It’s predawn. I’m having a blissful dream where I am fully rested, showered, and having witty banter with an exotic stranger (who may or may not resemble my real-life partner). Just as said exotic stranger and I are about to (um, this is PG so use your imagination here), I feel a soft, little hand shaking me.
“Mommy! Mommy! Wake up!”
How could this be? I think to myself. Did the exotic stranger forget to tell me he had children? Rude.
But wait, something about that chubby hand is familiar. Where have I heard that little voice before? Oh yeah. Dream over.
That would be my kid and that would be my less-than-exotic partner lying next to me — sound asleep.
Those crack-of-dawn “Mommy!” wake-up calls are tough to take. But since accepting that this is my life at 5:30 a.m. for the next eight years, I decided to make a plan for survival.
Here are the tricks I use to get one extra hour of sleep:
1. Keep the Kids Room Dark Like a Dungeon
Even if they need a night light to fall asleep, turn that thing off as soon as they close their eyes. Not to be mean, but most kids won’t get out of bed in pitch darkness — a little fear is good for them! The goal here is to keep them in the bed until they emerge, driven in search of food.
2. Put Yogurt on the Bottom Fridge Shelf
It may seem odd to store yogurt in the veggie drawer or deli tray, but people, if my kid can reach it at 5:30 a.m. without me being involved, that’s a win! Bonus tip: Try Nanö drinkable yogurt in kid-sized, spill-proof bottles! Mine love the flavors and will devour it (Nanö has no bad ingredients, so it’s fine if they eat more than one). Translation: The more they like the yogurt, the longer they leave you alone.
3. Get Reading Lights
The ideal situation is that your kid stays in bed as long as possible whether or not actually asleep. A clip-on reading light can become a magic telescope, laser beam, or whatever else you want to tell them that is more exciting than telling them it came from Ikea. Bonus if you have bunk beds because they can tilt the light and shine it on each other.
4. Move a Favorite “Busy” Toy to a New Room
Some kids (like mine) need to see a much-loved toy out of its usual habitat to be reminded that they haven’t played with it in a while. My go-to is to take the Calico Critters set and dump it in a pile on the kitchen table. The kids are then happily surprised to see it there and have an innate need to sit and spend an hour setting up tiny furniture. Sometimes they will kill a half hour just searching for a microscopic, raccoon-sized toothbrush. Tiny rodent accessories = more sleep for you!
5. Get Kid Headphones
When they get bored of whatever distraction you have left out, they are bound to come looking for screen time. I’ll admit, some mornings, Dora the Explorer is more fit to parent than I am. So to avoid hearing the voice of the Big Red Chicken, I’ve taught my kids how to watch with headphones and spare me a rude awakening. Note: Your cell phone earbuds are not up to the task — most kids can’t keep them in their ears very long. Spring for the real over-the-head style for maximum effectiveness.
Some of these may not work every time, but even a 50% success rate is worth gold, cause mamas just gotta sleep! (And it wouldn’t hurt to pick up where we left off with that great dream!)
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