If you aren’t a routine type of person then you probably won’t relate. Having daily routines means that you and the kids know what’s going to happen and when. This is convenient for you as you can plan your day. When people ask to come over you can give them times that work. No one wakes up a sleeping baby and everyone is happier. Routine brings security to children as they know what to expect and when to expect it. Babies and children who live in order and routine are well-rested and content. There needn’t be incessant crying or fussing because mealtime is predictable. They aren’t tired or worn out because they sleep at regular intervals. They don’t stay up until 11pm just because they felt like it and didn’t act tired. Routine dictates what happens. Of course, it will need to be flexible because there are always exceptions to the rule, but when the exception becomes the rule then you’ve wandered into dangerous territory.
However, one “downside” to routine is that it often leaves little precious free time. As a mother of two young children I often find it difficult to have a social life when I want them to be home for their naps. One is a 3-hour-afternoon napper since she’s older. The younger still takes three 2 hour naps throughout the day. I often have an hour or two of rest while they’re both asleep to work, pay bills, or do household projects. Lots of going out causes concern because tiredness creates fussiness and I worry that an adventure will turn into a nightmare fast if they don’t fall asleep in the stroller. The downside to a happy-home-napper is an I-won’t-sleep-if-I’m-not-in-my-crib-napper.
I’ve thought a lot about keeping socially active while having littles and have come to a few conclusions.
1) They are only little for a short time. It might feel like forever when you haven’t seen a movie in a year or don’t have a babysitter. The days at home might drag on and on without excitement. But actually, time flies by so fast they are in preschool and then kindergarten before you know it. If you have to stay home a lot to keep your children well-rested and happy, then know it’s only short-term.
2) Pick and choose your exceptions to the rule. Perhaps every Sunday they miss their morning nap for church. Or every Wednesday they miss their afternoon nap because you are at soccer practice with your older children. Vacation necessitates some missed napping, as well as trips to the doctor, etc. While it is obviously fine to rearrange some routine for special occasions, don’t make a habit of it. Never let more than a few days go by with big routine shifts. After two days of missed or short naps and my 18 month old is very noticeably fussy and irritable. It is not worth it for me to gain a little temporary satisfaction going out when I know I have to live with the fussiness as a result. A benefit to my routine is I can scheduled appointments in the right times.
3) Pack the wake times with a bang. When I have something that needs to be done and I have two children who are awake and not needing to eat, I make a run for it. I take the happy full campers to Bunnings (Australia’s home depot), Coles (Australia’s Publix or Kroger) and the park (yeah…still called the park). I do it as quick as I can, pray they don’t fall asleep in the car never-to-be-transferred-to-bed-without-waking and get on with it. I know in a few years they will be awake all day so I don’t need to make them grow up before their time. Small babies need sleep for optimal development. Spending a full day at the mall just to suit my need to wear makeup and be seen won’t do the baby any favours.
4) Sometimes you just have to say “stuff it” and go with the flow. I am a creature of habit, and as my Gallup Srengthsfinder test shows, one of my top 5 strengths is consistency. I can be a wet blanket. Everyone’s having fun at the beach? Oh well, pack it up. Naptime is in an hour. We’re enjoying a nice dinner out, should we spring for dessert? Only if we get it to go and eat it after we put them to bed. Hmm, but it’s ice cream. Yeah, well, then too bad. We can eat ice cream when they go to college. Because of this character
strength flaw -istic, sometimes I pull a fast one just to remind myself that I am not always right and that my children won’t die from a few hours of missed sleep. I surprise the husband and my friends who wonder what cruel assembly line I have my children on. I go out all day in the city. I let them sleep, or not, in the stroller. I remind myself that they want to see the world too. Part of the joy of routine is it brings security so when you do throw them for a loop, they are actually okay.
Routine is, depending on the situation, both friend and foe.
PS – for more of my exciting, earth-shattering, parenting thoughts, click here!