Let's tackle the WHY when it comes to leaving an event early for bedtime before we address how to do this.
The reason my family and the families that I coach choose to prioritize bedtime over staying for an entire event is because we know the impact a missed bedtime has on our child's sleep, as well as how they feel (which impacts behavior), and our own ability to function optimally on less sleep, not to mention the challenge of parenting an extra fussy/tired child.
Working closely with families in the past 4 years, a pattern I've noticed is that sleep disruption of one missed sleep time lasts on average a week until a child feels 100% themselves again.
Sleep regressions and behavioral challenges are not something every family wants to go through after every BBQ, birthday party, or holiday.
I want to offer here the most gracious ways in which to leave events without making enemies:
- Tell the host (or hostess) ahead of time that you will be attending, BUT that you will be leaving at X time to put your child to sleep. Helping both your host (or hostess) AND child know that you will be heading out early will avoid surprises and any unwanted conflicts you may experience right before you need to leave.
- BE PRESENT while you're at the event. Part of the reason I value early bedtimes for my children is that it allows me to be my best self with everyone around me because I'm running on a full cup. While you're at the party/event, be present, enjoy yourself, fill people up from your overflow.
- Feed your child either before the event, or bring a meal for them in case dinner is late. Bringing your child's meal or feeding them before the event puts the power back in your hand and takes the pressure off of your host or hostess to have dinner ready early for your family.
- Provide a 10-minute warning to the host (and your child) and inform them that you will be leaving soon. Again, we don't want any surprises. Creating a transition time both for your host and child can make the fact that you will be leaving a little less painful on everyone.
- Lastly, and maybe more importantly, thank your hostess and tell them how you wish you could stay longer (if that is true), or thank them and tell them how you appreciated being there and how you enjoyed your time. By showing your friends or family how you enjoy and value your time with them, even if you have to leave early keeps your hearts tender towards each other and keeps that relationship going. You can hold your values and still maintain healthy relationships.
I want to mention before ending this post that you will experience grief around holding these values of honoring your child's sleep times. Creating boundaries around your child's sleep is not a cultural norm, so you're going to get some heat. That's okay! Remember why you're doing this; you're doing this because you love how you can be your best self for your children, family, and friends when you're rested and not exhausted from parenting an overtired child. And you love how vibrantly alive your children feel and how well they sleep when you honor their sleep times.
Please share with us in the comments how you excuse yourself from events to prioritize sleep times for your kids.