This is my Dream: No Parenting After 8pm

Several years before I had children, I attended a panel discussion that featured five successful authors. I remember next to nothing about the main event, but I do remember that when the moderator asked for questions from the audience, someone spoke up. She asked:

For those of you who are parents, how do you find the time to be creative?

Four of the five panelists were parents, and their answers were surprisingly similar. They woke up early. By early, I mean four in the morning, or five. But the most striking response came from poet Frances McCue who also woke up early, but added, simply: “I don’t parent before nine am.” This got a laugh of course, but she meant it. Her daughter was nine years old at the time, old enough to get herself dressed and pour her own cereal. If she wanted something at 8:45, she was reminded of the policy.

I believe there’s a reason I’ve been remembering that for the last ten years.


Currently, waking up early and enjoying time to myself isn’t an option. These days, Stump sleeps relatively well between 8:30 pm and 5 am, but between 5 and 7, he insists on sharing the bed with me. If I get up, he gets up.

Smoke is demanding on the other end of things. Lately he stays up past nine most nights, in part because it’s summer and light outside until ten, and in part because his bedtimes are still elaborate affairs. We can’t simply read him a book and kiss him on the cheek. He wants to read a little, and talk a lot, and read a little more. Then he wants one of his moms to lie with him until he falls asleep. We grant him this because it is the only hour where he doesn’t have to share our attention with his wild and willful little brother.


It’s no wonder then that I stay up late most nights. It’s often 10 pm before I catch a moment to myself, and the moment is too precious to sleep through.

This summer I visited a friend with one child, a baby who goes to sleep before seven each night. I tried to imagine what that would be like, to have a quiet house at an hour where it was conceivable that I still might have some energy. I decided that would feel sane. I decided that was something to strive for.

And I will; I will strive for that. It won’t happen next week or next month, and I don’t think that seven is our hour. But I’m imagining the day when Stump is just a little older, when I can read both of my boys a book or two in bed together, then say goodnight and leave them to keep each other company. I will turn out the light and close the door, claim two glorious hours to myself and still wind up in bed at ten.

Please. I’m telling myself that this can happen. Allow me to dream this, okay?


  1. Yes, it will happen one day. Throughout raising my own children, it seemed that while I was living the routine of the moment, that would be my reality forever. And then it would all change and I would find myself believing once again that the routine of that new moment was my permanent reality. Now that my children are about to turn 17 and 19, I can finally see the long term pattern that I really did get more and more time for myself and my creativity, even though the change was in fits and starts with occasional backtracking. Enjoy your moments and keep in mind how fleeting they are. Your children are beautiful btw

    • Thanks; it’s good to be reminded not just that no routine is permanent, but also of the backtracking. It’s true that our progression towards more sleep is not quite linear.

  2. I think it’s totally doable!!!! – just don’t have another baby if you want it in the next few years. Haha. Since I night weaned Nolan I put them both to bed ( summer hours by nine) and if I weren’t so exhausted I could leave them both for a while, on weekends I do sometimes. I’m looking forward to winter when they’ll be in bed by 7:30 again. The give away with that though is they might wake early again. Right now we all ( not Zac) sleep until almost 8! Nolan is like Andre and I can’t get up without him joining me so I’ve been enjoying the sleep! Xo

  3. It’s called the stoplight clock. Kids can wake you up once the light turns green. And you lay out obscure toys downstairs they discover in the morning to play with in the meantime. Also, be a miserable grump any time between 8 pm and 8 am if confronted by a child. I’m not saying it always works or that it would suit you (you seem like a way sweeter Mama than I) but it’s an option.
    Then there’s also the theory that they’re only young for a short time and we should embrace it, but I don’t subscribe to that. 🙂

    • Our youngest woke us up at 5:50 this morning and every 20 minutes after that and every time she woke us I thought of this comment I wrote. That is what I get for giving sleep advice. Damn.

    • Well, getting more sleep and quiet time sure would help me embrace the moment during the rest of our waking hours.
      Oh, and if I’m coming across as a sweet mama, I may have to rectify that–I’m not sure my 5yo would concur. 😉

  4. I’m obviously not an expert since I don’t have kids- but I think this is definitely a beautiful balance to strive for. Having that intention and seeking to make it happen when the time is right seems to me a huge chunk of the battle won.

  5. Love this. I don’t know how old your kids are exactly, but I agree with the commenter above about the clock and also about not subscribing to the ‘they’re only young once’ philosophy ;). You’ll get there. It takes boundaries and perseverance or, failing that, the good ol’ fashioned ticking off of time.

  6. Hi Jenn, just catching up on your blog when I should be sleeping. 🙂 Gus and Lela began sharing a room and sleeping similar hours when she was 2 1/2. We tried before that and it never worked. I had to wean her first. You are probably almost there! If I didn’t have Felix I could have the hours between 8-10 pm all to myself. But the thought of getting up before my early risers is awful! Isn’t 6 am early enough? Gus does have that magic clock and it works for him most mornings…it is set to change color at 6:20, which is what passes for sleeping in around here. Also, I am completely unfriendly to my children at that hour. By my second cup of coffee I can be nice…usually. 🙂

    • Weaning at 2 and moving the baby into the big boy room sounds totally do-able…and not too far off. And just so you know, I am so mean in the middle of the night I sometimes scare myself.

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