The Book I Love to Hate

People, the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg has ruined my life.

I read several good reviews and was totally stoked when I picked it up in Barnes and Noble on a date with the hubs. I needed it so bad I spent full price on it. I cannot even tell you the last time that happened, cause me and Amazon used booksellers are tight yo.

I couldn’t put it down and finished it within a few days. IMMEDIATELY I became obsessed with studying my own bad habits and figuring out their root causes. The author Charles Duhigg asserts that we all have habit loops. When exposed to a certain cue, we fall into a set routine which rewards us with a predictable outcome.

My number one bad habit? Stopping throughout the day to check Facebook or Instagram on my iPod and getting caught up in something and ultimately wasting precious time that I should be using on teaching, eating, showering or hauling someone to the toilet. As I went through my day, I made a mental note every time I felt compelled to sit down and take an online breather. I quickly realized my cue, what set me into my routine of wasting time online, was fatigue, or more accurately downright exhaustion.

Every time I completed something that needed to get done (make breakfast, feed Fulton, lift Teddy from his chair to the sofa, etc.) I would feel tired and want to take a break and escape. Until I stopped being so tired, it seem inconceivable that I could break my habit.

Remember how I posted awhile back I was rising between 5-530 to start my day? Well, I was still trying to do that, though admittedly it’d been getting harder and harder. But I relished that time in the morning by myself and I cranked out some great blog posts in the morning silence, as well as trained for all seven of my runs. Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to bed until after 10 p.m. and Tony and I still wake up multiple times a night to tend to the boys. I really thought I could manage long-term on less than seven (or more likely six) hours of sleep a night. I thought my drifting off to sleep at 10 a.m. while Edie read to me on the couch, or my falling asleep in the waiting room at physical therapy at 2:30 might indicate a thyroid issue or something. Seriously, who thinks that? Obviously my brain was a mess.

I decided, in order to be less tired during the day I needed to commit to sleeping eight hours a night. Even with the wake ups, I needed to schedule eight hours for rest. I was going to give up my early morning writing, not resume any late night reading and, ideally, sleep from 10 until 6. Mornings consisted of getting up, praying, drinking coffee and getting dressed. (By 6:30 the kids are being schooled in Latin by Tony, and inevitably the little boys are up around 7.)

The results were almost immediate. Within a week or so, I knew that sleep deprivation had been at the root of many bad habits I’d slipped into. Suddenly, I didn’t need to constantly sit down to rest or escape upstairs to try to hide from the kids before noon. I was getting dressed more days than not, and sticking to our school schedule. I was singing our phonic songs without gritting my teeth.

But when, dear readers do you suppose I was finding time for myself? For writing, reading, catching up on my favorite bloggers??? Well, I’m still looking for it. My free time has been sacrificed to sleep.

I’d love to say, I don’t need ‘me’ time. I just feed off the love of my children and the satisfaction of staying home and educating my brood. I’d love to say my vocations of wife, mother, teacher and nurse completely fulfill me and I haven’t been a whiney witch at all. Who needs to blog or read a fascinating non-fiction title on world poverty when you can just read stories aloud and organize the pantry and help your kids with their chemistry experiments?!?!?!?

Me apparently.

I keep trying to squeeze some writing in here or there, or one night I’ll stay up too late. The next day I push-off breakfast a half hour so I can just finish something up.

But then, because I’m so rushed, and my train of thought is broken a million times by the needs of my children,  who do deserve my time and attention, I wind up getting angry. I don’t like what I write. I can’t write about the things I want because I can’t focus. I can’t take pictures or edit pictures because there is no time for me during the day without sacrificing something that is actually important.

Reading has become what I do while waiting for the kids at music practice.

I’m trying to not be bitter. I feel like I’m a better, happier person when I have a regular creative outlet or quiet time. I haven’t figured out how to have that right now and although I’m trying so hard to just be happy with my vocations in life it’s a frustrating situation for me personally. Especially because my husband is so supportive of my desire to carve out time for myself and I do get some help during the day. The increase in sleep is helping me deal with the overwhelming nature of what I need to get done on a daily basis, but it’s because my day is so crazy that I started waking up early in the first place.

This first world mom, with her fully stocked fridge, nice home, happy family, loving community, devoted husband doesn’t have a right to complain about her ‘me time’; I get that. (Especially when there’s people like Mary with real problems that need your prayer and support.) But damnit, what I do day in and day out is hard and I’m not asking for recognition, money or material goods. I just want some quiet time for myself; to think and to unload my thoughts so I can give my family the best of me the rest of the time.

So thank you ‘The Power of Habit’ for helping me discover the source of my bad habits. Thank you for helping me to become more alert and productive during the day. But curse you for forcing me to sideline my favorite time of the day for the sake of my health. My sanity is undecided on the matter.


  1. ME TOO! I want my time too! Quiet time! Where no one asks for anything time! I have no solution, just commiseration! Please let me know if you figure it out…

  2. What if you think of the sleep as your “me time”. Would that shift in perspective help? Like you could be awake and reading or writing, but you are choosing to sleep. I don’t know how you do it all anyway, Kelly, you are so my hero!!

  3. I just had this conversation with my husband last night. I was very…troll-like yesterday and what I was most angry about were all things that are my vocation. I seriously stopped to pray as I was scrubbing dishes because I was being just plain unkind to my family and it isn’t their fault that they like me so much they act like groupies who have to follow me around and try loud tactics to get my attention.

    But, your need for alone time is not selfish or something to brush aside. Since I haven’t figured out how to get it myself, I have no advice, just lots of solidarity fist bumps. Hope you get some scheduled alone time soon!!

  4. Yes, Kelly, Yes! I feel the same way on every level. The kids are demanding, the computer is right in the centre of things, I can just read a quick blog post before I change that diaper, or do that reading lesson, or discipline the two year old. And honestly, some days that gets me through the rough times. But I know its a bad habit that eats up more and more of my time when I’m not looking.
    And then sleep. I can’t function without seven hours of interrupted sleep. Because there are still interruptions. I just can’t get up at 5 and live till 3 pm. Then by 7 pm I feel completely exhausted and can’t write two sentences to string together. It is just hard. I wish I had help for you, but all I’ve got is understanding.

  5. I have been reading your blog for sometime now and this is the first time I post comments because what you shared is like a wake up call for me! Going to bed early needs discipline! When I spent my precious sleeping time over mindless reading over the internet, I just could not function my day with a clear head. I hope you can still find time to write

  6. You voiced a frequent frustration of many women these days. We all feel overwhelmed with the lack of “me” time regardless of whether we work outside the home or are full-time caretakers for our families. Maybe the pressure is put on us by articles and social media that tout the benefits of multi-tasking. Sometimes it’s just too much. All we can do is keep sending our petitions to God and plodding through the day. God (and your readers) love you and understand completely what you’re experiencing.

  7. Yes, this. I have this huge desire to do several “me-centric” things, and I have no actual time to do them that doesn’t make me feel like I’m totally checking out on my family. And less sleep doesn’t help. When insomnia hits, you’d think that you’d get all this extra time, but I’m so exhausted that even when I’m awake, my brain is completely zombified. I’ve thought you are secretly a super hero for a long time, so if anyone can discover some balance it’s you. And then promise to share the secret with the rest of us? Hang in there!

  8. It’s such a hard thing. I sturggle wtih this as well, because I can’t give up sleep, but I also really need “me” time and there just isn’t enough time. What I do, is try to carbe out whatever “me” time I can during the day. Like if the kids are happily all playing, and it’s quiet, I take the change to relax or blog or something. I stopped thinking of “me time” as something I’m entitled to, or something I’m entitled to at a specific time, but something I just have to grab when I can. If I’m taking my kids to the park, I sit on the bench and read a’s ‘me time.”. If all the kids are watching a movie with dad, I hide in m my bedroom and blog or write or read blog posts (like I’m doing now.) And, I don’t think i’ts bad to grab Facebook time and reading blogs during the day. Too much is bad, but I think those little snatches of “me time” in the midst of the chaos are what keep me sane. If everyone is happy and occupied, yes, I’m going to grab whatever time I can (and not feel guilty about it) because I have to do these things when my kids are awake, there just aren’t enough hours in the night to fit in sleeping and “me time”.

  9. Oh man, this sucks. This really, really sucks. I’m not productive in the morning, but I am HUGELY productive late at night. It seems like it should be obvious to me, but it took reading this to realize my crappy days are pretty much all attributable to my late night me-time. But by the time I make it through a crappy day I want to take the time for myself! AAAAHHHH.

    1. “by the time I make it through a crappy day I want to take the time for myself!” Yes! Story of my life and my Achilles heel. Kelly, I really like this book too, although I haven’t thought through the principles and how they apply to my life as much as you have. One thing I have noticed, though, with trying to get my weigh under control is that i EAT when I’m tired, too. It was surprising to realize that.

  10. This is me, to a T. I KNOW I need more sleep. But I don’t want to do it because me-time, the little that I get, is my only sanity. Argh. Life conflicts.

  11. Damn. I went to bed at 12:03 am last night (this morning) because staying up to watch a new Parenthood episode and read mindlessly through the wasteland of the late night internet news cycle was somehow…restorative?

    No, no it was not. And that’s why the nights I spend ticking off minutes past 10 pm give birth to next-days from hell where I’m shrewing at the children and shoveling chocolate chips into my mouth. Ain’t it rough to know thyself?

  12. This reminds me of some Conversion Diary posts about how hard it is to be a SAHM today. Seriously, I don’t think you’re being whiny. Consider that for most of human civilization there have been extended family members or neighbors around to help (and provide adult interaction!) I’m not a mom yet, but it’s got to be incredibly isolating and lonely to homeschool multiple kids, especially when there are disabilities involved. I don’t know how you do it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.