are, Leah, and I have always been more of a night owl than a morning person. However, between my husband’s ridiculous inability to sleep past a reasonable hour (he wakes up WITHOUT AN ALARM before 5am), and my own realization post-kid that I had to get my act together earlier in the day, my hand was forced into becoming an early-to-bed/earlier-to-rise person. Barf. I know.

    On weekdays, I get up at 5:45 to exercise/run and then I get F up at 7 sharp so that her dad and I can start the breakfast/shower rotation. I have to be out the door around 8/8:15 and she has to leave for school by 8:30, so the morning is quite compressed. But we get it done. TV watching happens during grown-up dinner, which is post-kid-bedtime (7:30 sharp), and then I read for maybe half an hour before lights-out (usually by 10pm). I definitely am not completing a book a week and I don’t watch many TV shows, but I do get some downtime on the couch in the evening, which is about all I want.

    And I would say that the adjustment to waking at the earlier hour was hard, but within a couple of weeks, I got used to it. I still “sleep in” until 7:30 or so on the weekends (horrors to you, I know, but it really feels like sleeping in after five days of 5:45), and I am lucky to have a kid who doesn’t fight bedtime and who stays in her room until I come get her in the morning. The upside of getting up at the crack is that by 10pm you basically have no choice but to fall asleep because you are shattered.

    • As much as I look forward to kindergarten, I’m dreeeeeaaaaading the idea of anyone in this house having to be anywhere on time before 10 am. I haven’t had to be anywhere on time before 10 am in…many years. Like, since college, when I scheduled my earliest class for the crack of 9:15. (I’ve spoiled myself and am now ruined. Ruined!)

      I really do hope I’ll find a way to get used to getting less sleep. Every year when the clocks spring forward an hour, I pretty much feel like I’m getting up an hour too early every day until the clocks fall back again. Every day! That’s not normal. It’s possible I’m broken.

  • Oh, and on the dinner issue: I cook 5-6 times/week (making dinner is THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE, seriously), but they are FAST meals (stir-fry, pasta, roasted whatever) that take little time to prepare, and the prep work is done on weekends or right when the groceries arrive.

    • Our dinners are relatively fast too (and Simon cooks 90 percent of the time), and although it’s been a capital-R Revelation to see how much more relaxed the evenings feel when I’m able to throw something into the crockpot earlier in the day, I don’t always have time to prep that stuff when I’m supposed to be working. Like, uh, right now. (I should probably get off the internet and chop some vegetables or something, shouldn’t I?)

      Seriously, though, I’m hoping that the hour I gain in the morning can be used to prep dinner so it doesn’t gobble up so much of our evenings because gaaaaaah, food is the worst and I wish we could all just take a pill Jetsons-style.

  • Two kids, no animals. One of my secrets is that my husband works from home, which helps in that he runs laundry and soaks dishes, vacuums. Does not actually finish many tasks because he occasionally has to work while home (what’s that about?) but it cuts some of the time off the finishing. I read a lot, don’t actually watch a ton of tv. I exercise less than I should but I try to do it at the gym on my lunch break at work when I can. I don’t get enough sleep, but you should probably know that I require more than 8hours, so “not enough sleep” is probably relative.

    My house is always relatively clean but I don’t obsess over the bathrooms or the baseboards or under the beds, and I refuse to dust (my husband does it when it bothers him, which is far before it bothers me).

    I’m also with Hillary – I have a small house so there’s just less to clean, and I prioritize for the most part. Just don’t look at the dust under my bed. One day I’ll break down and get an occasional house cleaner.

    • Ahh, the work-from-home thing. See, I’ve worked from home for…fourish years now, and as much as I insist that it’s great because I can throw in a load of laundry or unload the dishes whenever I want, I really can’t/don’t because I’m working. And I feel horribly guilty about it because even though I’m working a full day, just as I would if I were in an office, I feel like housework *should* be mostly my responsibility because I’m HERE.

      S and I had a good discussion the other night about how it might be helpful for me to put a virtual monetary value on house stuff I’m able to do during the day because otherwise it’s hard for me to justify, say, vacuuming when I feel like I should be working or at least hustling for a job. S makes about 4 times more than I do, so on that end I feel guilty about not contributing more to our finances, while on the other hand, I feel guilty about not keeping a tidy, well-run house when I feel like I *should* because I’m not the breadwinner. The good news is that this is all in my head (he doesn’t expect me to keep a tidy house, and he does more than his fair share of housework), but the guilt is really starting to wear on me lately. In what has always been (and will always be) a battle between time, money, and house/life stuff, I’ve always let the last of those be the lowest priority, and I’ve always been mostly okay with it. But now, for some reason, not so much. :/

      My stop-gap solution has always been to lower my expectations (“No, working from home doesn’t mean you’ll have time to exercise and garden and keep your craft supplies neatly color-coded”), but I think I’ve hit my limit where those expectations have sunk too low, even for me.

      • I think when the other party works from home, you see it differently. Sure, I’m sometimes a little resentful that things that I need done aren’t always done (this is in direct relation to the knowledge of the movies and video games played, as he is ticket based so he sometimes has a lot of down time) but most of the time I’m grateful that when I come home the clean laundry is sitting on the couch waiting for me to fold it, and the kitchen is generally clean and the rugs are generally vacuumed. I feel like the rest of the stuff is more manageable that way.

        I am responsible for 100% of our food intake – I do all the cooking (5-6 nights a week, kid lunches and all the weekend meals) and all the grocery shopping and meal planning. I love to cook, so I don’t mind. Since I have a high stress job and I occasionally travel, my husband does 60% of the kid stuff, and 95% of any middle of the night nonsense (there’s far too much of that for a 3 and 6 year old). He takes the kids to school and I pick them up from aftercare. The cleaning is 65% me, only because he’s not very thorough (like food still being on dishes) so I’m going behind him often.

        You have to find a balance that works for you, and only you can know what that is. Maybe scheduling your day for a week will help you decide what’s most important to you? You can give yourself days to get stuff done, and then days to chill on the couch and ignore everything.

  • No kids over here, although we do have an incredibly spazzy dog, so take what I say with whatever grain of salt necessary. First, I think everyone feels like there aren’t enough minutes in the day to do everything they want to do. For me, a big recent revelation was realizing that some of why I can’t get that stuff done is because I’m wasting time on stupid stuff. Now, I’m not going to tell you to stop surfing the Internet, obviously, but I have tried to cut back on that. I’ve also tried to cut back on things like reading magazines, and other stuff that’s just not important to me. Also, in terms of sleep, you probably can’t become a person who lives on 6 hours of sleep, but 8 is realistic. It really helps me to allow natural light to come into our bedroom, if that’s possible where you live. We couldn’t do it in California, because the horribly security floodlight from our neighbor’s house pretty was aimed pretty much right at my pillow. But now we don’t have curtains on our bedroom window, and I find it much easier to wake up when the room is getting light, anyway. If you can’t have natural light, they do make these special lights that are supposed to mimic daylight and gradually awaken you. Might help. I’d also be sure you’re getting good sleep. It may be that you need 10-11 hours because you’re sleeping really restlessly. Is your bed comfortable, or do you toss and turn all night? Do you drink caffeine? I sleep WAY better since I gave it up almost entirely. (Other than an occasional cup of green tea.) Is your room dark enough? This is tricky with urban living and also wanting natural light to come in, but it really helps to have a pitch black room to sleep in. I actually find that I sleep less well on nights when the moon is really bright because our room is suddenly lighter.

    • Oh my lord do I waste time on stupid stuff. But…I feel like a certain amount of that is important for my mental health. Twitter, for example, is not something most people would consider a good use of time, but for me, working from home all day alone, no coworkers, it’s the only interaction I get outside of my family and a few polite nods at the other daycare and preschool parents. So while Twitter/blogging/related stuff doesn’t have a direct positive impact on the state of my house, it does make a big difference to the state of my emotional well-being.

      And that’s just one example of why I find this all so hard–it really is “balance” instead of “choose this or choose that.” I need to do the dishes AND work AND have adult conversations with people besides my husband AND watch a little t.v. It would be so much easier if there were a Right Way that I could just figure out and do forever and ever. :)

      The sleep tips are good, although I’m pretty sure I’m getting enough good rest. I sleep deep and hard but always struggle out of bed. Always. I think maybe that’s just the way I am? I don’t know.

      • I think this conversation is fascinating. And I think you’ve articulated why balance is so freaking hard. It’s not a static thing. Think of a balance beam or a seesaw balanced on a point. To stay upright, you have to sway a little. So it’s this constant readjustment. Today, our family dinner is going to a be a 10-minute deal while the boys get on their baseball stuff and we head to practice. Tomorrow, I’ll have plenty of time to cook while the boys play Legos and decompress from school. Right now, I’m obsessed with Veronica Mars and spending free time on that but can’t seem to focus on a book to save my life. In a couple weeks, I’ll find a book I can’t put down and won’t be watching any TV.

        • Yes, the constant balancing act is SO hard for me. The way my brain works, I keep thinking I can find a way for things to be balanced and then STAY balanced, and it’s good to remember that that’s never, ever going to happen.

  • Well, I’m currently considering a coffee addiction because I’m such a night owl and that really interferes with the getting of kids to school fed, clean and dressed on time. So I’m thinking coffee will be a double win, assuming it doesn’t jack my anxiety way up, which is exactly what it’s done in the past. =)

    I got a LOT better at routines when K started kindergarten. Oh my yes it was hellish for at least half of the first year but now my second year in, I can see how things have slowly changed and shifted for the better for all of us.

    Maybe you’ve heard me talk about flylady (of http://www.flylady.net) before and it’s kind of lame/cheesy/target audience isn’t probably exactly me, but I use some of her stuff. I particularly like her “flight plan” for the day (http://www.flylady.net/c/fp.php?tzm=480) because it gives me a sense of accomplishment for that day, and SHE does all the thinking about what to clean when and I know if I just keep doing that all or most days, I’ll eventually clean everything in the whole house. So, take whatever’s useful from that, if anything.

    New habits are harrrrrrrrd to come by and one of the things Flylady says a lot is “it didn’t get this way in a day and it won’t take a day to get a different way.” Or something like that. Point is, frustratingly, no overnight changes, but keep at it and over time things will start to be different.

    • I saw your name and knew you were going to say Flylady. :)

      Because we’re brain twins, I did try it (albeit a few years ago) on your recommendation, and what I remember is that the first tip was to just have a clean sink at the end of the day. Just a clean sink! So easy! Buuuuut…we have a clean sink at the end of the day practically never. It’s not easy for us. Having a clean sink necessitates five other things that would have to happen first to make that clean sink possible. It left me feeling pretty deflated.

      It really is a time/money thing for me, I think. I feel like I should be making money instead of doing anything else, so it would probably change everything if I could find a way to let that go. Hmmm…

  • One kid, one dog, and two working parents here. My husband travels 60% of the time, but when he doesn’t, he works from home and it makes life so much easier. Meals: We try and cook Sunday-Thursday, and I have a freezer full of meals I make at a store once a month. We eat those 3 or so days a week and save more time intensive recipes for the weekend. The freezer meals usually take 30 minutes to put together, and save me from eating cereal and frozen waffles when there are just two of us. Dinner gets crazy when my son has scouts or sports practice (he is in first grade), so there are times when we just grab fast food or make a sandwich. Cleaning: we have a cleaning service every other week, and it is the best thing ever if you can swing it. I no longer spend my weekends cleaning and can instead drive all over town from soccer to baseball (joy.) Sleep: I love to sleep, and it never feels like I get enough. We go to bed around 11 (the boy at 8ish). I get up at 5:30 to exercise (sometimes) or between 6:30-6:45 other days. J wakes up at 7, eats at 7:15 and we are out the door by 7:30 so I can drop him at before school care. When my husband is home, J still gets up at the same time, but has more time to eat breakfast and then he goes directly to school. After 8pm, I just relax and read or watch TV, but I really need to use that time to work on house projects.

    I don’t really have an answer for you, but I have regained more of my “me” time as my son has gotten older.

    • I keep telling myself it will get better as the kids get older, but then I spiral into madness as I think about what will happen when they have sports and lessons and homework and all that stuff that they have zero of right now. Aaaaaiiiieeeeee!

      I’m always amazed at what a difference it makes to have dinner ready to go when S gets home from work. If I can find a way to make that possible more often, it would probably make things feel more in control. Now to figure out how to do that in a way that doesn’t mean swinging by McD’s on the way home from school every day….

  • Okay.

    When my boys were your age, I woke up at 5:30 and got myself as ready as I could (usually showered, made-up, hair blown dry, eat my own breakfast) and then I’d wake them up at 6:30. While they ate breakfast, I’d finish my hair and get dressed. Then I’d get them dressed and school/daycare stuff wrangled, then out the door by 7:15 or 7:20. A to daycare, then H to school, then me to work.

    D did the post-school/daycare pickup, and I get off at 4:30, so if any errands needed to be run, I’d run them after work (I also do a lot of them on my lunch hour). Get home by 5 at the latest, cook some sort of dinner, then around 6:30 or 7:00, it was baths and quiet playtime and then bed at 8:30. D and I would watch whatever at 9:00 p.m. I’d do laundry twice a week (still do) and I’d fold and put away while baths were going on and during whatever show we were watching. My bedtime was around 10:00. D usually stayed up and watched some more TV and would come to bed around 11. I had a cleaning lady during those days, and it saved my life. I grocery shopped on Friday nights (still do), Laundry on Sundays.

    • I…sort of want to print this out and make it my guide. It sounds like SO MUCH WORK (because it is!), but it also sounds like it got things done. And it also confirms that, yes, I need to get out of bed before 8:30. Heavy sigh.

  • My alarm is set for 5:45am so I can get stuff done when my entire house is sleeping—it’s my most productive time of day.
    And I’m asleep usually just before 2am—so I can watch tv. (Priorities, yo.)

    I’m not a morning person.
    Or a night owl.
    I drink a lot of coffee.
    And I’m always tired.

    • HOLY CRAP, ALI. Is this a cry for help? Do I need to send you some of Jesabes’s Unisoms? ;)

      • Haaaaaa. Yes. Send ‘em on over. I think I need them!

  • I’m wondering if the 10 hours you sleep are actually restful, maybe that’s part of the problem? Also, I read that Cameron Diaz chugs a 16 oz bottle of water when she wakes up and it helps her feel like she’s actually awake. I like to take all of my advice from people like Cameron Diaz…

    Here’s my schedule (8 hours sleep works for me, but it’s not restful these days because of baby bladder issues, a snoring husband and a dog who licks her self all night long) – Lights out by 10:15, up between 6-6:30 with Moe, long walk with the dog and kid at around 7:30, Moe’s breakfast between 8:30-9:00, short shower/get ready, out the door to work by 9:30 – work until 7pm, home at 7:30-7:45 (sometimes 9pm… ugh), bowl of cereal or left over take out, dishes and/or toy patrol and talk over our day until 8:30ish, I watch tv or read or write until 10. Get ready for bed. DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN.

    I do laundry and vacuum on the weekend and that’s about it. Our laundry situation seems so much lighter than everyone else’s. I can’t imagine needing to do a load every day.

    I do not do much cleaning (cleaning lady and OCD husband!) but also, we don’t make dinner at home pretty much ever. We eat take out, left over take out, and cereal. (Moe gets his own meal, because he goes to bed at 6:30 and who can eat dinner at 5pm? NOT ME.)

    • Oh! I forgot to mention, Seth was home with Moe until Monday and now he goes to daycare, but Seth does night routine with him 5:00pm dinner, 6:00pm bath, 6:30pm bedtime. When Seth goes back to work, a nanny will most likely have to do daycare pick up. Our work lives are ridiculous, but it works for us and usually we aren’t working at the same time. Life in the entertainment industry!

    • I think eliminating home-cooked dinners would change EVERYTHING, but that’s one of those things that’s important to Simon, so it stays. For a while, I was in charge of dinner and it was frozen pizzas and fish sticks and that just wasn’t flying. Bleh.

      I think I’m getting good sleep (I don’t wake up at all), and I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember, so I feel like it’s just how I’m wired. I should probably borrow someone’s Fitbit and do the sleep-tracking thing for a while.

      You mentioned walking the dog every day–that’s exactly the sort of thing that makes me go “But hooooow?” When people have dogs or soccer practice or yoga class or long commutes, my brain just goes BOOM because our schedules are entirely flexible and it feels like we’re always chasing the bare minimum.

      • That dog walk is literally the only exercise I’m getting right now, so just substitute that as “exercise time” and you’ll see how. Also, we have a dog door. She should really be walked more than once a day for her mental health, but um, yeah, it’s not like she has to hold it.

  • We (sadly) gave up a lot of TV watching in recent years for these same reasons and are the boring kind of people who rarely go to bed after 10 pm since we’ve realized those few hours after the kids have gone to bed are just SO dang easy to waste and then you wake up feeling like craaaap and the whole vicious cycle begins again. We have been putting more effort into actually connecting as a couple (ahem) and talking and not just zoning out, tempting as it can be at times.
    And HERE is where I make you feel better: my floor is covered, absolutely COVERED in clumps of dog hair and mysterious crumbs, I haven’t folded laundry in weeks, I am months behind on household/business paperwork, the kids have had Kraft dinner, and they are late for school every day because I cannot pull it together and get everyone out the door by 8:30 am. Being a working parent is a mighty tough gig and you ARE doing such a good job: look at your beautiful boys and the fun you have. That is what they will remember…not the mess. At least that’s what I tell myself when we are drowning in chaotic clutter.

    • I love you. And it’s so nice to hear that cutting out those time-wastey hours before bed have done some good for you guys. I’m so drained at the end of the day that I feel like t.v. is all I can muster, and since it’s my only no-kid time with S, I’m not willing to give it up, but yeah…maybe we can connect while we’re picking up toys or…doing…other things instead of just zoning out in front of the tube.

      And you’re right. We ARE having fun. The house isn’t clean because we go adventuring on the weekends. It’s a direct trade-off. Can I put a sign on my front door that says “This mess brought to you by having fun”?

  • For me, the most stressful part of the day is picking up my son from the babysitter’s on my way home from work, getting home and trying to get a homemade dinner on the table. Thus, meal planning is an absolute lifesaver for me – there’s no standing in front of the pantry trying to decide what to cook or time wasted when I get home. I sit down every Sunday and decide what I’m making for the week (I usually have at least one dish that can be eaten for dinner twice, e.g. a big dish of pasta, a large pot of soup.) This also makes my grocery shopping (which I always do on Tuesday night after the kid is in bed) much easier and faster.

    I also try to do laundry throughout the week so it’s not a massive pile that needs to be tackled on the weekend. I hate putting laundry away, so I’d much rather do one load at a time rather than spending my whole Saturday folding, hanging, etc.

    I also try to make a “goal list” of chores (cleaning, usually) and projects (sorting photos, mailing birthday cards, etc.) I’d like to accomplish each week. Of course, most weeks I don’t get all of those things done, but it’s nice to cross a few items off each week!

    All of this makes me feel a lot more productive, and I don’t feel as guilty when I say “forget it!” some nights and just park myself in front of the TV!

    • Whenever I manage to do some amount of meal planning, I’m always like Yes! This is the solution! But then there are weeks when I feel like I don’t have time to meal plan (or, more often, go to the grocery store), and you know what? That’s exactly why I need to get up earlier/watch a half hour less of t.v. at night/stay off Twitter. :)

  • No kids here, but I just wanted to say that I feel you — I feel like I bust my ass all the time to fit in workouts and making meals out of, like, real food and all that, plus, you know, WORK and maybe occasionally be social. And I am best after 8.5-9 hours of sleep, so, yeah, it’s sometimes a challenge. I can’t imagine what doing that with kids is like, other than impossible.

    But! One thing that might do something for you — I find that doing a couple of super early mornings (i.e. up at 5, gym at 5:30) isn’t too bad. It means I get a little less sleep on a couple of nights, but not the majority, and I gain a couple of hours during the day to get some of that annoying stuff done. I couldn’t do it every day, but I don’t mind it two times a week, maaaaybe three.

    • That feels not-fun, but at least doable. Especially since I’m the type of person who thrives on the reward of having a “sleep-in day.” (But LORDY, 5 am is practically the middle of the night.)

  • This is such a great conversation and I love hearing about how others manage their everyday routines. Lots of similarities and clever time saving ideas. A lot has changed for us personally over the last 6 months while I have started working outside the home three days a week. This means a combination of things have to happen in order for us all to survive… meal planning so I can feed the girls something quick and nutritious when we get home from work/preschool/afterschool care at 4:45pm.

    I make sure I clean my kitchen up AS I GO and this has been a revelation for me. I used to leave everything piled up in a corner as I went and then did one huge pile of washing up, dishwasher loading. Actually this was completely overwhelming for me and as annoying as it is to admit, my Mum was right, washing up as you go is much easier. I run a small sink of water and then wash/rinse as I finish using something. Incredibly this doesn’t feel like I am washing up ALL the time, just means that clearing the sink at the end of the day is a 5 minute job rather than the epic 45 minutes it was taking me to do all the washing up.

    The other big change is now instead of trying to clean the whole house in one go when it gets too messy/filthy to cope with anymore, I clean a room at a time and get the family involved in picking up their own stuff and keeping their own rooms clean. So I will tackle a job in 5 minutes that previously I wouldn’t have bothered to attempt unless I had a childfree hour or more. Like a quick clean of the bathroom while the girls are in the bath, before I would have used that downtime to check facebook, now I wipe down counters, polish mirrors and clean the loo and it only takes me a few minutes and if I do this twice a week, my toilet is way cleaner than before when I used to give it a deep clean once every two weeks!

    I make lunches in the morning so I do have to get up before the rest of the family, but this time has suddenly become quite precious to me, the radio is on, the coffee is brewed and I make sandwiches, salads and snacks so that when I leave for work, husband only has to get the girls up, dressed and breakfasted. The other big change is that once a week my husband and I tackle a task at home together rather than the old habits we had which were eat, flop on couch, watch tv, I would go to bed about 10ish and then he would roll in around 12. now at least once a week we tidy something together, sort paperwork together, work on our plans for the year. It has made my evenings more productive and we are also better at communicating generally which is a lovely side effect.

    I think that the overall impression I get from all the advice is that in order to use time more effectively, being more organised is the key. We all need different amounts of sleep, down time but most of us have about the same amount of stuff that needs to get done. Prioritising cleaning, cooking and family time or at least arranging it in managable chunks of time means we get to do the other stuff we want, sleep, read, or watch tv shows.

    • I love this comment, since it reminds me how many of these things I’ve tried and LOVED and then…forgotten about. Cleaning as I go: YES. Doing something productive after the kids are in bed: YES. Doing 5-minute jobs instead of feeling like I need an hour+ to do that small job as part of a larger job: YES!

  • Two working parents here, four boys (6, 4, and 21-month-old twins), and one dog…and standards so low that you couldn’t limbo under them, which is the only way I survive. We do homemade family dinners five or six nights/week – and the one non-negotiable for me is that I’m nearly incapable of going to bed with dishes in the sink. But I do love me some TV and books.

    I think you already know your answer, and you’re not going to find any argument from me – just sincere empathy, as I am a woman who loves sleep nearly as much as she loves her children. And maybe sometimes a wee bit more, depending on how they’re behaving. But I reached the same inescapable conclusion about getting up earlier a year ago. I can’t say it works every morning – a lot of days I don’t get up until 7, when the alarm is set for 6:30 – but I know for sure that life becomes an utter disaster if that happens for too many days in a row. Thankfully, my husband does the heavy morning lifting on weekends, when I often sleep in until 9ish, so I do get to catch up on sleep – and the adjustment to getting to school on time will be a lot easier if you start making it now, rather than under the pressure of actually being late.

    One other thing that’s worked for us: Family fun time and chores are not mutually exclusive. My older two boys help make up beds, fold and put away laundry, set the table, unload the dishwasher, wipe off tables and counters, etc., and we often do it together so I get a chance to hear about their days or tell jokes and funny stories, etc. Maybe it’s just being thrilled over free child labor, but I like to believe that I’m teaching them how a good attitude makes even the drudgery of life more fun, that sharing the work makes it go that much faster, and that life sometimes demands that you get your work done before you get to do the fun stuff. Sure, there’s sometimes whining/bitching/moaning, and it took a loooooooong time to teach them how to do certain things, but it’s not impossible and ends up really helping in a practical – and psychological – way. Makes us feel like a team, working together to make our lives work.

    • So you think practicing getting up early now will make the kindergarten schedule easier? Because I thought that too, and then I talked to a friend who was all, “Dude, ENJOY your flexibility while you still have it,” and I was like, “Damn straight!” But of course that’s what I said because that’s the easier option. Well, easier in the short-term if not in the long run, and ohhhhhh, LIGHTBULB MOMENT. Play the long game, Leah!

  • My kids are 7 and 5 (I know you know, but just in case) and we are pretty flexible, comparatively, for Americans. Also, I like a lot of sleep. Luckily my husband is both a night owl and an early riser, and after years of feeling vaguely guilty, I have accepted that he only needs 6 hours sleep and have moved on. I like about 9, myself. But then, I’m always the one who gets up in the middle of the night with our still startlingly bad sleeper, so, evens. If someone gets up early (which could be as early as 6 here) he’ll get up with them. I stay in bed till 7.30 or even closer to 8 on a sleepy day. We get the two kids out of the house for their respective nine o’clock appointments. He usually walks with the elementary schooler (10 mins) and I drive the pre-schooler (10 mins drive), but if necessary one person can do both. He can get to work whenever and I eat bonbons all day. (Update blog, run errands, do shopping, pick people up, chivvy homework, cook dinner.) I have literally NO IDEA how people do this if they both work full-time outside the home. In the evenings the kids aren’t reliably done with till 9pm and then we collapse on the couch for about an hour of Netflix-type entertainment. We don’t have cable tv or a DVR, so our choices are more limited and that’s fine. I try to fit some book-reading in by cutting down on my internet time, but it’s HARD.

    • It really is useless to judge our lives against others’ for things like this because obviously we all just make do with the time we have. When I think about households where both parents work full-time outside the home, it pretty much breaks my brain. Do they spend all weekend grocery shopping and doing laundry and cleaning the bathroom? And if they do, are they okay with that? I would not be okay with that. (Which is why we spend our weekends out and about and having fun and our fridge is empty and our clothes and bathroom dirty, I guess.)

  • We both work full time, and we have a three-year-old and a five-year-old. A couple of minor suggestions about the dinner thing that I’ve found helpful.

    One, what we call “snackies” at our house. Probably weekly — though the kids would beg for more — we have some combination of bread/cheese/nuts/olives/salad/fruit and/or other snacks. They love it, and I still feel good that though it’s “convenience” food, it’s pretty healthy.

    Two, when you cook, COOK. If you make spaghetti sauce, make a quadruple batch. It doesn’t add much to the workload, and then you suddenly have three extra sauces in the freezer.

    • I’m writing this down (for my husband, who does most of the cooking). We always have dinner enough to go around that night and then provide one serving of leftovers. What a no-brainer to just cook for waaaaay more than four people. Thank you!

  • I don’t have any advice for you, because while our children are similar ages, I do not attempt paid work at home. I know there are many people–and I think you’re one of them–who consider it basically unimaginable to be just home with kids all day, rather than working professionally. I’m the opposite; I can’t imagine trying to work full-time and deal with my children and all the small yet inexorably pressing things that build up to create life chaos.

    So I guess I would just say that getting up earlier is almost always a good idea, painful as it can be (I got up at five this morning and did the 30-day shred; the combination is just about as nauseating as it sounds), and whatever you end up doing, be gentle with yourself. Changing habits is always hard.

    • Damn, girl. Exercise is pretty much the last thing I’m willing to get up early for. :)

      And while I do work all day and therefore feel like I have less time for non-work things, I don’t know how much more successful I’d be at staying on top of stuff if I didn’t work and had both kids home with me. Maybe my kids are just really needy and clingy, but as soon as they get home from daycare/preschool, I can’t get them off me. Although maybe that would be different if they spent all day, every day with me? I guess we’ll never know, because you’ll have to pry my job from my cold, dead hands, I love it so.

  • I haven’t commented in a million years so first: HIIIIII.

    Second, I have no babies so what do I know. (Nothing.)

    Third, I have the lowest standards. A true thing is that last week I finally hired a housekeeper because I hadn’t vacuumed my house in 1.5 years. YEARS. Now I feel ALIVE with my clean house.

    Four, I gave up TV when I took on a second job last year (I work about 80 hours a week now). It wasn’t a decision I *made* it just kind of happened when I didn’t have time for a few weeks to catch up on my DVR. Then I got so far behind that it felt like work. And then, eventually, after not watching for a few months, I had no desire to watch. It’s weird because when I watch now I get a rush (ooo! that was fun!) but it still ranks so low on how I’ll spend my time when I come across free time. I’m more likely to read (books, articles online) or text friends or go for a walk.

    Fifth, I don’t know if this is scientific at ALL, but I get *richer* sleep when I’ve worked out. My body is so exhausted, I swear, that it makes the most out of the sleep I get. So the busier I am, the more I’m working out, the more I can stick to a rigorous schedule with early risings. I can also crash for a nap if I need to (something I wasn’t able to do at all in my previous life). I kind of think this won’t help you, but it’s worth mentioning I guess.


      I think you’ve officially set a record for non-vacuumed floors. Here, take this tiara and sash.

      As far as t.v. goes, we really don’t watch that much, and it’s almost by default that that’s what we end up doing. Simon would love to spend the evening reading or playing cards or composing music or something more *productive*, but after a day spent reading for 6-7 hours, pretty much all I’m good for is staring into a glowing box. It’s kind of sad.

      But, YES on the exercise/sleep thing. I sleep harder when I’m exercising, but that’s never translated into needing less sleep or making it easier to get up in the morning. Probably what I need is to just stop thinking I’m going to find some magic key to solve the problem and just muscle through it. Sigh.

  • Our situation is one 8 month old, two parents working full time outside the home and one crazy ass hole (me!) also doing a masters part time, going to class two nights a week. It’s been an adjustment to say the least, but our basic schedule during the week is – we all get up around 630 (if A will let us sleep that long!), we nurse, get showered, and get our son ready (diaper change, daycare bag packed, dressed, etc.). The three of us are out the door by 715, on the train from brooklyn to manhattan. The baby and I get off near my office/his daycare and I do drop off, and papa stays on the train for a few more stops and heads straight to work. I do pickup afterward as well (unless I’m in class, then husband does it and they just get home a bit later) and we’re home around 6pm. We play for 20 minutes or so, then my husband gets home and we feed A dinner and chat about our days, engage with our son a bit. Then one of us takes on bathtime while the other unpacks the daycare bag and gets started on any necessary “chores” (getting grownup dinner started, throwing in a load of laundry etc). Once PJ’s are on, I go into our room and nurse the babe while my husband finishes up dinner (or orders it if we aren’t cooking that night), and 15 minutes later or so (between 715-745) A is down and I join my husband in the kitchen/living room. We finish up dinner and usually eat while we watch tv and hang out. After dinner we force ourselves to take just 15-20 minutes to clean up dinner stuff, put away and toys or stuff that got thrown around during playtime and bathtime and just straighten up. Doesn’t have to be perfect or “done” but atleast dishes are in the sink and rinsed, and toys are put away, clothes in the hamper and everything has a quick wipe down. We do this together while we listen to music or a podcast and just chat. It’s become a really nice ritual and for me just helps things not to get overwhelming with the little clutter and messes that seem so much worse after a few days. Afterward, we feel ok plopping back on the couch because we did what we had to for the night.

    Every weekend we pick a few bigger house things we want to tackle. Whether it’s change all the sheets, sweep/mop the floors, do the bathrooms, some yard work, etc. We do just one or two and it’s usually in the evening after A has gone to bed. I mean, we are going to be staying in anyway for the most part, so we may as well take our Saturday night, pump some jams or listen to a podcast and each get busy doing our part of the chore. When we do it together it never takes more than an hour, even if we end up doing 3 or 4 of the bigger things. We have a drink while we work and it ends up being a really nice connecting time for us actually, oddly enough. Weekend days feel too sacred to waste time on cleaning and other BS…we just want to be with each other and our little dude.

    I am very much missing running, which I used to do in the mornings. I’m trying to make it work, I’m just so damn exhausted now. My son sleeps pretty well but it’s inconsistent so I can never really “plan” the mornings when I’ll run (which will require my husband to do daycare drop off, and a few other things that are best planned in advance). Any time I try he has a super shitty night and I end up not going. So that’s a huge work in progress.

    How this all kind of works:
    1. I am supppppper low maintenance (always have been) and never blow dry my hair or put on makeup so my morning routine is quite minimal.
    2. Standards have certainly been lowered in terms of house cleanliness. Right now our bathroom is in desperate need of a deep clean and neither of us can muster the strength!
    3. We cook 5-6 nights a week, but it’s usually very low key. Tuna melts, or pasta with Trader joes sauce and a salad, simple Korean food that’s quick and easy (husband is Korean and his mother keeps us stocked with her amazing kimchi!) We have pizza night once a week where he walks around the corner during nursing time and grabs our usual, and we probably do something more elaborate once a week like awesome fish with side dishes, and then we try to prep a bunch of stuff on Sundays just to have basics (hard boil a bunch of eggs, make a really yummy slaw that will stay good all week, do a big crockpot chili that we will eat from throughout the week.)
    4. And yes to early bedtime. I’m in bed between 10 and 11 most nights, even earlier if I’m feeling extra tired. My husband is usually a bit later, between 11 and 12. He definitely is able to handle much less sleep than I can. I need atleast 8 to really feel good and I am rarely getting it these days, but I’m trying! And we each trade off a weekend day to sleep in a bit so that helps.

    Longest comment ever, I’m so sorry. Clearly I am interested in this conversation :)

    • Dude, you guys are masters of efficiency. I bow before you. The thing that’s standing out the most is taking that 15-20 minutes after the kids are down to do some basic tidying. I always feel like everything is such a HUGE job that’s going to take FOREVER, so I just…don’t do it. But 15-20 minutes, especially with two people working, seems like it would make a big difference and not feel like TOO much suffering. :)

      • I totally hear you on feeling like everything’s a huge job and getting overwhelmed and just not even trying. I totally used to feel this way and just push things off for many more nights/days than was necessary! But now that we are in the routine, we have realized just how much we can get done in the timeframe if we do it together. It’s totally worth a shot!!

  • We have 1 toddler, 1 dog. Our boy slept horribly until he was a year old, and we still have PTSD about having enough sleep, seriously. Here are some suggestions:

    If you shift your sleep back, do it 15 minutes per day maximum.
    After you shift it to where you want it, then wake up at the same time every day.
    Have something you look forward to that makes you want to get up (COFFEE. LOTS.)

    Add structure to your day so you feel you have to squeeze things in- there’s already a space for them:
    Work 45 minutes
    Do housework 15 minutes
    Twitter 15 minutes
    Work 1 hour

    No screen time 30-40 minutes before you go to sleep (ipad, tv, phone, etc). You’ll sleep better.

    Good luck! You are a great mom, writer, and good for you for trying new methods to improve your happiness.

    • Your sleep advice is excellent and likely to work, and so I’m naturally terrified of it because, waaaaaaah, I don’t want to get up early every single day. Time to suck it up and be an adult, though, yes? Yes. :)

  • Two working parents, one four year old, one dog, one cat. I work outside the home full time, & my husband is an artist who works at home 4 days a week (and most nights and many weekends if we’re honest), & deals with the small fry on Fridays J doesn’t have preschool. We also only have one car, & I work 30-90 minutes from home (depending on traffic).

    My husband and I are both night owls, and we both LOVE to sleep too. So, I feel you on a lot of this.

    First off, we both just don’t sleep enough. I should sleep more, but my bedtime is usually around midnight (my husband’s is usually anywhere from 1-3). We get up at 7ish. It’s not enough, I should go to bed at 10 (and I feel better when I do), but I like my alone time at night too much. I do use an app called sleep cycle for my alarm that claims to wake you up w/in a 30 minute window of your alarm time, when your body is “most” ready to wake up. I find I do wake up better with it than a regular alarm, but I don’t know if that’s because it’s a gentle, gradual alarm or because it really does read your body movements.

    My husband will SOMETIMES deal with house stuff during the day, but for the most part, he’s like you–he works to the point of forgetting time–so that’s not an big help. He DOES make dinner many nights, but we mostly do really quick meals, or meals that do a lot of cooking on their own (roast chicken makes many an appearance, since it’s so easy). If I’m going to cook something, like tonight when I made enchiladas, sometimes he’ll help by doing some of the prep.

    Generally, from the point the kid comes home from preschool until his bedtime is a fast paced bit of crazy chaos–we do dinner, make his lunch, do any prep for school the next day, try to fit in a little play time, bath time, bedtime juggernaut. With dinner, usually one of us will clean up while the other goes into the bedtime prep. We try really hard to at least get the dinner dishes (if not the pots/pans) into the dishwasher, out of the sink. But that’s because the sink is something that is important to my husband, so I’ve trained myself over the years to make it important to me too. Cleaning as we go helps.

    We also make the 4 year old help where he can–he has to help pick up his toys & books, he helps make his lunch (or grab things from the pantry for his lunch at least), he puts his dishes either in the sink or in the dishwasher. Not speedy, but helpful (and we hope will pay dividends as he gets older).

    We don’t clean often. Seriously, it’s just not a priority for us. We will take a weekend day every couple of weeks and deal with the big stuff (mostly the dog hair omg the dog hair is going to kill me), but I don’t worry about a clean house. We kind of deal with clutter as we go, mostly because we have to–there’s limited space, limited flat surfaces, so there comes a tipping point with that stuff. But there’s a 1/2 of our dining room table that is just…paper. Actually, we just had a cleaning service come in for the first time *yesterday* (it was a christmas gift), and holy cow is it amazing. We’re going to try and find a way to spring for it once a month, then I can completely ignore the cleaning we can’t get to. (And fwiw, they totally cleaned around the clutter for us. We tried to pick up, or at least make neater piles of things, and they totally worked around it.)

    After J goes to bed, we usually do our thing–we either watch tv together, or he goes back to work while I hang out and watch tv/write/etc. I watch a lot of tv, because I am brain dead lately. I tend to save books for reading while I get ready, during lunch, or weekends. I spend a lot of the evening online. I could use this time for more productive things, sure, but it’s the only time I get to myself, so…nope. It’s mine, you can’t have it, is my theory.

    Because we only have one car, most outside the house errands like grocery shopping are done on the weekends or if it’s stuff that can go w/out refrigeration, by me on my lunch hour. On the weekends, we each typically get ONE sleep in day where we can sleep as late as 11, which is my favorite day of the week. But overall, we just have learned to get by with less sleep, and we have decided what our priorities are around the house (the kitchen & laundry mostly) and make sure those get done even if nothing else does. And then we cut ourselves slack on the rest. Our priorities just aren’t in having a super clean house, and you know what, that’s OK. We have a happy, comfortable home that we enjoy. I don’t want all of our time in this home to just be work work work, you know? Especially since my husband DOES work here. He needs some time in our home that isn’t just a task list.

    I don’t know if any of that (holy cow LONG, oops sorry about that) comment helps you at all, beyond maybe someone else going “I feel you. Being a grown up suuuucks.”

    • I love this because it sounds so similar to our situation (minus one crazy kid and plus one dog), and where you end up is where I try to end up on most days: our priority is having fun and being comfortable, and sometimes that means the house isn’t clean, but eh, who cares. This is exactly how I feel MOST of the time. But then sometimes we visit friends and everything looks so…calm and organized, and I get jealous because I want that! And then I realize that they are not living the same life we are (different work situations, different kid situations, different help situations), so when I’m wishing for the calm and organization they have, I’m kind of, in a transitive sort of way, wishing for the life they have, which…no, I love the life I had. I just wish it was less cluttered, you know?

  • 2 working adults with a 10 year old part time here. We are super low maintenance as well and have a tiny house which helps. But mostly we benefit from my partners hours. He works 5-2 so we have to go to bed at 8:30, no excuses. I get some extra sleep once he leaves, then it’s get me ready and pick up the munchkin to take her to school on my way to work. He is able to get home, do homework when we have the munchkin here or do his own relaxing when she isn’t and dinner is ready when I get home after 5. Then I get the dishes done and we can maybe watch tv or do fun family stuff when we are all together. I watch my tv on Sundays during laundry, it’s my time and the only time when I can do my own thing.

    • Big thumbs up for keeping something for yourself. I have zero problem doing that (I could actually afford to be a little LESS selfish in this area), but it’s heartening to read so many comments from people who also protect their own time to just do what they want–even if they’re folding laundry at the same time.

  • I made my mother-in-law come live with us.

    Well, really there were a lot of reasons behind that that are long and gory, but the end result was that my husband and I can both work outside the home, and there’s still a person there to be a homemaker (and after my mat leave, a nanny). It has made a WORLD of difference. It helps that she’s a super cleanfreak who loves to cook and whom we both get along with supremely well. I cannot fathom how I got so lucky–and I know that’s 100% what my situation is: LUCKY.

    Prior to that state of affairs? Lots of takeout, once a month binge cleaning, and coffee.

    So my vote is commune living.

    • That sounds dreamy. We talk frequently about how nice it would be to have family closer than 600 miles away so we could drop the kids off for a few hours and just have some time to tackle chores that are impossible with two little kids running around need-need-needing all the time. I guess this is what babysitters are for, eh?

  • I have some experience with the sleep issue – I am a sleeper. I could sleep 10 hours every day and be blissfully happy. I’m also a night owl, my ideal schedule would involve a 10am wake-up. But I work in a factory where my presence is expected at 7am in a washed, coiffed, dressed condition.

    In college I discovered that I can thrive on fewer than 10 hours of sleep, but not just any amount. My standard sleep schedule is 7.5 hours. In bed and *asleep* by 10 and up at 5:30. I wake up, I feel good. If I stay up until 11 or sleep in until 6:15 I feel like crap. 8 hours of sleep is basically as bad as 6. There’s another step down where I can get by for several days in a row on only 5 hours of sleep, but it’s harder to drag myself out of bed. If I shoot for 5 hours I double up on alarms to avoid disabling them in a sleep-trance.

    I don’t know if it has to do with REM cycles or if it’s a total fluke but this works for me. I still don’t enjoy getting up early but I schedule my wake-up with a bare minimum of fluff so if I hit snooze more than once I’m basically guaranteed to be late for work. It starts every day in a mildly rushed panic, but once I’m up I at least don’t feel yucky.

    Hope that helps.

    • You bring up an important distinction here that I hadn’t really thought about. When I say I “need” 10+ hours of sleep, what I really mean is that’s how much I need so that waking up doesn’t feel like torture. Once I’m up, though, I’m fine. And this is true whether I get 10 hours or 7-8 hours. It’s not that I drag around exhausted all day, because I don’t. Maybe the problem is that I just really, really hate waking up. The bed is just so warm and snuggly…

  • Well, not sure what I can say that hasn’t already been said, but here goes (because I’m not one to give up on words): What I usually have to give up in order to do the other things I want (like read books/watch TV/spend time with friends/read blogs/waste time on Facebook) is sleep, which I am more than happy to do in order to do those things but it does have a tendency to make me grumpy and always feel tired, so not sure it’s the best solution. :)

    I am a night owl and have always had trouble waking up and WANTING to get out of bed, no matter how much sleep I had gotten – I thought maybe I was always playing catch up with my sleep. BUT, a month ago, I starting taking Zoloft for anxiety and now I wake up alert and ready to get out of bed – I had no idea that was even possible or could be my norm. Not that I’m saying you need Zoloft… but there you have it. I’m so glad it has had that unintended side effect.

    • Well, hooray for finding something that works! And you’re right: there is a trade-off (sleep or blogs, sleep or friends, sleep or t.v.), and there will probably always be a trade-off. It still sucks that I can’t have both/all, but reframing it as a CHOICE is still helpful.

  • I wonder if you gave yourself scheduled breaks from work during the day would help. A 15 min break in the morning to wash the breakfast dishes, a few extra minutes during your lunch break to vacuum or fold laundry, etc. It won’t help with the sleep problem, but it might make you feel less overwhelmed with household chores.

    • You know, I’ve tried to do that, over and over, but it just doesn’t happen. I still, three years in, keep thinking, “Oh, I’m at home all day! I can just throw in a load of laundry and water the garden and put away the clean laundry and exercise whenever!” but nope, I can’t. I’m working. Last week I sat in the same chair for seven straight hours focused on one project, getting up only to pee and microwave some food, which I ate at my desk. The nature of my work, and the nature of my brain, means that once I’m in the zone, it’s better to just stay in the zone and push through with no distractions. I also get into cleaning/organizing zones, which is why I prefer to spend hours cleaning (which I never get to do) rather than taking care a bunch of little things in 5-minute increments. But obviously that isn’t working, which is why we’re talking about this in the first place. If only I could just…have a different brain? :)

  • No kids or dog but I do have a job that requires I leave the house shortly after 5:30am and don’t get back till about 6pm. So much before my preferred, never needed an alarm, felt awesome span of a year where I would fall asleep at 11ish, up at 7 schedule. Aside from accepting that I feel not as great/more tired, constantly, the only way I can force things done is to do them when I get home, usually with my coat still on and trying to multi-task. As soon as dinner is made (and half the time it’s some half assed protein with microwave steamer broccoli) and I sit down, my brain and body turn themselves off. (The whiny kind of shut down where the bed is too far away and the couch is so comfy, night time teeth brushing uses so much energy whyyyyy level of shut down. I’m a joy to live with.) Have had to be like a shark, never stop moving.

    • This is my favorite advice because that’s so true for me too. As soon as I sit down, I’m DONE. The plan from now until forever is to NOT SIT DOWN after dinner until the kitchen is clean. This will change everything.

  • Long time reader and I am so disappointed regarding your comment of non-working moms. It is insensitive and inaccurate at best. I am a “non-working” mom of 2 preschoolers, 5 and 3. My kids get up between 6:30 and 7 everyday and we are out the door by 8:30am everyday, returning from preschool/activities about 4pm. I haven’t grocery shopped by myself in years and am on duty until their 8pm bedtime. I have a wonderful partner but I don’t want to clean/do dishes and miss out on the after dinner family time and adorable bedtime routine so everything gets done after they go to bed.

    I am hearing you say that things aren’t working as is and you would like suggestions. I have found that a more structured schedule does help me and the kids. And yes, waking up at least 1 hour before the kids is how I get things done. I do laundry everyday and clean/pick up as I go. Also, a once a month housecleaner/deep clean ensures that things get picked up once and month, the house (really the bathrooms) gets cleaned and you don’t have to spend your time.

    I know you tried and didn’t like Flylady, but it becomes second nature to clean the counters/sink and start the dishwasher. I do laundry everyday- and fold it while I watch my favorite show. That makes the mornings so much easier when everything is clean and in its place.

    Having kids is exhausting and amazingly rewarding however we all make it work and I hope you remember that in future posts.

    Thanks for your time- Meredith

    • Hmmm. I don’t think I said anything disparaging about non-working moms. What I said was that I need to stop comparing my household to those of people in situations that, if they were my own, would change the way things are around here. If I added up all the hours I work each week and divided them up between all the areas I feel like I’m behind (housework, social stuff, organization, groceries/meals, hobbies, etc.), it would make a HUGE difference. All those hours I’m working are hours I’m not spending doing all those other things; that’s just math. I’m not saying anything about what anyone else does/would do with their time, and I’m certainly not saying that non-working moms (or even non-moms) aren’t busy, because we’re ALL busy. I hope that makes sense.

  • We’re lucky — the girl wakes up around 7a (sometimes 6:45), which is a totally civilized hour. I try to go to sleep when she does (by 9) but it’s usually more like 10. We are lucky! Also, my husband is an early riser and has trained me into that, and my old job required I be there by 8:30 so I had to get up somewhat early … As for getting things done, I do read, which is what keeps me up late(r), and cook, and try to keep organized, and as to why/how I can do that all I can say is that I rarely sit down, probably everything I do is done to 80% perfection and is always lacking a tiny bit (but, it’s done!), and I am pretty efficient at multi-tasking and managing my time. That said, I also have a lot of nervous energy and I wish so much I didn’t, that I could laze about a bit more. And I only have one kid; I can’t imagine I could do all of the stuff I do with two … ie, you’re doing great, mama!

    • I’m an expert lazer and am more than willing to trade some of that for some of your nervous energy. My MIL and SIL are both like you–it seems like they CAN’T sit down if there’s work to be done–and although it always feels a little frantic and busy at their houses, it also feels CLEAN. I need to get me some of that.

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