25w, 2d. One of the most challenging things for me about pregnancy has been the lack of sleep. From getting up to pee multiple times a night, to waking up STARVING for a 2 am snack to my incredibly early-rising children, it has felt like I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in, well, months. But recently I did something in order to get more sleep that I’m kind of embarrassed to admit—but I’m going to continue doing it because, um, it’s working.
My dirty little secret? I’m bribing my kids to stay in their room. Both boys have always been early risers—like any time after 4 am early risers. And of course when they wake up, they cried for me, not my husband. And now that they’re five and three, they’re not just crying for me from a crib, they’re coming down the stairs, entering our bedroom and standing over me until I wake up, totally freaked out by the feeling that someone is watching me. Uh, that would be because two someones are watching me. Either that or poking me in the side until I wake up.
Anyway, we’ve tried everything we can think of—early bedtimes, later bedtimes, a digital clock so they can see what time it is, a Goodnight Lite that glows like the moon at bedtime and then like the sun whenever you designate as an appropriate time to rise. Nothing, I repeat, nothing has worked.
And now that the boys are sharing a bedroom (directly above ours—which means little boys’ footsteps sound like those of elephants), our younger son (the earliest riser in the family) is waking up his older brother to ask him burning questions about cement trucks, help him go to the potty, or read to him in the closet (not really sure why the closet is the desired reading spot). And after doing a bit of this and a bit of that, they were coming downstairs together at an ungodly hour, waking me up, and turning me into a caricature of a grumpy, sleep-deprived pregnant woman. Which is why I started bribing them. At first, they were earning plastic animals (I had a random bag of them in our closet, and the boys were delighted to get to pick one each morning when they’d stayed in their room until their “sun came up” at 6 am). But that lost its luster after a few weeks, and we went away on summer vacation and got out of that habit—and then came back for the start of school, and it’s like they were getting up earlier than ever. Which is when I offered them cash for sleep. I initially offered each boy a quarter if he stayed in his room until 6 am, thus allowing me an extra hour or two of sleep each day, but neither seemed to be able to make it work. Which is when I upped my offer to a dollar a day. And then we were talking.
Before you get all judgy on me about bribing my kids, I readily admit that bribery is not the best form of parenting—but as a pregnant lady desperate for sleep, there were mornings when I would have gladly paid many, many times my current $2 daily output ($1/per child) for a good night’s rest. I drink what little coffee I’m allowed to have at home in the morning, so this is cheaper than a Starbucks habit. And while I know that bribing my children to do something that they should do anyway (they’re both in full days of school; why don’t they need to sleep until 6am?!), I’m personally OK with my decision for now, despite being embarrassed to admit it to the rest of the world. And I'm honestly not that concerned about bringing this to an end yet—if it works through the end of my pregnancy, great. I have no problem ending the bribery program after that, given that my sleep will be all kinds of effed up with a newborn anyway (why not have the whole family up together at 5 am?!), but if they stop choosing to stay in their room, they stop getting the money immediately, so they'll have ended the program on their own.
Help me feel better about this—please share an embarrassing parenting secret of yours or tell me if you’ve ever bribed your kids. Leave a comment!