Monday, November 17, 2014

In Defense of Night Owls
I am a night owl. Unless I'm sick, I'm unable to go to sleep at 10:00 at night. Left to my own devices, I go to bed sometime between midnight and 1 AM and get up somewhere between 8AM and 9AM.

But I am also a mother. My teen aged daughter is self-sufficient and completely capable of getting herself up, dressed, fed and out of the house on her own each morning. But still, I get up with her and see her off each day. I don't do this because she needs me to or because I have to. I do this because I want to.

But it's a challenge. I don't wind down early in the evening, and so when that alarm goes off, eight hours of sleep is a still a few hours away. Sometimes it gets captured later in the day, in the form of a nap; other days, it's simply lost.

I'm not special. This is what mothers do.

But somehow, I've let myself get sucked into the belief that night owls like me are somehow inferior to early risers -- that there's some sort of virtue bestowed upon people who get out of bed before a certain time of morning. And although I tell myself that's ridiculous, it seems as though that's exactly what some of my early rising friends think. Twice in the past few months, I've had friends make cracks about what time I got up (or didn't) -- comments that make me bristle. Do you really think I'm lazy? I want to ask them. And, furthermore, why is it any of your business?

But I don't say these things. Instead, I bite my tongue and fight the urge to respond with a retort that will topple them from their holier-than-thou morning person pedestal.
I can do the math. I know that going to bed earlier increases the likelihood that I'll spend more hours sleeping, maybe even come close to that magic eight hours that's usually just a pipe dream. The trouble is, going to bed and going to sleep are two distinctly different processes. Going to bed based on an algorithm that predicts the proper amount of sleep does not guarantee a restful night.

When my daughter was little, she was a morning person, bright and chipper by 6 or 6:30 AM. Back then, I compensated. I had to.

Now a teenager, she's more likely to sleep in when given the opportunity, much like her mother. Both of us are hard chargers, tackling the day with ferocity until we're finally and irrevocably done and ready to call it quits. And sometimes, that's not until late at night.

I understand that the rest of the world is often asleep when I've gotten my second wind. I even respect that. Just because I'm up at midnight, doesn't mean I'll call you at midnight or even text you at what you'd consider an ungodly hour, lest I awaken you with a beep or buzz or ding signifying a new text. But I might just email you, because I know you won't have to attend to that until you've risen and shone.

All I ask is the same understanding and respect. When you call me at 7 AM or make fun of me for not being up before 9 on a weekend, it's just like my disturbing you in the wee hours of the morning or failing to understand that your bedtime is earlier than mine. I didn't choose my body clock, or even set it. I came pre-wired with these biorhythms.

So, my early bird friends, the next time you're tempted to apply a dose of superiority to your conversation with a night owl friend, ask yourself what they were doing at midnight.

Chances are, it's not that different from what you were doing at 6 AM.

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