How does a Dad handle the altered sleep schedule and survive? After you have children, your sleep habits will change dramatically and a full night’s sleep will become much more dear. I write this before dawn after spending part of the night curled up with a first grader to help him sleep.
Having a child is a tiring thing and part of this will result of sheer lack of sleep. When they are babies, it’s only fair that you take turns handling the night time duties; this isn’t just Mom’s job and she needs rest, too. And as they age, you’ll continue to lose sleep because of child fear, nightmares, bedwetting and illness. Once you think that they’re beyond that, you’ll be staying up late to wait for them as they proceed into the world. This PracticalDad found out last night that he’s going to be a chaperone until 2 AM for a high school cast party. I’ve found that as I’ve aged, I’ve had to rethink what is acceptable for my own sleep.
So how can a Dad cope with an interrupted sleep schedule? Here are some possibilities.
- Take turns with the mother on being "on call" on alternating nights so that you can get a decent night’s sleep.
- When it’s not your call night, retire earlier to catch up on what you’ve missed.
- Rethink your attitude toward naps. I’ve historically felt guilty taking a nap since there’s always "other stuff" but I’ve come to accept that a nap is an acceptable way to compensate for the lost sleep since it helps me continue to function.
- Keep a favorite kid’s video handy to occupy the kids when you need a rest. One of our children slept horribly at night for about a year and I had to contend with an older child as well. When the younger one went to sleep and the older one was awake, I’d pull the video out and let older child watch it as she curled up in my lap – while I napped.
- Synchronize your nap with the child’s nap and even curl up with the child for a period. I found that a half-hour snooze at the start of the child’s two hour nap left me 90 minutes – refreshed – to get work done.
Raising children is a marathon and when you have several of them, it’s akin to an Ironman competition. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of them.