My Kids Stay Up Later Than Yours

Yes, we have a late bedtime, but it works for us.

When I hear about other parents who put their kids to bed early at night, enjoying some couple time, maybe splitting a bottle of wine while they catch up on their favorite shows, I have to admit I feel a slight twinge of jealousy. I would love nothing more than to put our kids to bed and plop down on the couch next to my husband, catching up on our day and just spending some of the precious time alone when kids aren’t clamoring in our ears.

But the truth is, I dread the night time hours. Because there is no couple evening time at my house. Instead, there is just a long, drawn-out march to bedtime and the horrible process of getting our two-year-old to sleep, a form of torture that literally takes hours off our lives each and every night.

All in all, my kids go to bed later than a lot of other kids — but it’s what works best for our family and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Our family operates on a bit of a later schedule as a carryover from my husband’s upbringing. Growing up a farm, my husband and his family would sit down to dinner at night only after his dad, a dairy farmer, had returned in from the barn after the evening chores. That often meant sitting down to eat at 7:30 PM or later.

Although we don’t have cows and we don’t live on a farm, the practice continued in our own home when my husband and I got married and had children, largely due to the fact that as a nurse, my shift would not end until after 7 PM. Dinner time has always been very important family time to both of us, so he would wait until I got home so we could all eat together after my shift.

Over time, we grew accustomed to eating later and we use the early evening hours to catch up on work now that I work from home, or exercise, or just let the kids have some downtime to play and relax in the evenings. Eating at 5:30, like the “Leave It To Beaver” dinner time, just feels strange to us. Like, won’t be hungry again later? What’s the rush?

The downside of a later dinner, however, is that it means that the after-dinner rush of cleaning up, getting kids in the bath (and with four of them, this is a long process!), and winding down for bed is pushed back. We pretty much never have our children in bed before 9:00 PM and even then, we read a story together every single night, say our prayers, and my oldest (who is my clone) absolutely has to read a little before she can fall asleep. I mean — I can’t fault her for that, right?

The point is, I’ve heard of some families having their children in bed by 7:30 or 8 at night and while some part of me thinks that would be an absolute dream, I think our schedule works for our family. I know that personally, my brain shuts down at about 10 o’clock at night anyway, so I prefer to get my work projects or workouts or whatever else is going on done earlier in the night, so I can pass out with my kids. I’d much rather get up early to have kid-free time than stay up, knowing my brain turns to mush anyways.

As far as if our kids get enough sleep, I would say I certainly hope so. I think every kid is different and we do have one child who seems to need more sleep than others, so on nights when she needs to go to bed earlier, she does. We live very close to our children’s school and they don’t take a bus, so they get to sleep a little later and because I work from home, the toddler gets to sleep in like a teenager if she wants (and sometimes, she does, it’s a little absurd.)

All in all, I’m happy with our families’ schedule and I’m sharing because I know sometimes it can be hard to admit that you’re a mom who lets her kids stay up. But all those years ago, when I was missing my babies at the hospital, I was so grateful that my husband pushed to have us stay strong in the tradition of a family dinner. And my hope is that if we’ve managed to keep it going all of this time, when the crazy years of sports schedules and activities hit, we’ll be ready with a little bit later dinner time — and a whole lot more family time.

How late do your kids stay up?