For parents, a lie-in is the Holy Grail. Something longed-for, dreamed of, but never actually reached. For me, anything after 7 is a lie-in. To be honest, anything after 6.30 is a real bonus. There have been two or three occasions this year when I have slept until 7.20. Yep, 7.20. Two or three times out of 365 days.
When we first had kids, we took it in turns to have a lie-in. It was a simple formula. On Saturday, one of us got up with the baby (or babies) and one slept until 9. On Sunday, the other one got up with the baby (or babies) and the other one slept until 9.
For a while, Saturday was my day to lie in. Then I switched it to Sunday. Then back again. Because the kids had some kind of in-built sense of when it was Mummy’s turn to get up. When it was Mummy’s turn, they woke at 5. When it was Daddy’s turn, they woke at 8. So if they woke at 8 on Saturday, I would switch to Sunday. But they were too clever for me. Whatever day I was due to get up, they would wake at 5.
I began to really resent my husband and his 8am waking. Because, for me, the lie-in wasn’t just about sleep. It was about not having to do all the jobs. So if my husband was getting up at 8 and I was getting up at 9, the breakfast wouldn’t be completed and cleared away and the kids wouldn’t be dressed. So I would end up doing it. My husband didn’t get this. For him, the lie-in was about sleep pure and simple.
Those days are but distant history now. When we moved into our current house, a bungalow, seven years ago, lie-ins became impossible. My sons were 3 and 1 and my daughter wasn’t even a twinkle in her Daddy’s eye. I still needed sleep and that break from making breakfast and clearing it away. But it wasn’t ever going to happen. For me. Because somehow my husband was capable of sleeping while there were children playing and eating and crying right outside his bedroom door.
And nothing has changed since then. On work/ school days I get up before the kids – 6am on a work day, a luxurious 6.20am on a non-work day. On weekends and school holidays I get up when the kids wake me. Unless I have to go for a big run before rugby or we have something else planned, in which case I set the alarm for something beginning with 6. There’s no real need to set the alarm, because the kids always ensure I am up at something beginning with 6.
Take Christmas week – up at 6am on Christmas day (although woken by boys in the bathroom at 5.45); woken at 6.45 on Boxing Day by my 8 year old son, who had been awake for 16 hours the previous day; up at 7pm on 27th for Next sale (I should have got up at the crack of dawn on Boxing Day to queue outside, but I didn’t realise the sale started then – duh!); 7am on 28th to drive into work to pick up on-call phone before setting off to mother-in-law’s; 6.10am on 29th because kids couldn’t sleep in strange beds; a much better 6.50am on 30th because they had slightly got used to the strange beds; and, FINALLY, a luxurious 7.15 on New Year’s Eve.
In the meantime, my husband, who nearly always gets up later than me on a weekday, continues to have lie-ins. OK, so it’s only 8 or 8.15, compared to the 11.30 favoured by teenagers and hard-partying 20 somethings, but it is still a lie-in.
And I am still making the breakfast and clearing it away. Seven days a week, 365 days a year. My husband’s solution to this is not to offer to help because THE KIDS SHOULD BE MAKING THEIR OWN BREAKFAST. I am making a rod for my own back and should refuse to do it. They are old enough to look after themselves, apparently.
And so, the lie-in will continue to be the Holy Grail until my kids are teenagers who sleep to midday. By which time I will have completely lost the ability to sleep beyond 6.45.
Who am I trying to kid? I lost that ability years ago.