I Recognize the Importance of a Night Time Routine for my Children yet Completely Neglect My Own

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There have been different times in my life when I considered myself a “night owl” and other times when I felt I was a “morning person.” My night owl tendencies mostly ran strong during my years in school. Even in high school, I stayed up past midnight completing homework assignments. I felt most alive and productive during the night hours. Pregnancy and kids sure changed that feeling. Now in the evening hours after the kids are down, all I want to do is sit down on the couch and do absolutely nothing. I mean nothing. I don’t even want to put food back in the refrigerator or clean dishes from dinner. Looking around, I feel overwhelmed: my house is torn apart with clutter everywhere, and my list of to-do items is missing a few check marks. Nothing feels completely accomplished, and everything seems out of place.

All day long I look for little moments to get things done. I set down Clark for a minute (more like 30 seconds), hoping he doesn’t cry so I can dress myself. I rush around the kitchen acting like Cooper’s little butler, responding to her lunch commands. The second I sit down to enjoy the meal with her, she seems to need more milk or water. And I cannot keep up with Cooper’s newly found love of dumping out boxes of toys. Sometimes, especially while nursing, I take advantage of the time created by this 7 ½ minute distraction. It entertains her when I do not have the ability to interact with her other than asking her to please bring over a book so I can read it while Clark tries to get comfortable while nursing. As stated, all day long I am looking for little fractions of times to accomplish tasks. When night time comes and both kiddos are down, I am finally granted the time, but I am way too exhausted to capitalize on it.

So for this week’s #bebetter52 challenge to establish a new night time routine, I decided not to burden myself by trying to be productive in the evening hours. Ironically, I recognize the importance of a night time routine for my children yet completely neglect the need for my own.  If I start working at night on Be Better or lacrosse or on unfinished to-do’s around the house, my mind revs back up again, and I have a difficult time turning it off.

When thinking about what I wanted to add to my nighttime routine, I spent time reflecting on our nightly routines with the children. The reality is some evenings the nighttime routine with our kids goes smoothly and other nights it is tortuous. A couple of days ago my husband asked, “When do nighttime routines stop?” I had to think long and hard… “I guess when they can put themselves to bed, but I have no clue what age that is.” But even on nights when bedtime peace and tranquility are NOT easily found in our home, I find these brief episodes some of my most favorite parenting moments thus far. Here is a glimpse into the reality of these crazy evening hours.

A good night with two kids looks like this:

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We eat dinner with Clark sitting in the bumbo and Cooper in her high chair.

I start a super hot bath. Hubby plays with the kids while I jump in the bath until it is an okay temp for the kids to join. Yes, I love taking baths with them because I love baths, and it is so much easier than reaching over the side of the tub to soap them up. We play, and we talk.

Cory grabs Clark. I get out, dry off Clark and dress him in his pj’s. (Normally, this is the point when the crying begins.)

Cory then grabs Cooper. She runs around naked for a second. Then we put on her diaper and pj’s, brush her hair like “Moana,” brush her teeth to get the “sugar bugs” out and the “sugar bugs with their teddy bears” that sleep deep in her mouth.

I put Clark to bed in his crib after nursing, swaddling and singing.

Then we read books with Cooper. Lots of them. Sometimes we lay on our bellies in the room, other times we sit in the rocking chair. She demands we tell her “stories” and cuddle.

We put her in her crib, turn on lullaby music while she falls asleep.

A bad night with two kids looks like this:

I eat dinner while bouncing Clark because if I sit down, he will start crying. Cooper is demanding to get out of her highchair because she is “all done” and wants to play outside.

I start a super hot bath. Hubby takes the kids while I jump in the bath until it is an okay temp for the kids to join. Cooper doesn’t want to take a bath, so I take Clark first. Then Cory carries Cooper to the bathtub and tries to convince her to just take a bath for a second. With Clark in one hand, I am creating stories to motivate Cooper to sit down in the water and allow me to pour water on her head to get out the shampoo from her hair. She screams and twists, making the water hit her face.

Cory grabs Clark, I get out, dry off Clark and dress him in his pj’s. He is screaming.

Cory then grabs Cooper. She runs around naked and does not want to go to bed. Then the diaper and pj’s. These nights there is zero chance we are brushing her hair or teeth.  

I put Clark to bed in his crib after nursing and swaddling. He is screaming because he doesn’t want to sleep. When my husband is gone, Clark will have to cry for a couple of minutes while I try to put Cooper in her crib. I split my time between Cooper’s room and Clark’s, back and forth, to put the binky back in his mouth and to attend to Cooper.

Then we read books with Cooper. Lots of them. She demands we tell her “stories” and cuddle. She cries, telling us she wants MILK, or CUDDLES, or to say goodnight to TUCKER.

Both babies are now crying, so of course I know I must attend to Clark. I rock him and then try to nurse him back to sleep (which I know is NOT what I am supposed to do when sleep training).

We put Cooper in her crib, turn on lullaby music, and hope she falls asleep. I say goodnight, Cooper.  She keeps screaming and then finally falls asleep.

No wonder I am tired by the time they both fall asleep. Allowing myself time to be unproductive is necessary but still difficult to accept and commit to. So I gave myself a time to stop all things productive: 9 p.m. I turned off all electronics, I put my phone in the other room, I sat and talked with my husband, we went to bed at the same time (something I always used to do, but somehow got out of the habit of doing). I didn’t worry about the mess. I just enjoyed the night, allowing myself to regroup for another busy and amazing day.