My husband and I get up hours before dawn in order to beat the children’s wake-up times.
This quiet time together allows us to have a partnership outside of parenting.
We used to stay up late, but we now prioritize going to bed after the kids fall asleep.
I wake up in darkness, and I take a look at my fitness-tracker watch: 3:45 a.m. Only my husband and I occupied our king-size bed when I fell asleep, but now the bed also contains all three of our children, filling the room with the sound of their synchronized deep breathing.
I make no attempt to go back to sleep. Instead I sit up and put my feet on the floor, then roll my head to work out the kinks in my neck. My movement wakes my husband, who stretches out his arms and yawns. We both carefully get out of bed and then tiptoe to the kitchen. I sit at the table while he sets up the coffee maker. As the coffee brews, he puts his hands on my shoulder and kisses my cheek.
It’s the beginning of my favorite part of the day, our special time together as a couple before the children wake up.
Our sleep schedules have changed over the years
I met my husband at a dive bar when I was 21 and he was 24. At that time, we both played in local rock bands, and we used to stay out until 3 a.m. most weekends and sleep in until the afternoon. We got married two years later.
A few years into our marriage, we both began jobs in the local public-school system. We could no longer sustain our late nights out, so we quit the bands and ended up as early risers. Before we became parents, we would run together in the mornings and race in 5Ks on the weekends.
We had twin girls in 2014 and another daughter in 2015. For the first few years of our daughters’ lives, their erratic sleep schedules dictated our sleep as well. When they entered preschool and then elementary school, their sleep routines became more regular, but we found ourselves exhausted nonetheless.
Spending quality evening time together as a couple wasn’t working
We tried setting time aside in the evenings for each other. We often planned to watch movies or make special dinners together a few times a week. But after the girls went to bed, we found that we didn’t have the energy for each other.
Inevitably, one of us would fall asleep minutes into the movie, or we would eat sandwiches and snacks between getting home and putting the girls to bed and then lack both the ambition and the appetite to cook something more elaborate.
Even when we had a babysitter, we often couldn’t muster more than an hour or two out before we got tired.
Eventually we gave up on these date nights and we would just watch television together and drift off to sleep shortly after the children did.
Early mornings as a couple works best for us
Once we started going to bed earlier, we began waking up earlier as well. Sometimes we just sit quietly at the kitchen table, sipping coffee together and reading books and magazines. Other mornings, we talk and laugh together in hushed tones. No matter how lively the conversation gets, we keep our volume down, so as not to wake up the children.
Our early-morning ritual allows us time to share our thoughts and feelings, preserving our identities as people away from parenting and the workplace.
Sharing myself with my husband in the wee hours fortifies who I am and who we are together before we transform into Mom and Dad at home and Mr. Dines and Mrs. Dines at work.
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