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Why Some Moms Only Work in the Dark

Sometimes a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do in order to get anything done. For work-at-home moms, that could mean you tuck the kids in and then work past midnight to make deadlines. Or you get up at 5 a.m. to get in an hour or two of quiet before the kids wake up. Maybe you need to wrap up a project or sneak in a workout without being jumped on. Or maybe you just enjoy the solitude.

It's what we all do to keep our sanity.

I never thought of myself as a night owl until I had my boys. I was still working full time after my first was born. I was lucky enough to be able to work from home part of the time. If you have never worked at home with a baby in the house, there is one thing you need to know: It is impossible to get it all done between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. I quickly found myself working through nap times and well into the night, exhausting myself even more since I was still up with nighttime feedings.

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This pattern continued as I left my corporate life and made the switch to freelance so I would have a more flexible schedule. In theory, it would be easier. I could spend time with my kids and do a little work while they played. Naturally, that is not how it happened. I ended up staying up later than ever to make my deadlines.

Now, even though nighttime feedings—and naps—are a thing of the past, I find myself still working odd hours. I work while my youngest is at preschool in the morning, sure. But that nighttime habit hasn't gone away. Once the boys are settled in, I might watch a show with my husband to let my body unwind from a day filled with, "Mom, can I have some milk?" or "Mom! I'm bored." In front of the TV, my brain starts to come out of mom mode and is finally ready to be productive. No matter how hard I try, I am just so much more productive at night when there is no chance that anyone will need me.

I find the same is true for other work-at-home moms I know. I have a friend on the west coast that is already responding to emails at 6 a.m. PST, by the time I sit down to work after dropping my kids at school after 9 a.m. EST. It makes it easy for us to get projects done together, but I can't imagine being up by 6 and my brain functioning to work. By the time we're working, she has even gotten in a morning run. My brain still needs more coffee at 9! But that is just how she is wired.

For a long time, I beat myself up over my nighttime working. Yes, it is exhausting. Yes, I would rather be vegged out on the couch with my husband watching episodes of "Chuck" or reading the Eloisa James romance novel I just downloaded. But I have to roll with when my brain is able to work.

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Sometimes, this weird and unpredictable schedule means I go back to sleep after I drop my boys off, since I was up until 2 a.m. Sometimes it means I take a nap on the couch after the kids get home from school.

I'm doing the best I can and, right now, that is OK. Life will change again as my youngest goes to kindergarten in just over a year. I look forward to seeing where my brain leads me. I can't wait to finally find out when I am most productive. Maybe I won't be a night owl forever.

Although I dread the day when I have to be up and productive at 6.

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Photograph by: Getty Images

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