I have had this post sitting in my drafts folder for so long that I don’t even know when this picture was taken! It’s fun to see my bald-headed baby doing superman style exercises on the floor. Look at this recent Instagram photo to see how much he has changed!
This post I’ve had lingering at the back of my mind for over a year now is about babies and schedules and relaxing.
Having a baby is really overwhelming, especially the first time. I couldn’t sit down or stand up or lay down without being reminded that my vagina had almost been ripped in half. I wasn’t producing enough milk (but didn’t know it) so my poor kid screamed non-stop and was half-starved in his first weeks of life. T1 didn’t sleep through the night until 7 months, when I finally decided it was time to put him down full of formula, shut the door, and let him cry it out (he is a champion sleeper now, and has been since then).
I like to do research, and I love to plan things, but I was never really interested in all of the child rearing methods that promised to teach me the secret to creating a schedule that would lighten my load (presumably by making naptime and bedtime a better experience), and so I’ve just kind of done things my own way for the past two years, which for me means not really having a schedule. I’ve tried to listen to T1, let him communicate his natural rhythms to me through patterns and non-verbal cues, and then arranged my life in the pockets of time that are left free for me. Like most babies, T1 went from sleeping pretty much all day, to three naps a day, to two, and now he is at one. He currently goes to sleep at around 9pm at night, wakes up around 8, and sleeps for 2-3 hours in the afternoon from around 2-5. It’s a strange schedule which makes playdates difficult because he’s awake when his friends are napping, sleeping when they’re playing, and awake when they’re going to bed.
This strange schedule of ours was a natural occurrence (and I acknowledge is the privilege of being a SAHM, since I don’t have to deal with the expectations of an external caretaker). As he grew older we found ourselves putting him to bed a little later than most kids, and in return I found that I didn’t have anything to complain about when the moms got together and commiserated about their children waking up at 5 or 6 am. He’s still getting plenty of sleep, it’s just spread out throughout a 24 hour period differently than most toddlers. This means I don’t have my evenings to myself, but I love the mornings when I wake up at 6:30 am and can get a workout in before he wakes up (I prefer working out in the AM, and when he is sleeping). It’s not just sleeping, he doesn’t eat at specific times either and didn’t really do so when he first started on solids. We do follow a somewhat regular routine of eating in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening, but otherwise I just kind of let him tell me when he’s hungry. Maybe I just don’t have a snacker, but it’s very rare for him to eat a snack (unless I’m cooking and he sees the cheese, then he will ask for piece after piece). This might also be because his snacks are more nutritious than they are delicious (if you could eat Goldfish crackers all day, wouldn’t you be asking for them nonstop?)
Along with a variable daytime schedule, we don’t have a complicated/firm naptime/bedtime routine either. Sometimes we read a book, sometimes we take a bath, sometimes we snuggle in bed, sometimes we sing songs. Other times we do those things at different times during the day and when it’s time for bed we change him into pajamas, lower the blinds, turn on the white noise, and sing “Twinkle Twinkle” before we put him in his bed with his favorite blanky. Sometimes he cries for a little bit, but most of the time he talks to himself a little bit before drifting off to sleep.
I have plenty of friends who live and die by their schedule, and I say more power to them. Find whatever makes parenting not just endurable, but enjoyable. This post is an opportunity for me to chime in as an alternate voice to what I have felt is the popular opinion of today. You don’t need a “parenting expert” to tell you how to live your life, and how to survive with a baby. It’s tough, but you’ll figure it out. And there is no shame in leaving the babysitter with instructions that sound a little something like “There are leftovers in the fridge to heat up when he is hungry, he’ll probably go to bed somewhere between 8-9. He’s pretty easy and we’re not worried.”
There are many different ways to parent, and you know what? The majority of them are awesome in their own way. Pick your favorite and own it (and try out as many as you’d like before deciding on a favorite!)