If starting your day earlier is the magical answer, how come it so rarely works?
If you’re among the portion of parents in the country who began working and staying home without childcare for your kids, chances are you probably fell trap to the notion that all you had to do to stay productive was “just” wake up early to work or have time to yourself.
“It’ll be fine!” you may have told yourself. “Great even! I’ll wake up early, have a cup of coffee in peace, and get ahead on my work before the kids are even up. I’ll get so much done!”
After all, tons of helpful work-at-home guides and productivity gurus advise ambitious parents to do just that.
Getting up early is the “key” to getting stuff done.
Heck, you probably thought you might even have time for a workout since you’re up anyway. And maybe you just considered moving that wake-up call to 4 a.m. — what’s another hour of lost sleep anyway?
So, as a hard working and well-meaning parent who definitely wanted to be productive and rock this new lifestyle, you decided to give “just” getting up early a shot.
You set your alarm to get up early and programmed the coffee pot so its enticing aroma would help you actually get out of bed. Maybe you set out your workout clothes, or carefully laid out your journal for some intentional alone time.
But here’s the truth about what happens when you make that fateful decision to actually “just” get up early. One (or in the parenting version of the game of Life, sometimes all) of the following scenarios will happen:
- At least one child begins mysteriously waking up in the middle of the night for “weird noises,” random pukes, or just because they miss you, wrecking all of your sleep so you’re too exhausted to actually get up.
- The baby will suddenly experience sleep regression and refuse to sleep, ever.
- The baby will start teething the same night you make your decision to get up early the next morning and you’ll spend 14,737 consecutive hours without sleep trying to soothe them, rendering your brain totally useless for any productivity whatsoever.
- You’ll magically make it to the coffee pot, sit down with your beautiful cup of joe in blissful silence to begin working… and then at least one child will wake up immediately.
- If you manage to create a habit of getting up early, the children will start waking up with you, forcing you to creep your wake-up time back further and further until, essentially, you’re a vampire.
- You’ll get tired of racing to the coffee pot, sitting down, and then immediately being interrupted by kids no matter what you do, so you will completely give up and just zone out with them in front of cartoons.
The thing about being an at-home parent in any capacity is that it’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re not “doing enough,” or that, if you’re struggling to keep up with work and the kids and the house — and god forbid, anything enjoyable for yourself — it’s all your fault.
It’s easy to listen to “experts” and productivity gurus and a host of well-meaning people that will try to “help” you stay on task, but the truth is, being home with kids 24/7 and no reliable childcare isn’t a remotely normal situation at all.
And sometimes, despite your best efforts and earliest wake-up calls, it’s just not your fault if you fall behind.
Let me repeat that: It’s. Not. Your. Fault.
You’re not doing anything wrong if your kids wake up every time you try to get up early. You’re not failing as an employee if you can’t will yourself into productivity while the kids are all crying around you and the baby needs a diaper change and the preschooler is whining for his 500th snack of the morning.
And you’re certainly not failing as a parent if you just want to give up and run away, even though, sadly, there may not be a place open for you to run away to.
As a parent who has been working from home with young kids for the better part of a decade, I can attest that it’s not you — it’s just that hard.
Every single day I fight a battle to get up early and hope none of my kids decide to wake up early too. And spoiler: someone always does. This morning, it was the baby, who decided to wake up at 4:30 a.m. when I had my alarm set for 6 — so that was fun.
I can’t lie and tell you that it will all work itself out, or that getting up early will magically be the solution you need to figure out the secret to working from home with kids. Because I can guarantee you that it will still be hard.
And in some ways, it will be even harder because once you decide to try to get up early and it still doesn’t work, you’re bound to get frustrated with your kids — and yourself.
So just know that what you’re experiencing is very, very normal.
It’s normal to get frustrated, it’s normal if your kids somehow sense that you’re trying to be productive and wake up earlier than normal, and it’s normal that you’ll just keep pushing through, because that’s what we do as parents.
It’s not easy and realizing that could help you learn to go easy on yourself as you navigate this new road in life.
And should you stumble upon one of those magical mornings when you are able to pour your coffee, sit down at your computer, and enjoy the golden hour of silence while all the kids actually stay asleep…
May you treasure it for the gift it really is.
Chaunie Brusie is a labor and delivery nurse turned writer and a newly minted mom of five. She writes about everything from finance to health to how to survive those early days of parenting when all you can do is think about all the sleep you aren’t getting. Follow her here.