Sleep Bargaining

By Published On: August 16th, 2013

Fade In:  INT—HOUSE BEDROOM—DAWN Two children’s voices, separate, yet equally […]

Fade In: sleepbargin
Two children’s voices, separate, yet equally annoying, can be heard mumbling, talking, laughing offscreen. It then turns to crying, then screaming, then fever pitch as the paned glass windows start asking for their last rites. Pan down to MOMMY and DADDY, both pretending to be asleep. 

MOMMY: Uhhhhhhhh…dude, I will give you $10,000 to get up with them today.
DADDY: No way, you know the 24 rule.
MOMMY: That’s so stupid. How was I supposed to know 24 hours ago that I was going to sleep like s*&%?
DADDY: It’s not like I’m slacking here. I’m just on a later schedule. You go to bed at 9:30! Besides, I have them ALL day.
MOMMY: But I’m, like, REALLY tired this morning. And I NEVER get to sleep in.
DADDY: I’m really tired.
MOMMY: No no, you don’t understand. I’m really like not-good, super-duper tired.
DADDY: That’s too bad, because I’m like mega-zombie, yelling at old ladies to stop writing personal checks tired.
MOMMY: That’s nothing next to the beating innocent small woodland creatures with a croquet mallet for no reason sleep deprived mania I’ve got going.
DADDY: Oh God, please just get them through breakfast, then you can take a nap…
And so on. This happens at least two, three times a week around here.It is something that was never really covered in any of the pre-parental literature that I read. We call it sleep bargaining.
This little phenomenon is not really necessary until you have kids. Before that, you wanted to sleep in, you just did it. Maybe she wanted to go to the farmer’s market, and maybe she did or didn’t huff out by herself after failing to rouse you. Who cares? If that’s all you have to argue about, then peace be upon you. That’s what I like to call an NPP. Non-Parental Problem.
There are different life stages of tired: Pre-child (wimpy) and post-child (constant). In my pre-child days, I actually believed that if I went to bed an hour late one night, I could sleep an extra hour the following night to make that up. Makes sense, right? Having kids is the complete and utter devastation of that theory. You get so far behind so quickly that you have to change your whole stance on the very notion of sleep. Sleep becomes like looting—you grab what you can, when no one is looking.
Anyway, a few tips if you’re new to the negotiations:

  1. There is no real way to quantify tired. We’ve tried numbers, adjectives, and analogies all with no luck. It’s basically a battle of wills between you and your partner. It helps to have a general plan (e.g. She gets up with the kids on weekdays unless stricken with a communicable disease). But as long as you both give once in a while, you should be fine.
  2. Don’t guilt-trip the sleeper-inner. If you agree to get up and get the kids (no matter how begrudgingly), don’t be passive-aggressive and leave the door open or generally disparage your partner for “making” you get up. Not cool.
  3. For God’s sakes, don’t complain if you get to sleep in. I’m actually currently in the super-duper range of tired. I couldn’t sleep last night for whatever reason, but my wife let me sleep until 9:00, which is NPP terms is like three days. So there’s just no way I can tell her at any point this entire day that I’m tired, and that’s cool.

You’ll figure it out. It’s easier with one child, just physically, to get them up and maybe out of the house to let your partner sleep. It really is about the best gift you can give.