Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Staying Up All Night

Today, I went out on a limb and tried to explain to a friend about our "coming around week"... and I realized that it is exactly the sort of thing that makes people think that RU is not for them. So I thought it was worth addressing.

I spent a considerable amount of time trying to keep my family on a consistent sleep/wake schedule. Not a conventional one, perhaps, but I definitely had a window of time where I thought: we should go to sleep during this time period. And a window for when everyone should be waking up. This ended up with a lot of stress for me, and everyone else. So I let it go. Totally. We sleep when we sleep. And the most interesting pattern has evolved: one week out of every month, we switch night and day, and we are staying up all night and going to sleep a bit later each day. And then after that week, we're sleeping at night again. Dh and I call it "coming around." My kids just call it staying up all night.

We're all sleeping at least 8 hours (me)
and up to 11 or 12 hours (the kids.) I'm actually getting way more sleep now. How it works is that every night, bedtime is a little later than the night before. So we have one week of getting up early, going to be early. And then the next week of the "perfect schedule" I tried so hard to make the ONLY schedule - going to bed around midnight and getting up late morning. And then we have a week where it's getting later and later, and we're up until 2, 3, 4 in the morning. By the following week, we're staying up past dawn, then to noon, and then to the late afternoon. And then that brings us back around (hence "coming around") to the first week w here we are up at 6 AM. And so on. It was so strange to find that this is how it is. It's like a revolution. (As in something that revolves, not a coup!) There is no way I could have orchestrated it For that one week where it is TOTALLY flipped, playgroups are hard to get to, if not impossible. The rest of the month we live what looks like a normal life.

This is very much something that other families would look at and think that it was absurd, ridiculous, impossible, wrong, too much work, too much laziness, whatever... but it is apparently what works for us. I wanted to share it because I spent so much time resisting it, trying to make something else work, and it was awful. I was in tears a lot, of frustration, exhaustion, resentment. But I thought that I would find "peace" and "rest" when I figured out how to make the schedule I was trying to maintain work on a permanent basis. We've "come around" in the past and it's always been in desperation because it was the Only Thing that Worked. But I felt that if I were doing things right in the first place, it wouldn't be necessary. So it had that feeling of failure attached.

I let go of all of that, and from then on we just followed our happiness. I stopped saying "It's time for bed!" and stopped placing expectations on myself and the children. I threw away the guilt and worry and shame and frustration. Now we bake brownies at 4 AM if that's what happens. And sometimes we are getting up at 6 AM and having a normal day like normal people. The reason I wanted to share this isn't to say that everyone should have this same kind of kooky schedule that doesn't make any sense. I wanted to share it because what I thought I wanted was not what I wanted. What I truly wanted was for us all to be well-rested and living in joy. Finally, after YEARS of struggling with how I thought that was supposed to happen, I released control on it, and what worked out was EXACTLY what everyone needed. As my kids get older, this all might change. These nights of staying up until dawn might be just a memory. But for right now, it's our reality, and it's what works for us.

I encourage everyone to take whatever it is that they are
struggling with the most, and just Let It Go. Release it. Stop fighting... and I think you will be so unbelievably blessed by the results. Joy follows.


Sara said...

wow, you are brave! it's really exciting to hear of people doing whats best for them, not just what has been done by others.

jill said...

ive seen you on unschooling lists, so i thought id check out your blog. i love it! im going to link it on my blog. your family sounds like so much fun!
we have been staying up late (bed around 12 or later and wake up around 12)for quite a while now. im hoping it will "come around" someday! but its much better than fighting about bedtimes!

califmom said...

I love your description of your family's sleep patterns, mostly because they closely mimic my own tendencies. What I can't figure out is how to work this around my husband's need to sleep more normal hours (due to working those nasty daylight hours), when we live in such a small house. I think our bustling around would bother him too much, but maybe we just need to get more creative. Ear plugs, perhaps?

Angela said...

OMG! I thought it was just us! We have done this in the past, when just sleeping/waking as you feel like it, we have completed this exact cycle! Maybe its more normal than you or I think!

Jennifer said...

I've been meaning to post for days. Thank you for sharing this. I dont feel so alone!

Kat said...

Great post.

Our family is very much like this, and I've half fought/half embraced our odd sleep schedule.
I have felt shame for it, and I've lied/stretched the truth to in laws and friends alike trying to normalize ourselves a bit more.

It has caused us quite a bit of strife, and my partner and I have ended up on different sleep schedules, and parenting separate children.

I'm a nightowl that tried to shed my skin when I had children, because, well, for the sake of productivity.

This is just another way to embrace the RU lifestyle, and I appreciate you posting it. Thank you. :)

Its 4pm, and my 3 year old is unnapped, and I don't expect him to go down until 6.
And then we'll be up until 4.


That lady with 6 daughters said...

Wow- we have a similar pattern now that you mention it. I really hadn't thought much about it, because I just "knew it was wrong" I wonder what sleep habits tribal people have, and if they have a shame-association with sleeping in the daylight? Interesting. I still doubt I"ll ever admit it in public, but I think you rock for analyzing it like this. Way to go!

MoonMaidenSoap said...

I have not visited in a while and thought I would stop to see what is new with your family.

You have had some interesting observations regarding sleep! I wish we could experiment that way - we have a forced schedule due to work for my DH and school for a couple of my special-needs children. I think we would likely have similar patterns in our household - my older children who are unschooled often cycle this way (they are not forced to adhere to my husbands and my sleeping schedule).

Wishing you the best today!


Mar said...

I found your blog when somebody linked to it on consensual living list. I am laughing out loud with, I don't know, just the awesome-ness of such freedom. We have been having fun with our own bedtime freedom--one night we were up til 3 and then I got scared. Thanks for the inspiration!

Joseph said...

I think it is wonderful that you wrote this. I didn't know it was more common than just me. I have done this cycle before in the past when I was single and didn't have any obligations. I think my family would work well with a schedule like this but then how would I pay the bills and send the kids to school. On the comment of what they did in tribal societies. As far as I know until the invention and availability of electric lighting that were powerful enough to see well in, the sleep cycle was basically the same all over the world of wake up at dawn and go to sleep at dusk. In the polar regions I don't know what they did. I would be interested in seeing a study of sleep cycles in the modern world in that way. Maybe in the cases of where it is light all day this might of been normal? Maybe the human rest an work cycle is more than 24 hours?