I came across this article yesterday and after reading it, I couldn’t help but feel compelled to write a companion article. This is not intended to mock people who have all the time in the world to wake up at 5:30 voluntarily, this is just to make people who have that luxury feel bad. Also, that last sentence was a joke. Also, two sentences ago was a thinly veiled defense mechanism because it is a luxury my wife and I no longer have and IF I ONLY had that much time I would get SO much more blogging done…and by blogging I mean Internet surfing.
Waking up early every day for the past 21 months has been one of the most life changing things that has ever happened to me. Having to wake up a few times each night is one of the most character-building things in parenthood. Even though our son now (mostly) sleeps through the night, he’ll still wake up at about 5:30-6am. Today, I’m still waking up early and I want to reveal how I did it and what happened to me.
How to Get Up Early
Have a kid.
The Problems I Faced
Before my son was born, on a typical work day, I would wake up at around 7:30am or even 7:45am or even 8:00am if I felt particularly lazy. To get out that bad habit, I tried things like setting the clock alarm after my wife woke up (she has to get up and get to work earlier than I do), setting that alarm clock and also my phone’s alarm, and placing my phone on the dresser across the room which would force me to get up and turn off the alarm. They would all work for a little while, but I would would eventually just abuse the hell out of the snooze button on both the alarm clock and my phone.
I actually started getting into the habit of just waking up when my wife woke up and went for an early morning run. That was pretty great for a while until one day the warmth of the bed felt 100 times better than running outside and there went that.
On weekends my wife and I would periodically awaken throughout the morning, realize we have nothing to do, then go back to sleep. When we finally did wake up, we would leisurely browse Yelp on our tablet/phone while in bed figuring out where we should have lunch (because it’s 10am). Sometimes it would be a little stressful because we’ve ether tried all the local restaurants or couldn’t agree on what kind of food we wanted (“but we just had pho last weekend!”). We would eventually leave our sleep chamber and venture into the already half-over day only to return home three hours later for more vegetation/Netflix binge-watching. Life was such a chore.
Missteps, Laziness, and Hibernation
…are great. Missteps teach you lessons, laziness feels good right now, and hibernation prolongs laziness. It really is a win/win.
How It Changed My Life
Before kids, I was a fairly rested person. I never had any reasons to feel frustrated or sad or angry, except when the Lakers lost or if our Internet connection went down for about three minutes. When I saw my friends start having kids and barely functioning on about 1/10th of the sleep a normal human requires, I was blown away.
However, nothing makes you more in awe of life when you wake up at 6am, change 2-3 diapers, make breakfast, make coffee, have one sip, wash dishes, reheat your coffee, saving your child from bodily harm 10 times, reheat your coffee again, brush your teeth while deflecting airborne toys, then dump your coffee because forget it, look at the clock and see that it’s 6:45am.
Curiosity and Non-Judgement
Whenever I am barely lucid from waking up 2-3 times a night or from waking up at 5am to lie by my son’s side as he feels good enough to go back to sleep, the anxieties and fears that my mind is usually strong enough to keep in check with sufficient sleep run wild in my barely functional brain.
“…I still have to pay the credit card bill. But it’s due tomorrow, but it’s Sunday, so the payment won’t go through until Monday. Will I get charged fees? THE FEES.”
“I closed the garage door, right? Yeah, I did. Wait, did I? What if I didn’t? What if there’s someone in the house RIGHT NOW and they snuck in even though there are strategically placed creaky spots all over our house and there’s no way someone would be in here without me knowing? Where’s my maglite? Where’s my cholo bat? I haven’t taken any kind of martial arts in 20 years, but I think I could take someone out with the moves I learned as an 11 year-old. Yeah. I got this.”
Who needs meditation or drugs to induce mind-altering states? Just get less than half the sleep you’re used to and you’ll get the same effect for free!
Some Life Improvements
- Learned how to accidentally make a sound right at the critical moment when my son is about to fall asleep
- Learned all the words to this song and this one
- Can take the carpool lane at least to son’s daycare, bypassing the worst part of my commute
- Got really good at returning things to Amazon
- I can shave without a mirror (results may vary)
- I get the same mini-high when son learns a new word as I do when I unlock game achievements
- I learned to empathize with an entirely new segment of the population
- I stopped empathizing with the segment of the population I used to be a part of and will never be a part of ever again
- I can eat an entire meal that would take a normal man 20 minutes to eat in less than 7 minutes
- Developed/evolved night vision to avoid small toys with sharp edges on the floor
- Developed/evolved cat-like reflexes to catch flying food/toys/water droplets/poop/spit-up in midair
- Unlimited supply of toddler hugs when I get home from work
- I’m learning to enjoy fatherhood despite my fears and doubts
- Talking shop with other dads
My Current Routine
All of these things happen, although not always in this order.
- Hear son stirring at 5:45am, hoping its a dream, try to keep sleeping
- At 6am, son goes full “MOMMY! DADDY!” and I realize it’s not a dream. Get son from his room.
- Change son’s pee diaper for a fresh one for him to immediately poop in
- Carry son along with all his stuffed animal friends (a.k.a. toddler entourage) downstairs to the living room
- Change poop diaper
- Make pathetic half-awake attempts to play with son while wife gets ready for work
- Make a veggie fruit smoothie for family or watch son as wife makes veggie fruit smoothie. Wait patiently as son puts kale/spinach in the blender one leaf at a time and puts frozen fruit in the blender one piece at a time before getting impatient and dumping the rest in the blender
- Resorted to regulated sharing of my smoothie with son ever since he learned to fling smoothie Jackson Pollack style onto our walls and ceiling with his sippy cup
- Say bye to mom as she escapes leaves for work
- If daycare is watching him that day, chase son around the house for 5-10 minutes with his change of clothes that he refuses to put on until I find a random activity for him to do. The same activity often won’t work more than a couple times, like how the Borg can adapt to phaser frequencies, so you have to keep switching it up.
- Listen to this song on repeat for 15 minutes on the way to daycare
- Put socks and shoes on son’s feet after arriving because If I do that before we leave, the socks and shoes are off and on the floor of the car by the time we get to daycare anyway
- Drop off son, call wife with progress report and email her any selfies we/he may have taken that morning with my phone
- Look at the clock and it’s only 8:15am
The preceding makes it sound like I’m complaining about being a dad, but it’s more about illustrating my fumbling through parenthood. For every happy family photo you see on Facebook, there are days, months, and even years of hard work behind it that no one sees and not all of that work is fun. There are arguments, mistimed nap attempts, leaky diapers, slow-loading YouTube videos at exactly the wrong time, uneaten food despite all the love and prep that went into it, broken toys, stained carpets. After all that, whenever I see our family selfie I think, “We earned that shit.”