Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise! It's probably one of the most commonly known precepts (there is bedtime every day, after all) yet maybe not the most followed. I, for instance, hate getting up early. When Patrick was very small he started getting up and staying up at 5 a.m., which he did until after Eli was born then finally settled down and slept tip 6:30, but it nearly killed me! I felt like I was ever after incredibly protective of my morning sleep, preciously guarding it, keeping it away from the prying eyes of children who don't have internal snooze buttons. I was ever grateful when the big kids were able tot ale care of Ethan in the morning, getting him a drink and helping him on the potty. The reason I needed my lie-ins was that I needed my late nights - I felt I needed a minimum of 2 hours (3 was even better) of my own time after the kids went to bed. The boys' bedtime is 8 but often they stay up talking or coming out to ask for something, so let's say the last time I would see a kid was 9:00 - I needed until 11:00 or even midnight to feel like I had completely decompressed from kids for the day. If you're up until midnight you are going to jealously guard those precious sleeping-in hours!
Then two things happened. The least important but most imminent was that summer was coming to a close and school starts at 8:00. I cannot sleep until 7:30 with that over my head. The most important thing was that I read an article from the Ensign, our church magazine, about that very precept: early to bed and early to rise. I don't need much help getting healthy, I already feel pretty smart, and I'm not the one who makes money for our family, so the blessings of the precept were about to fall on deaf ears (or blind eyes, since I was reading) but then the author promised that things that will seem so difficult to do otherwise will begin to be easy. I had a few immediate thoughts - clean house! read scriptures! scrapbook! So I decided to try it.
I set my alarm for 6, dutifully got up, read a few scriptures and went for a quick run around the neighborhood. I'd decided that morning cleaning was out of the question because a) cleaning is not a legitimate reason to get out of bed, and b) cleaning can be loud and if this was my alone time I didn't want to risk waking anybody. Well, only a few minutes after I got back kids were stirring and coming out of their rooms - how disappointing! Now I would be tired at night but had not accomplished the task of having my alone time. I tried 6 a.m. a few more times but I started falling asleep while reading, and I actually HATE running so I gave that up pretty quickly. Before the week was up I was back to 7:30.
Then one morning Joe forgot something in our bedroom before he left for work, and on his way out he kissed me goodbye. It woke me up and I felt pretty well-rested so I decided to get up. Joe leaves at 4:45. This was EARLY. I was not going to read, I was not going to go for even a quick run, but as I was lying in bed I had some ideas for a scrapbook layout. One of the things that is hard for me to find a great time for is scrapbooking - during the day it's busy with kids and meals and yard work and house projects; I need quiet and no interruptions as I work. After kids' bedtimes seems the best solution, but after a long day I am not interested in more time with the kids, even if it is just pictures of the kids. I want alone time in my headspace, too! So more often than not scrapbooking with Netflix on in the background became just plain ol' Netflix all evening. Not productive. But this morning I know the house would be perfectly quiet, my hobby would also be perfectly quiet, I was excited about it, and I would not fall asleep doing it. That morning the kids slept until 8 and I worked, uninterrupted, for 3 hours! Got so much accomplished!
I told Joe the next morning to wake me up again. He did, and I immediately headed to my craft area and began again. An the next day. And the next. I began setting my alarm for 5 just in case Joe forgot to wake me up (which he did one day, but I had gone to bed early the night before [exhausted from getting up at 5 the morning before] and I woke up on my own at 5:20). This was 2 weeks ago, and I have caught up my scrapbooks to RIGHT NOW. This is incredible! I am consistently behind 1-2 years, putting away pictures this summer that were taken last summer or even the summer before. I just kept plugging away figuring NEXT summer I would get around to THIS summer, and it would all get done eventually, but done NOW? It is obvious that the article on getting up early fulfilled its promise - I have been able to accomplish things that seem difficult (impossible, even!) by waking up early.
Other things have gotten easier, too. I don't clean early in the morning but I am finding it easier to keep my house clean. A huge shout-out again to "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," as I continue my tidying journey, but also I feel refreshed by the time the kids ARE up and I can happily and noisily put away those dishes, rather than groggily doling out breakfast and wishing the dishes would magically do themselves. I find it easier to deal with the kids - I have time to remind them of all those things I feel like they should remember already but of course they don't (get dressed before you play, make your bed, brush your teeth before we go) so I'm able to act, not re-act. It doesn't help me get things done, but it is lovely to see the sky lighten as the day comes on. Then at the end of the day, sure enough, I'm tired so I retire to my bed early, and it all begins again.
2 weeks isn't much. I look back at the many years of loving my morning sleep and worry I'll slip back into old habits. But I look at my accomplishments in just 2 weeks and feel very excited each day to get up and accomplish more, so perhaps I am more motivated than I am complacent (which, of itself, is an accomplishment).