In the months before my first daughter, Isabelle, was born, every parent I met warned me that once the baby arrived, I was going to be sleep deprived and, because of it, depraved. They weren't sympathetic. No, most of the parents I met did everything but cackle with glee and rub their hands together as if they were declaring world domination. They paid their dues in the parenthood club, and now they wanted to watch me pay mine.
But I've discovered that if you have the right attitude, parenting at night actually isn't so bad. In fact, I'd like to encourage other fathers to apply for the night-shift position, at least on a part-time basis. It probably sounds like I'm being paid off by some subversive group of crazed, overtired new moms, but honestly, once you give in, there's something exciting about parenting after hours.
Not that I always felt this way. In the early days, Isabelle was a novelty that Susan didn't mind tending to throughout the night, which lowered her resistance to my argument that as the main breadwinner in the family, I needed my beauty sleep more than she did. I do think there's a little truth in that, though as my wife points out, most of my work is done in front of a computer. I'm hardly in the same position as, say, the caveman who was also a doting dad. If he was sleep deprived on the job, he risked becoming brunch.
Still, Susan gave in, and my sleep needs came first. But, funnily enough, Susan doesn't function well on four hours of broken sleep. Bluntly put, she was a grouch. So after a few weeks, I started to volunteer for the night shift more often, until I took it over completely. I poured it on, telling Susan that I was willing to lose sleep for my darling wife's well-being, but frankly, it was for my own self-preservation; the situation had gotten to the point where I was afraid to butter the toast too loudly, lest she snap. If taking over the night duties made her happy, that ultimately made me happy. Plus, I'd never needed as much sleep as she did.
So I gave in. Susan was much more relaxed and, eventually, I started to really look forward to my middle-of-the-night quality time with Isabelle. In fact, we had a lot of fun together. Maybe a little too much fun.Somewhere around month eight or nine, after a brief period where she had been sleeping the entire night, Isabelle lost her stride and began waking up at ungodly hours. Unable to get her back to bed, I began taking her down to the living room, where I'd turn on the lights and switch on the television.
I'd heat up pizza rolls in the microwave, pull out the ice cream, empty a bag of blocks on the floor, and settle in to watch All in the Family reruns on TV Land. Each night, my wee one and I had a party in the wee hours of the morning. From about 2 to 4 a.m., we'd hang out until Isabelle showed signs of wearing down. Then, I'd put her in her crib, stress-free, and slip under the covers next to my wife, who was none the wiser.
Geoff Williams is a Babytalk contributing editor and freelance writer in Loveland, Ohio.