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 :)?

Wendy M. - March 1, 2012 - 6:41 am

Good topic! I really believe scheduling or flexibility depends on the child. With Brenden we were rigid about his schedule when he was really young because he seemed to fall apart if he didn’t sleep at the same time every day/night. Allison was born more easy-going, so we became more flexible (although she’s still a 6-am-sharp kid, so both kids go to bed at 8pm.) As for the patience at night, we waited until Bren was in first grade to shift their bedtime from 7 to 8pm. By that time, he had a little homework. Now, it seems like with homework and reading, piano practice, showering and getting ready for school in the morning, the evening isn’t long enough!
I think the phase you are in right now seems endless while you are in it, but once you are through it you turn around and say, “that wasn’t so bad.” (Kind of like the diaper phase!)

Kim - March 1, 2012 - 6:48 am

I think routines are great! We have pretty established routines with our daughter too. When she was little I knew we could be out running errands from this time to this time and if we weren’t home by 11:30 I better have some snacks ready. If we aren’t home by 1:30 I better anticipate naptime grumpies. It helps with my anticipating what she needs. And when we are “off” for a family weekend away or special night out it’s easier to get her back on track too. Very early we started something that I LOVE now. We read a story every night at bed time. Tonight I read the story, Daddy snuggles for a few minutes after, says prayer, then does tuck in. Tomorrow morning I get up and do wake up, breakfast, dressing. Daddy will read story tomorrow night, I do snuggles, prayer, and tuck in. This way she is used to BOTH of us tucking her in separately so when one of us has a meeting she doesn’t melt at bedtime because Mommy’s not tucking her in. AND, I only have to be up super early and dressed for work before getting her up half the days of the week. Every-other Saturday I get to sleep as late as I want. And every-other Saturday she and I have special Silly Saturday pancake breakfast. Routines are WONDERFUL! Kids need structure. Someone recommended the book “Baby Wise” to us when I was pregnant. There’s some of it I don’t agree with and I wasn’t crazy about the next book in the series but it made a lot of good points about routines and how they are good for babies and kids because they know what to expect. It’s as much healthy for them as it is for us. I give that book as a gift to all my friends who are expecting.

Katrina - March 1, 2012 - 9:46 am

Bedtime and naptime are golden. It has to be something pretty important to shove them back very far. Unless it’s summertime. Summertime is golden, too. I’ve been made fun of for having dinner at 5:30, but I think it’s weird to not eat until 7:00 or later. I’m hungry, and so are my kids. And as for exciting, no that’s not how I’d describe my life… except maybe when my kids do something hilarious, or they start taking their first steps, saying their first sentences, reading their first words, etc. (Which isn’t every day, but it’s more exciting than a dinner party.)

adrienne w - March 1, 2012 - 1:03 pm

I definitely think that routine and structure are important. But I’m one of those parents that isn’t great at following it. I’m kind of a fly by the seat of my pants person. In some ways, that helps me a lot as a parent, because the unexpected doesn’t throw me off, but I know it’s something I’d like to improve on. We have routine, but it doesn’t always follow a strict schedule. As far as bedtime goes, I am DESPERATELY trying to get ours earlier. My aim for bedtime is between 7:30 and 8:00 for Macartney(7) and Thatcher(5) and to have the two littler girls in bed before that. But that never happens most of the time the 3 older kids are in bed by 8:30 (sometimes later, sadly) and I put the baby to bed after that. I’m lucky that all my kids are phenomenal sleepers who will sleep anywhere and through the night. In general, all the girls will sleep in if they were up late. Thatcher will not. He is a morning person and is up first everyday, but usually no earlier than 7:00. Don’t get me wrong- I know sleep is very important. I’m just lucky that my kids are incredibly flexible, which gives our family a lot of flexibility. As first time parents, we made sure Macartney could sleep wherever we were and that made life so easy. All the kids are good about adapting their sleep to the situation. I’m also terrible at eating dinner at the same time every night. I don’t often leave myself enough time to cook and we get behind, which is probably what is throwing our bedtime schedule off. I need to get better at it. As far as the day goes, life is so much easier for me and my 4 small children, if I just stay home most of the time. The baby can nap and I don’t have to worry about the stress of going out with them. We just go to and from the school most of the time. When we’re not in school, I do take them on outings, but maybe once a week. And as a family we often go out on Saturday afternoons, after Geneva’s nap. I don’t feel trapped most of the time, except when Denver’s out of town for work. Then I do everything in my power to get them to bed early so I can relax! :)

kara - March 1, 2012 - 1:43 pm

It is an interesting combination with my kids ages, because I feel like Sofia and Gabe are okay with having their routine shaken up a little more, but the baby falls apart. I think a few more years from now, and it won’t feel so intense.
Sounds like you have a lot of great routines going on. Baby Wise was personally not for me and my style (I didn’t like the idea of putting tiny babies on a schedule… I like following their lead at that age), but I know that plenty of parents are happy with it. That is great that you and your hubby both do bedtime so she is equally used to both of you doing it!
I might make you stir up your routine a little bit to come and hang out in Corvallis in the summer when the weather is nice :).
I’m sure that the more kids you add, the harder it is to have a consistent schedule, because their is probably more unexpected. I agree that staying home more makes life easier. I am a social go go go kind of gal, so it has been so nice for me to be at home more and just be more low key.