I was warned by many dads that once I have a child, I can say goodbye to proper sleep. What I mean by proper sleep here is getting my eight hours of undisturbed, quality sleep at night. I took their warning lightly, thinking, “how bad could it be?”. I wasn’t too worried then about how I would be getting my sleep as a dad.
I’m pretty sure many would expect me to be facing similar experiences as they did. They told me they did not get sufficient sleep, at best, six hours and that would be considered a luxury to some. Even then, it’s not consecutive six undisturbed hours of sleep. They’d get the sleep in blocks of one to two hours, multiple times throughout the day and night.
So, I prepared myself prior to my son’s birth. First, I broke up my sleep. In the beginning, I’d sleep for four to six hours, wake up for a toilet break then sleep the remain hours until I got my eight hours. As time progressed, I shortened the intervals and wake up more times. From waking up once to two, till up to four times. Of course, when I was exhausted, I let myself sleep through. I wasn’t training myself, just giving my body an introduction of what to expect.
Secondly, I planned with my wife strategies on how we could possibly handle the situation. We would each take day or night shifts caring for our son. Or, take turns attending to him each time he needs us. This option is not my preferred option as it would lead us to be calculative. The scenario, “I did it the last round, it’s your turn”, would be inevitable. The third option is to take “shorter shifts”. For instance, she’d take 12am-4am while I’d take 4am-8am or vice versa.
Third strategy would be to play by ear. This is a weak strategy, in my opinion. In the beginning, it would seem like it’s fine but I foresee that weeks or months in, when we both start to feel more tired, we would argue about it. Just like in TV shows, the husband would nudge the wife to wake up and it would become a viscous cycle. That’s something I would want to avoid as much as possible. The kid is both ours and it should be a shared responsibility, not only a single parent’s.
It has been a little over two weeks since we’ve become parents now. I’m glad we’ve done some planning before. Currently, we’ve been toggling between our first and second strategies. On nights my wife seems tired, I would take up the night shift, while on nights that I’m tired, she’d take up the night shift. After which, I would let her sleep more in the day or vice versa. Although, it has been more practical and comfortable for us to adopt the second strategy. Neither of us has to be up all the time the entire night and we can both get sufficient sleep. She often prefers to take the first half of the night while I take the second.
In practice, we don’t decide before we sleep or ahead of time at all. It has so far come naturally to us. If she feeds and changes our son’s diapers at midnight, she would very likely take the first half of the night or the entire night shift, in the case that I wake up for the second half.
We’re both tired and need our sleep. It’s all about supporting one another and not to be calculative. I’m lucky I’ve been working shift jobs the past seven years as so far, I’m doing more night shifts. Because of that, she gets more rest at night. Even then, I’m still getting six to eight hours of sleep every day. I’m glad with how I’m getting my sleep as a dad.