Incorporating Habits into Routines

Next week is spring break. Will you rest during spring break? The family literacy teacher asked our class this opening question. The only woman in the room without kids, she was looking forward to a week of sleeping in, unstructured time with family and friends, and relaxing.

IMG_8552All the moms looked at her blankly. This was not a language misunderstanding; this was a life-circumstance disconnect. None of the moms in the room would sleep in or relax. If anything, our routines would be thrown off for the week and we would be filling long days that were usually helped by the school routine.

Normally, I love slow days. Even though we wake up at the same time, regardless of the weekend, weekday, or holiday, having a pajama morning is lovely. Easing into the day is more relaxing and I love the break in routine.

But I also need to go into next week remembering that it takes time to establish a vacation routine, too. That for as much as my kids need and thrive on unstructured play, having an unstructured routine can be stressful.

Lent is almost finished – just over a week until Easter. Every day, I’ve been reading through the book of Exodus, “giving up” some of my precious writing time to dive into the Bible. For the most part, I’ve been consistent, with just a couple make-up days. Now that I’ve established this routine, I’ve been thinking about what I’ll keep in its place.

Because that’s the point, right? Not to simply go back to old habits but to continue living intentionally, using my time wisely, and recognizing the power of habits and routines.

What kind of routine do you thrive on? And, are you able to sleep in on holidays or do you keep getting up at the same time?

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “routine.”

Don’t Ask Me About Sleep

Frank and I ate breakfast in semi-silence the other day. His offense? He asked if I had a rough night’s sleep.

Don’t even ask me about sleep until Elle is five years old!!!! I grumped.

Even on good nights, when both girls go down easily and sleep (mostly) through the night (What does “through the night” even mean? Until 6:00? 7:00? What time do you go to sleep to count it?) I think it will take a decade of beautiful, elusive, uninterrupted sleep to make me feel like I’ve gotten a good night’s sleep.

A friend who’s pregnant with her first asked which sleep book we liked most – BabyWise, Happiest Baby, Sleep Solutions? I laughed and said, If someone has figured out the magic cure for sleep, there’d only be one book for sale!

IMG_0963It’s funny how much emphasis we place on sleep, especially during the first year. Something I learned from Bea is that, once we got into a routine, something would throw it off. Teeth… Growth spurt… Big kid bed… Potty training… Anything and everything would disturb her sleep. Elle has always seemed like a better sleeper, but it may be that our standards for good sleep are so much lower this time around.

Before he left for work, we briefly talked. It wasn’t about the sleep so much as it’s about me. I would have responded so much differently if he had greeted me with a simple Good morning or I love you or something similarly meaningful-yet-benign.

I recently read an article on NPR about parents who sleep poorly. Apparently, they tend to think their kids are sleeping worse than they actually are. I get that. We project our own restlessness onto the times our kids get up. (Though, to be fair, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect a three-year-old to stay in bed during the night. I could be way off, though.)

The article – and our focus on sleep these days – had me thinking about how we project our own frustrations or worries or stresses onto others. How we can magnify these own areas in our lives onto our children.

When we’ve had a super-busy day, if dinnertime seems chaotic. When Bea has held it together so well for others, she falls apart with us. When Frank is stressed about work – either when he comes home or because he hasn’t left early enough – it seems like the girls are moving slower or requiring extra attention. I’m sure it’s about the same – it just seems different because we’re projecting our own frustrations.

I was talking with a friend about sleep recently. We were saying how frustrating it is when the baby sleeps through the night and the big kid is the one to wake up with a need. Our shot at sleep ruined from the one who should know better!!

We were talking about people we know with kids in the next stage – that magical age when they can brush their own teeth, take their own baths, get ready without prompting or hand-holding. It’ll be here before I know it and I’ll look back on the days of one more story with fondness (I hope!)

Until then, I need to recognize that it isn’t just about good sleep or bad sleep or sleeping “through” the night. It’s about seeing the bigger picture. That sleep is an indicator of well-being. That our kids can take out their stresses in sleep and rather than be frustrated, I need to stop and look at indicators.

Maybe, if I’m more attuned to the possible whys behind the girls’ sleep patterns, perhaps I’ll view my own sleep patterns differently, as well.

And to parents in the midst of newborn-baby-toddler-preschooler-whatever-challenge-comes-next sleep challenge: All I can offer is solidarity. Rumor has it, we’ll get through this and onto new unknown challenges.

Were your kids good sleepers or did you look for help from books and other parents? Are you a night owl or early riser – did your kids match up with you?

Sleep

Frank took last week off and we spent the whole time at home, reconnecting and resting after tax season. We gardened, went to the museum, and my parents came up to give Frank and I a date day. After spending the whole week doing normal things as a whole family, Bea has remembered what it’s like to have two parents. Instead of insisting on me reading to her, snuggling with her, and playing with her, she’ll go between the two of us. We needed that reset.

Look, dad's home before dark!
Look, dad’s home before dark!

The part of the week that was less-than-refreshing was our sleep. Bea had been sleeping 12 solid hours and I totally got spoiled waking up, having my coffee and reading before she woke up around 7:15. Suddenly, a few weeks ago, she started getting up at 6:15. That hour difference was a shock! Instead of waking up on my own, I woke up to her calling out. I’m not sure if she’s just naturally readjusting her sleep patterns or the fact that it’s light out earlier is at the root. (I don’t think it helps that she’s transitioning to one nap a day, too…)

This last week, she started waking up in the night, too. Once, I think it was at 3:00 in the morning, which was awful. But, mostly, she’s been waking up around 11:30, just after we’ve fallen into a deep sleep. Sometimes she’ll cry and fall back asleep. Other times, we’ve gotten up to be met with a request to read “just one story” and then she’ll go back to sleep. Even when we don’t go to her, the interrupted sleep has taken its toll.

Frank told me the other day that he has several clients who told him that their wives take on all nighttime duties so they can be fresh for work the next day. We have friends who practice this philosophy, as well. On some level, I understand that a working parent needs to be fresh and awake to bring in money to support the family. On the other hand, I don’t view parenting as a job but a partnership and if I’m tired the next day, I’m not going to be a good parent.

Frank has always split the nighttime duties. Part of it is that he is very involved in all aspects of parenting, so broken sleep was part of parenting. Part of it is that I never offered to give him uninterrupted nights in exchange for getting to stay home with our baby. Part of it is that I am much grumpier with less sleep than he is. A more patient parent is what Bea needs in the middle of the night. I like to remember that, since I use my brain more during the day, I need more sleep.

I don’t know what our solution will be. Maybe getting blackout curtains for her windows; Maybe revisiting our sleep training days and timing her crying; Maybe just hoping this is a phase of teething, sniffles, and growing. I had a friend tell me that sleep doesn’t return to normal until the youngest child is 5 years old. That thought seems a bit impossible, and at this point is my biggest hesitation to having a second baby. The idea of not sleeping well for another 8+ years is awful. For now, I need to remember our 12 hour nights and hope we get back to those…

Did you sleep train your children? How do you divide nighttime duties with your partner?