On Rising Early

I am a 46-year-old woman and I sleep until 10 or 11 am sometimes. Is that so wrong? Can’t a gal just sleep in and not feel guilty or judged? I don’t share my wake-up time with adult acquaintances for this exact reason; choosing sleep over productivity equals laziness in most people’s minds. I understand all the advantages extra hours of sleep provide. I know I could be learning to speak Italian or organizing my junk drawer instead of luxuriating in dreamworld. I’ve read the book “The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life Before 8AM.” Obviously, nothing is guaranteed. I wasn’t always like this. I’d say my true distaste for rising early heightened when I brought two human beings into this world.

Mommy boot camp didn’t give me an option for sleeping in. It was go, go, go from the day they kicked us out of the hospital. Initially, it was the middle of the night incessant cries. Certainly, someone was being tortured in the next room! The screams would jar me awake with a thumping heart and leave me wide-eyed in a rocker with a passed out child on my chest. Next stage, my little lovelies would call from their cribs around 5 am, “Mom, mommy, mama, MOMMY!!” until I begrudgingly rolled myself out of bed to be greeted by a huge grin and a full diaper. Later, once the cribs left the scene, it was the loud smacking of bare feet on the hardwood floors that forewarned the 6 am wake-up. I would feel them close, staring at me, morning breath warming my cheek. A whispered, “Mommy… … mama?” would be ignored until a jump on the bed and the words “I’m hungry” would catapult me into the nonstop day ahead. Elementary school years continued the mandatory early rising along with chaotic mornings. Sleeping in was the elusive beast I could never capture—until teenagers infiltrated my house.

As I write, it is 11 am and there has not been a sign of movement in my teenage laden household. I marvel at the thought that these young adults are the same little creatures who consistently propelled me out of bed all those years ago. There is a little evil part of me that would love to jump on their beds and scream, “I’m hungry!” But, I refrain. Soon enough, they’ll be sleeping in dorm rooms far away or off into the world where I won’t have any idea how often they change their bedsheets or take showers. It will all be out of my hands. Why not sleep a couple extra hours? I did my time.

While I know I deserve to sleep in, something happened last month that shook this foundation—I had an early morning epiphany. I was coerced into accepting a 7 am dental cleaning by this persuasive receptionist attempting to fill the appointment book: “Oh, you’ll be so happy to have it done and out of the way!” The morning arrived and I hit snooze three times. What was I thinking? I arose and cursed that damned receptionist, brushed my teeth with extra attention, grabbed a hoodie, threw my hair up in a bun, and sleepwalked my way to the car. All was normal until five minutes into my drive when lo’ and behold—people! They were everywhere—and moving! Paddleboarders, yoga classes on the grass, yoga paddleboarders, fishermen, fisherwomen, walkers, bikers, runners, mothers running with strollers, old people strolling, old people drinking coffee—you get it. Did I mention it was only 6:50 in the morning? It was a whole new world to me. I looked out at all those active, healthy individuals and thought—I should do that! I need to do that!

Before I go any further, I must admit something. I am not a person who does things consistently. I never have the same breakfast day after day or order the same food item off a menu. I’ll try a Pilates class for one week, then join Crossfit the next. Dieting requires true consistency, which is why I pray nightly for some sort of magic pill. Point being, I did wake early after I saw all those fit and happy people. I even walked around the lake near my house, taking it all in. I enjoyed it. This lasted three days. My warm bed is too enticing, it beckons me like a seductive lady of the evening. And my brain comes up with some fantastic pro sleep arguments. Sandy… there’s no pressure to get up. The kids are old enough to make themselves something to eat; they’ll be fine. You can exercise later in the day. You can write after lunch. These persuasive excuses, along with the fact that my job doesn’t require me to be in an office, provide me ample reasons to continue sleeping until my body naturally wants to wake up. A much healthier way to rise, if you ask me.

Once upon a time, I dreaded the child-induced early wake-ups. I’d look forward to their nap times like awaiting the chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant. Ironically now, sometimes one of my teenagers will be up before 8 am and I’ll actually get excited. If I play it cool, we’ll savor the peace of a beautiful morning together. We may even make a delicious breakfast or have a conversation. These are some of my favorite moments at this point in life. Which is all the more reason why I’ve made a compromise with the two sides of my brain—the seductive sleeper and the productive parent: I will purposely rise early three days a week and allow myself to naturally wake the other days. It’s a fair deal that I am willing to discuss openly without shame. Plus, any additional chill time I can find with my growing kids is worth setting my alarm clock.