Happiness Commandment #3 – Go to Bed Earlier

Previously on Hot Breakfast: Recently laid off and clutching a well-worn copy of The Happiness Project, I wrote  Ten Happiness Commandments. The idea was to create guideposts to keep me on the right path when the days at home got long and my supply of good cheer ran low. 

I’ve been good at following #1 and #2 (not to be confused with Number Two.)

I stopped there because other more timely posts overtook the commandments. But if I’m honest with myself, I also stopped there because I didn’t want to face #3: Go to bed earlier.

Since I left my job, bedtime has only gotten later.

When I was working, I’d aim to be in bed no later than 11. Maybe watch some Daily Show, but definitely lights out by 11:30 at the latest. Even then, Pat and I berated ourselves to get to bed earlier. (“Too late!” we’d mutter in unison from opposite sides of the bed as the Colbert eagle shrieked.) 

On the rare night we had lights out by 10:30, I’d wake in the morning to little cartoon birds pulling back my covers. I’d spring out of bed, do a little dance around the room and compose a song lauding the wonders of sleep.

But that’s a thing of the past. Now, bedtime is creeping to midnight and beyond. That’s not even night. You’d better believe there are no more cartoon birds in the morning. Just the clatter of the coffee pot. Me snapping, “Noah. Just. Give. Me. A. Minute!” More coffee. 

That’s right. This lady:

Oh, sleep. I love it so. So why don’t I get more of it?

My kids are good sleepers. (Why did I tempt the evil eye by putting that in writing?) Getting up with them in the middle of the night or extremely early in the morning is not the problem. 

I’m the problem. Because the only thing I love as much as sleep is time to myself. Awake time. 

From the minute the kids get up (which is usually when I get up) to the time they go to bed, alone time is out the window. Sure, there’s usually a 1 1/2 hour nap break, during which I can put Noah in front of the TV and do what I wish. But doing anything not officially “productive” (e.g., writing these posts) is at my own risk.

Not using that time wisely (dishes, meal prep, etc.) creates a domino effect of disorder. It’s like my own personal dentist office: the first appointment starts late, and by 2:00 you have a bunch of crabby patients in your waiting room.

Like any normal parent (um, right?), I spend a good part of my day fantasizing about 8 PM. That’s when, on a good night, both kids are in bed. The only sound to be heard is that of plastic trucks being thrown, one by one, into their plastic bins by whichever parent is on clean-up crew. The soft click of a laptop keyboard. The rumble of the dishwasher. Ahhhhh. 

“Me” time begins.

8:15 – Put on running clothes. Lace up shoes. Hunt for earbuds. Experience the wave of nausea I feel EVERY TIME before I run. Attempt not to trip over speed bumps and step on road kill in the dark streets. 

9:00 – Return to house, red-faced. Gulp water, sort of stretch, and shower.

9:30 – Open beer/pour wine (just one, of course. At least, just one at a time.) Peruse internet.

10:00 – Turn on latest DVR’d episode of Breaking Bad. Wave fist in the air at Time Warner Cable for the horrible quality (all freezes and blips). Vow that we are giving up cable next month. Search for Roku remote. Find it in the bathtub. Click around to find Breaking Bad on Amazon Prime. Attempt to remember purchase PIN.

10:30 – Start Breaking Bad.

11:00 – Ice cream break. Check on kids. Spend five full minutes transplanting the intricately arranged Hot Wheels from Noah’s bed to the nightstand.

11:15 – Resume Breaking Bad. Pause to identify noise outside the window. Owls. My God, is that the sound of love or hate?

11:35 – Finish Breaking Bad. Turn on last night’s Colbert Report to accompany teeth brushing. Keep pausing and rewinding the minutes missed while spitting.

11:45 – Get into bed. 

12:00 – Colbert ends. Lights out. “Too late!” is the opening line of the first full conversation we’ve had all day. Of course it’s about something stressful, like that weird rash on Rory’s leg or if we should capitulate to the hard-driving sellers of our potential future house.

12:15 – Drool into pillow. 

So what am I to do? I have fantasies of a total overhaul: get up at 6 AM, work out, be fresh as a daisy and centered as a yogi by the time the kids wake up. On the other hand, I may just be a night person. 

Either way, something’s gotta give. No one likes a sleep-deprived mama. Or wife. We are the nastiest kind.

So: people who have successfully moved their bedtimes up, any suggestions?