Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Courting the God Morpheus

S'okay - I realize that it's been almost a month since I last blogged - and that was from the hospital. Hopefully there are a few of you still out there checking in periodically, so I wanted to say hi and blog about something that's been on my mind lately - and that is sleep.

I know there's a bunch of research saying how adults actually need more sleep than we used to think - 9 hours is not considered too much. But what I've been up against lately is the full set of cultural baggage surrounding sleep and what it says about your status in life, your responsibility level, laziness, etc.

Here's the deal: I like to sleep. A lot. I like staying up late and sleeping late. Having twins puts a cramp in this, obviously. But, having twins and 3 surgeries in 9 months makes it mandatory that I get enough sleep, in my opinion. But what is enough? It's not just what each individual body needs - and that differs greatly from person to person. It's what other people think you should have.

The baggage is this, I think:

1) If you "sleep in" (i.e., after, say 8 or 9 am), you're either an infant, a college student, unemployed, and/or lazy.
2) If you're a parent and you're not sleep deprived or if you don't get up for the day at 5-6 when your children initially arise, you're a bad parent.
3) If you nap during the day (either when you should be working or when someone else is taking care of your children b/c you pay them to), you're lazy and you're a bad parent.
4) If you need 9-10 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, you're probably depressed.

It's funny b/c when babies are first born, they tell parents to sleep when they sleep, which means you're supposed to catnap all day, which is impossible b/c - you know - I'm an adult. BUT, when they get older, sleep through the night, and wake up at 6, you should get up, too.

Sirs Guy and Miles awaken anywhere between 4:45-6:30 and want their morning bottle. I stagger out of bed, give it to them, change their diapers, throw some toys into their cribs, and then stumble back to bed, where I put EAR PLUGS in and an eye pillow and sleep as long as I bloody can - sometimes until 8:45 if they don't freak out. Now, they are fed, safe, not sitting in their own filth, and (hopefully) not too bored. I can hear them scream through my ear plugs (at which point, I would get up and take care of them), but the plugs keep out the babbling and vigorous shaking of rattle toys that would otherwise impede my sleep. During the day, I often sneak home and sleep for an hour and a half, especially if the boys are at my mom's during the day. I know parents who have told me that they wouldn't trade the couple of hours they get to spend with their children before daycare for anything in the world - I sleep.

The thing is, I feel guilty about this. Why? Partly b/c TD, and I love him, doesn't get as much sleep b/c he has an hour commute and HAS to be at work for 8 hours a day. So, he's resentful. Medieval Pop and Mom both have always been early to bed, early to risers (goddam Ben Franklin) - but they act like it's some kind of MORAL INDEX when they get up early - probably again, b/c of goddam Ben Franklin. Medieval Pop was just visiting for the weekend and would get very resentful when I'd sleep in until 9am (also because I wasn't taking care of his needs, entertaining him, and feeding him early enough, but that's another post). But, he felt morally superior - like I wasn't facing the day and taking care of my children. I've realized just how prevalent the idea of the inherent morality of rising early and (potentially) sleeping too little really is - along with that comes the condescension (whether because of jealousy or otherwise) with which those people deal with those (like me) who need and take more sleep.

I've promised myself that I would stop apologizing for sleeping "too much" - and at some point, I will stop reminding my family that I've have health problems, etc. - because that dog won't hunt much longer. I've been frantically trying to find ways to explain my need for and desire to sleep longer than most of those around me - but the question is: should I? My work gets done, my classes get taught, my children are happy, healthy and loved. I don't feel like I do the bare minimum on any of these things (although some days I do - so do we all).

Why can't I get completely past the guilt, though?


Alison said...

I can totally relate...not to the kid portion of the equation, but to the needing lots of sleep part. I've always been a napper and most people (especially my parents) seem to think that I must be depressed because I nap. I just need that 45 min. of extra sleep to pick myself up for an afternoon of work. Sigh. I think your morning strategy sounds delightfully sane...if/when I have kids...I can totally picture myself doing this!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I'm a morning person, but right now I'm traveling in a place where that just doesn't wash: typical gettin' up time is 8 a.m., and much later on weekends. Frustrating thing here: the coffee shops usually don't even open until 9:30. I once translated Ben Franklin's dictum for some friends here, and they goggled in wonder.

But I digress (except for the point that it's culturally relative). I don't know how you get over your guilt, except to tell yourself that every individual body needs what it needs. My best friend in grad school had an optimum sleep time of 10 hours a night, plus a midday nap. And it never stopped her from getting stuff done.

Janice said...

My spouse and I traded off responsibilities based on our respective body clocks. He's a morning person, so got up with the kids in the morning. I'm a night owl, so I took the bedtime through four a.m. oversight.

Sadly, now that they're both in high school, we all have to get up early enough to get them out the door for that schedule. To make it worth my while, I'm teaching three days a week next year at 8:30. Bleargh!

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

The truth of the matter is this: if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. You need sleep? Go for it. It's something that you need. As long as your kids are safe and their needs are met, you're fine.

Now, the only thing that sucks is that this arrangement cannot last forever. Eventually, the kids will be able to climb out of the crib, and then it won't be safe to put in earplugs and sleep. My eldest was able to climb out at 2 and a half years old. A lot of kids climb out even earlier. (My little sister figured it out at 9 months old.) So once they figure that out, your set up will likely no longer be safe.

Here's hoping they don't figure it out any time soon. In the meantime, don't feel guilty about getting your needs met!

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Dear heaven. Three surgeries in nine months? I'd say that dog will hunt for awhile yet. Pull out your Victorian tea gowns and fainting couch, flutter your eyelashes at big strong people who are capable of getting moving at 6:00 a.m., admire them for all you're worth, and drop off in the middle of the conversation.

And I speak as a morning person (but one who poops out early, and whose husband gets a tad bit, um, disappointed about that).

Bardiac said...

I HATE the way morning people seem to think that it's a morally superior thing. Bleargh!

Here's wishing you better health and good naps :) (There's little better than a midday nap!)

Sisyphus said...

Go sleep! And take naps! Fuck 'em, I say!

Some people have hobbies, well you and me have a sport, and let's see 'em beat us in freestyle sleeping, the 50-yard nap attack, or the sleep-wake relay!

This Ro(a)mantic Life said...

Our parents give us lots to reconsider when we become adults, eh? Somehow, when their beliefs are no longer ours, they often get pissy. And I imagine that's their own stuff working them over: why's my kid not turning out in my own image?

I hope that, once the family visit is over, you'll feel less guilt. You and TD are your own family unit -- I'd say what works for the two of you and your children matters much more than what someone else, who doesn't live with you from day to day, thinks. You have to deal with the consequences of your waking/sleeping hours and they don't, no?


What Now? said...

I was totally raised by Ben Franklin-influenced parents (well, I don't think they know that it's Franklin, but they definitely have absorbed that mentality), and I struggle against it all the time. D. stays up late, sleeps late, and takes naps, and I have to fight with myself constantly not to judge her for that, even though I rationally know that it's silly to think that the particular time of day when one sleeps makes any difference at all. These cultural norms are hard to resist!

Andrea said...


Earnest English said...
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Luisa Rodríguez said...

I totally understand; though I don't have children yet. Great post!

Loved the blog!