When my son was an infant, he had a very hard time sleeping through the night, and in fact it took about nine months before he could make a six-hour continuous stretch. So here’s Dad, trying to get him through this life stage and facing night after night of sleeplessness. Then here’s Dad still getting up in the morning to go to work. Although getting up really doesn’t apply when my body barely ever saw the bed in the process.
Faced with endless deadlines at work and nights that wouldn’t seem to end, I had to adapt. I had to figure out how to hold him in a way that kept him asleep while allowing me to get some shuteye as well.
After much trial and error, I discovered a hold that involved use of my forearm in a certain stance that included propping myself up in a corner. It was a winning formula, because he would sleep and I was stable enough to sleep too. It was the only winning formula, because any alteration to that hold and that stance led to a crying baby boy.
The problem was that it required me standing up. I literally had to learn how to sleep standing up. His bedroom corner became my bed and my forearm became his mattress.
Slowly but surely over the course of the nine months, I starting taking chances and putting him down for little bits of time, almost to train him to go out there on his own. Sure enough, after nine months, he slept through the night and has pretty much ever since. Now he’s a junior in college and I’m not sure he’s sleeping much at night again, but now that’s his problem -- not mine!
Looking back, there were times when I didn’t think we’d make it. Correction, times when I didn’t think I would make it!
But deep down, I somehow knew that this was just a temporary situation, and I just merely needed to adapt for a while, and it would get better. I had to adapt to dealing with non-continuous sleep, and I had to adapt to force my body to sleep in a vertical position. Sure enough, time passed, and so did that specific situation. Had I not been able to adapt, it would have perhaps lasted much longer or would have had more consequences like lost productivity at work, strain on other relationships, etc.
But we got through it, but only because I was able to adapt to the temporary situation while my son’s body adapted to his environment.
Truth be told, there have been many other times in my life when I’ve had to “sleep standing up,” figuratively. In making career choices through the years to balance work and family demands, I’ve endured long commutes, sub-optimal roles and very tight financials. I even started my own company so that I could be around for the kids. There was a lot of “sleeping standing up” in those early years of my company.
This is what we do, though, as entrepreneurs and parents in coping with the stages of our families and our businesses. You have to adapt and endure through tough times, so that you can get to the other side and enjoy the rewards of your hard work.
To this day I remember the first night my son slept all the way through. And to this day I remember when my little agency landed its first big account. Then soon enough, it was on to another challenge that got us “sleeping standing up” so to speak.
I look back fondly at each of those temporary situations that forced adaptation. It’s the stuff that entrepreneurs and parents are made of.