Last night was the first Tuesday night in weeks that I went to sleep before 1:00 a.m. That is, before 1:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. The only reason I wasn't awake in the wee hours is because I'm on a business trip in a different time zone. Six hours ahead. Giving me six hours more to finish my weekly CurrentMom.com blog ahead of the noon Wednesday deadline.
Somehow, though, it's not only on Tuesday night that I find myself logging in late hours online. Increasingly, it's Sunday and Thursday, too. Or Monday. Or Wednesday. Or, in bad weeks, all of them. Last week, when I was preparing for this trip, I jammed on my keyboard every night reading policy papers online, editing reports, and sending off successive (and perhaps excessive) emails. And then there were the online chats with friends and a few diversions on Amazon, Facebook, and eBay. (You remember my Amazon addiction, right?)
Now, I've always been a bit of a night owl so it's not surprising that (to quote one of my favorite musical theater shows), my time of day is the dark time. When my kids were younger and inclined to decide that it was time to eat, play, or wake up for good at 3:00 a.m., I forced myself to go to sleep early. Now that I have kids who actually sleep at night (shshsh!), I'm often up in the late show hour. What's shocking when I'm there, is the amount of company I have online - from lots of different friends and acquaintances, but especially from other working moms. Some are working, some are searching, others are organizing photos, but they're all online. At night.
Cindy Krischer Goodman of The Miami Herald pegged this phenomenon in a recent piece about how The Internet Extends Working Moms' Days. She writes:
Today, working motherhood means putting in a full day, helping with homework, tucking kids into the bed and logging on . . . . With the kids asleep, we're spending our evenings online catching up with friends, paying bills, shopping, working and doing all the tasks moms used to do when they had more daytime hours to do it.
Goodman attributes this, in part, to women's enthusiasm for connecting with family and friends (and shopping) online. But, as she also explains, there's a work-related reason too: "In some ways, the ability to log on from home helps alleviate guilt for women who leave the office or power down ... to participate in the family dinner, help with homework, or rush a child to sports practice."
This fits with the findings of a Pew Research Center report released this month- The Harried Life of the Working Mother - that working moms are more likely than at-home moms or working dads - 40 % to 26% to 25% - to feel as if there isn't enough time in the day. That's true whether they work full- or part-time. (Picking up on my post last week about happiness, though, the Pew report also found that working moms, overall, are as likely as at-home moms to say they are happy in their lives. And that working moms don't feel any more stress than at-home moms.) The solution for many moms to the day deficit seems to be to add more hours at night.
This all resonates with me. It's no coincidence, I think, that I've started spending more time in the evening working (and socializing) online just as I've reduced, slightly, my hours in the office to accommodate my daughter's new kindergarten and after-school activity schedule. With fewer hours in the office - and more daytime hours devoted to increasingly active kids - the ability to take some time at night to work (or to blog, network, or play online) helps me stay on top of things (work and otherwise) and gives me some sense of flexibility over my schedule. (The spike in my nighttime computer usage, though, might also be attributable to my husband's infatuation with his still relatively new iPhone.)
Of course, I know that flexibility can be illusory. The technological ability to work in the off hours enabled by remote computing (and, of course, the Blackberry and other smartphones) can create the expectation to do so. And there are lots of other things I could do once the kids go to sleep - housework and chores aside - instead of sitting in front of a computer screen. Like, read a novel. Exercise on the elliptical trainer. Talk to my husband (when he's not communicating with his iPhone). And sleep. Sleep. What a wonderful idea . . . .