I’ve seen A LOT of articles about early bedtimes for kids. Most of them tout the benefits of early bedtimes for child development, behavior management, emotional regulation, etc.
This isn’t one of those articles.
Well, technically, this post IS actually about emotional regulation: MINE.
Every child in this house has an early bedtime because that is what keeps me from absolutely losing my sh*t each day.
That may not be pretty to admit, but it’s absolutely the truth.
My daily supply of patience runs out around 7:30 PM.
A sassy response or an accidental spill is totally manageable for me first thing in the morning. But 13 hours later?
Thirteen hours later, a sassy response has me ready to sell my oldest on eBay. Another spill has me thinking about burning this place to the ground rather than cleaning up one more mess.
My oldest, at almost nine years old, is definitely capable of staying up later than I put him to bed and still being a normal, functioning child the next day.
Instead, I let him read in his bed for an hour (or more).
He also shares a room with one of his brothers, and if they decide to play Legos together or fist fight quietly for a while after they’ve been safely “tucked in,” well, so be it.
Because the 7:30 bedtime isn’t about them. It’s about me.
I have four boys. They have limitless reserves of energy. I don’t.
They have an endless supply of words and an insatiable appetite for questions and conversation. I don’t.
When they stay up a little later, they still act pretty much the same way they have the rest of the day.
I need time away from them to be a kind mom. I need them in their beds so I can recuperate from the day and prepare to do it all again.
If they stay up late, by the time I finish cleaning up the day’s mayhem and getting the house reset for the new mayhem of tomorrow, it’s REALLY late.
At that point, I’m too tired to relax. I’m too tired to watch TV shows. I’m too tired to share a coherent conversation with my husband.
I’m too tired to do anything but pass out.
That’s been true for my entire time as a mom. But it’s never been more true than this past year.
With the Groundhog Day movie we’ve been living in since 2020, that time after the kids are in bed is more important than ever. It’s the only real break the kids and I get from one another and that break is desperately needed.
Plus, with me serving as their daily Assistant Teacher (curse you, distance learning!), I need the extra alone time to cultivate roughly 5,000 gallons of additional patience beyond my regular supply.
If this article sounds a little selfish, you’re absolutely right–it is.
And that’s fine with me.
It’s okay to be a little selfish sometimes. As parents, we spend so much of our days catering to needs that aren’t our own. We have to put ourselves last again and again, for years and years.
But recognizing that I need this time to recover and reset to be a good mom the following day?
Honestly, that’s one of the best things I can do for my kids.
No one is well-served when I push myself far past my mental limits at the end of the day.
–Not me, not my spouse, and certainly not my kids.
Of course, there are times we make exceptions.
If we have company or are away from home, the kids get to bed when they get to bed.
If a highly anticipated, truly awful Pokemon special is on TV, we’ll let the kids stay up and watch it.
If they have a grandparent sleepover (oh, praise be and hallelujah!), they can stay up ’til the rooster crows.
But most nights, we’re crying about brushing teeth and arguing over 400 bedtime stories while many families are still eating dinner.
So although the clocks have changed and the days are growing longer, my kids will be getting ready for bed while there’s still plenty of daylight left.
And I don’t feel even a twinge of guilt about it.
You shouldn’t either.