Leaving children w/sleeping parent?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Leaving children w/sleeping parent?
Tue, 01-13-2004 - 7:38pm
I've never seen this question . . . at what age is it ok to leave your children home with a sleeping parent (and I mean when the kids are awake)? Is it the same as leaving them alone or would it be ok at a slightly younger age if there was a parent there who was sleeping? What else would factor in--how sound of a sleeper they are?

I'm not talking about when you come home & your spouse fell asleep unexpectedly when they were the only supervision at the time. I'm talking about when if you knew the other parent would be asleep would you left the house--knowing the kids could wake the parent if there was a problem. I've been thinking about this because my dh has been home a lot (for the last 6 months) due to physical problems and surgery. He has started back to work but only part time. I have been more in the habit of leaving one or both kids home with him (girls ages 7 & 4) because he is home so much. Even when he was in a lot of pain he would be laying downstairs in living room floor watching tv or playing card game/board games with kids. Suddenly after the holidays his depression is worse & he is going to work part-time (due to dr. orders) but sleeping much more, maybe due to depression maybe due to increase in depresssion meds that have a side effect of sleepiness. So I am having to change my plans to take my kids w/me because he is sleeping all afternoon after work or sleeping until 12-3 pm on the weekends. So I'm thinking they are too young to be home when he won't get up or is asleep, although they are very good kids & aren't into everything destroying everything--they really play a lot on their own & everything probably would be fine. But I feel like it's probably not a good idea since he is a pretty sound sleeper. When he is awake, although he is depressed, he is pretty normal & interacts w/kids & me.

I guess this is part of a vent, part of a just general question and a part wwyd. I am not going to leave them with him if I know he's not getting up. But I know a lot of parents sleep in on the weekend & the kids get their own breakfast, etc. So I'm just asking wwyd.


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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Tue, 01-13-2004 - 11:17pm
I agree with you. If the person is a sound sleeper, its prob not a good idea. My dh falls asleep sometimes on the nights I work and I really dont like it. Luckily dd is almost 13 and she ALWAYS stays awake until ds is asleep-my good, responsible girl :o).

Funny story regarding this-once I fell asleep on the couch when ds was about 2. I woke up about 20 minutes later and I was covered in STICKERS. So was the couch and coffee table! He was never the kind of child to get into things, but he thought it was pretty cool to put stickers all over mom....and he must have been quite careful because I am usually a light sleeper!! :o)



"Now when I need help, I look in the mirror" ~Kanye West~

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-16-2003
Wed, 01-14-2004 - 5:14am
"Funny story regarding this-once I fell asleep on the couch when ds was about 2. I woke up about 20 minutes later and I was covered in STICKERS. So was the couch and coffee table! "

LOL, you got off lucky! With DS1 I fell asleep for less than 5 minutes and the reason I woke up was a thwack on the head from DS's play phone (ouch!). He was trying to get me to "play" phone and wielded it like a baseball bat.

I don't have a lot of experience with 7 yo. kids, but I think 4 is probably too young. I've known people in military housing who've gotten in trouble for a child getting out of the house and wandering while the parent was home asleep.

I hope you can find a solution that works with you and your DH's depression. I know how hard depression can be both on the person and the entire family. Our thoughts are with you and your family.


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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Wed, 01-14-2004 - 8:56am
Depending on the kids, I would say somewhere in the 6 year old (young extreme) to 10 year old (old extreme) age range with the most common in the 8 year/9 year range. But a lot would depend on the individual kid(s) involved.
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2004
Wed, 01-14-2004 - 11:12am
I know two children can get up to quite a bit of mischief when left alone for more than 15 minutes, even with an adult home, they are impulsive and often think of consequences after the fact. It might be a good idea to talk with your older dd about what they can do, what they can't do. To help remind them you could together write up a "to do and not do" list and include phone numbers to reach you and a close neighbor/relative. Also talk with them about when to wake dad and when it's absolutely necessary to call 911 then wake dad. I wish you luck. Linda, tinzer
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-31-2003
Tue, 01-20-2004 - 12:39pm
Well, there's natural sleep, and there's medicated sleep; they are not the same.

I'm the deepest natural sleeper anyone in my family has ever known. In college, there was a full-bore fire klaxon right outside my room, and I slept through it times past counting.

On average, it takes me about 45 minutes to surface from a natural sleep, but I do swim to the surface a bit faster in the daytime; the light helps. DS is 6 now, and takes after me, sleepwise. On days when school is out and I've taken the day off, DH routinely leaves when both DS and I are sleeping. DS tends to wake naturally at about 8, and he comes in and wakes me up when he gets hungry, usually about 9:30. If he didn't, I would normally begin to surface at about 10:30. We have tight locks on all the exterior doors; you have to put your weight against the door to flip the bolt, and DS isn't heavy enough to do it. Toxics are securely locked up, of course, and all the tippable furniture is bolted.

I was on SRI's for nearly 4 years, from the time DS was 4 mos until he was 4.5. That sleep was very different, more like being unconscious than being asleep. I was not comfortable with DH leaving me at home alone sleeping with DS while I was taking the medications, but once I stopped taking them, I realized that it was OK.

I actually know more than most about this, as I was the youngest child in my family, and my SAHM was on antipsychotics when I was little. She used to get up to make Dad's breakfast at 5 am; he left at 5:45. She did chores for a few hours and got me up around 9, fed me breakfast, and then went to 'rest' about 10:30 when her meds kicked in. She invariably slept until approx. 3 pm, when she would get up, give me something to eat and start making dinner. We lived in a semi-rural area on a couple of acres, and it was my habit to leave the house as soon as she fell asleep, and be back in before she woke up. We had a very large attack-trained dog, and I took the dog with me everywhere I went. I'm not sure that there was a lock made that could have held me at that age (I used to dissassemble doors from the hinge side), but as long as I had the dog with me, no one I encountered seemed to be overly concerned. Mom never realized how far I wandered, of course. She used to lecture me about never leaving the property, but I knew that it didn't matter because she couldn't manage to stay awake. Looking back, I'm amazed that I never got hurt, but I was really a very self-sufficient kid from an early age, and was very careful about staying away from things that could get me in trouble. (It also helps that I have an infallible natural sense of direction.)

I think that if you are talking about natural sleep, then the personality of the child makes all the difference. If you have the sort of curious kid who is into everything, it may be well into school-age time before it is safe. If you have a child like mine who is very conscious of all the safety rules he has been taught, you can do it somewhat earlier, but I'd say 3+ is about as young as I'd go, unless there was a much older sibling there, too. Where medication is involved, however, I would say not at all in the daytime, unless the child is old enough to be a latchkey.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Thu, 01-22-2004 - 9:11am
If it were just the 7 yo, it would depend on her maturity level. But throwing a 4yo into the mix too would really concern me. Even kids who generally stay out of trouble are not very adept at predicting the consequences of their actions at those ages (especially the 4 yo of course), and in my experience at least two kids are much better at getting into trouble than one. It would just be too easy for someone to get hurt, especially if your dh is a sound sleeper (and medicated).

My dad worked nights when I was a kid, so he was sleeping in the afternoons when my brother and I got home, but we were both school-aged by then. We were usually pretty good, with the exception of the time he locked me out of the house and I put my hand through a window trying to get back in.