A couple of weeks ago I was chatting at swim lessons with another mom. She was poking fun at some new parent friends of theirs who left a dinner party at 7:00 to go and put their baby to sleep. She was reminiscing about how she remembers being an uptight first time parent who was stuck on routines. I had to admit to the mom, without any shame that I totally have become “that” routine/schedule mom. I explained to her a little of the timeline of how it came to be.
I am a pretty unorganized kind of gal, so when Sofia was born, we weren’t super into routines at first. She napped whenever and usually went to bed pretty late. The older she got, we became a little more structured but we were still pretty flexible. Then Gabe came along. Having a toddler and a baby was a very hard combination for me to get used to. They both demanded so much from me, and on top of that, Chris was working as a teacher and also doing photography many nights and most weekends. I tried to be the laid back go with the flow Kara, but I was exhausted and overwhelmed. It became clear to me very quickly, that our family needed more routines. When Gabe got a little older, we began very established bedtime/nap routines with both kids. Forward to the present to where we currently are with 3 kids. I love my life right now, but I definitely at times feel like most of my days look almost identical. Such is life with small children sometimes. Our lives are busy, and we definitely have lots of routines that we usually stick to in our family. Here are a few more if my random thoughts on routines/structure.
- On occasion, we certainly keep our kids out past their 7:00 bedtime. In the summer I ease up on routines a ton. We are usually outside playing in the early evening in the summer, but in the winter when it is dark at 4:30, it makes me want to get my kids in bed asap (and I pathetically also usually have my pajamas on by 7:00 on most winter nights)
- Now that all 3 of my kids go to bed at 7:00, I am in heaven. No matter how long or tiring my day is, I know that I am going to have time to hang out with Chris, watch a show, read a book, go out with friends, clean my house etc…I know that some parents seem to have endless supplies of patience, but I do not. By 7:00, I am ready to retire from parenting for the night ( at least until the baby wakes up). Chris is even able to get Miriam down to sleep by himself now, so I have been able to go out and not have to worry about bedtime.
- With Sofia in full day kindergarten, an early bedtime is crucial for her. She is so tired by 7:00 at night, and if anyone has seen Sofia without enough sleep, we all know that she is a much happier child when she is well rested (aren’t we all)?
- Gabe pretty much wakes up around 6:00 every day (and always has) whether or not he is put to bed early or late, so I choose early.
- You may be thinking at this point,”Does this family ever do anything cool at all?” The answer is yes, but I would say that some of the friends we hang out with the most are also parents who put their kids to bed early. It is not uncommon for us to do dinner with friends at 4:30 or 5:00 on a Saturday night so we can leave by 7:oo’ish.
- When we are with extended family and cousins, most routines temporarily go out the window. It’s hard to put a baby down for a nap when there are 10 cousins running around a house. We also do go to functions/activities later at night sometimes, but 90% of the time, we stick to our routines.
- Miriam is still taking two naps, so it really limits what I can do during the day. I feel like if I am not taking kids to or from school, I am racing home for a nap. There are many times when it doesn’t work out for her to nap in her crib, but I try to make it happen whenever possible.
- I know that I am focused mainly on sleep here, but we are also into routines in other ways as well, like how much and when our kids get media.
A couple of months ago, I got a fliar for a weekly parenting workshop that was going to be starting at Sofia’s school at night that looked really interesting. They even provided dinner and childcare. I talked to Chris about going, and he brought up the fact that the seminar didn’t even get over until more than an hour past when our kids are usually in bed and that Sofia would have to return to school after a full day of kindergarten. He also reminded me that Miriam most likely would not want to stay in the childcare and that one of us would probably be out there with her the whole time. I vented a little of my frustration of feel “trapped” by our routines sometimes, but I am just learning to accept that this is life with young children. I know that many families are probably way more structured than we are , and many others are probably way more spontaneous than we are, but this is how I am surviving right now. This is what I am doing for myself and for my kids so that we can be well rested and that hopefully being well rested will translate into more patience and kindness towards each other. I know that my life right now would not be considered super exciting, but I am learning more and more to take joy in the simplicity of my life.
So my question for you all… How structured and into routines are you (particularly bedtime and nap) as a family? What time do your kids go to bed? For parents who put their kids to bed late (lets say 9:00), how do you have patience at that time of night on a daily basis, and could you please share a little of your patience with me?