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Why My Kids Stay Up Way Later Than Yours

Photograph by Twenty20

There is an article that's gone viral a few times over, talking about how one mother puts her kids to bed by 7 p.m. every night.

When I read it, I had trouble fathoming what such an evening would even look like because for our family of six. We are generally just sitting down to eat dinner at that time. What on earth would I do with all of my time at night? Would my husband and I toast each other merrily over wine? Plan elaborate dream trips together? Watch endless hours of TV shows that did not involve talking dogs?

I just can't even imagine. Because in our family, there is no "adult" time in the evenings.

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Let's be clear: I would never do anything to put my kids' health at risk. We're not talking every night bedtimes into the wee hours of the morning or anything like that—I'm just talking around the 9 p.m. range and on the weekends, usually a little bit later.

It's nothing crazy, but for us, hanging out together as a family at night just seems to work for us.

I have to admit that I have my moments of guilt. Are my kids getting enough sleep? Am I a horrible mother?

Our later bedtimes have come about for a lot of reasons. One being that my husband grew up on a farm, where they had dairy cows and dinner didn't happen until the chores were done for the night, around 7:30 every.single.evening. And that custom of having dinner around 7 p.m. has kind of trickled over into our family traditions. Also, working as a nurse, my shifts generally got over around 7 p.m., so my husband would try to have us all eat together whenever possible.

So by the time we have all eaten, cleaned up the kitchen, bathed and pajama'd little people, and settle down for our nightly reading of the "Little House On The Prairie" series (we're on book No. 2!), it's always near 9 p.m. And if I'm being completely honest, it usually takes me even longer to get the baby down.

The flip side of my kids' "later" bedtime, of course, is that I have to wake up pretty early, usually by 5 a.m., to get my work done for the day, prep breakfast and school stuff, and get ready for the day. We drive our kids to school, so they don't have to be up as early either, which feels like I get extra time in the morning. This schedule seems to work well for us because I'm ready for bed when the kids are then, too.

Even though I'm (mostly) comfortable with our family's schedule, I have to admit that I have my moments of guilt. Are my kids getting enough sleep? I will wonder. Am I a horrible mother? Is my marriage suffering because we don't have a lot of alone time together?

There are times that I definitely wish my husband and I had a little time to unwind and decompress in the evenings and there are often times I feel like I'm losing my mind because getting our four kids to bed takes so freaking long.

But when bedtime hits and we're all together and happy and cozy and reading a story together, I feel pretty darn peaceful about our decision. Because honestly, what could be better than all of us being together?

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I figure that there will be plenty of time someday when the kids will put themselves to bed and our evenings will be spent in eerie silence, staring at each other and remembering the days we used to spend straining our ears to hear which kid was trying to get out of bed again.

So until then, you'll most likely find me on the floor of my kids' room at 8:30 p.m., reading about Ma and Pa Ingalls—and being perfectly happy about it.

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