As parents, many of us find routines helpful. For example, over time some lovely bedtime routines have evolved for my children. We don’t adhere to them religiously, but most nights we do things in more or less the same order, at more or less the same time. These flexible routines help my children ease into sleep.
While my kids have a fairly regular bedtime, I do not. I’ve fallen into some habits that a lot of parents will find familiar. My kids go to bed at around 8:30 or so. When they finally nod off, I get some time to myself, often for the first time that day. I revel in the quiet for a moment. I visit the bathroom all by myself. I eat a bowl of ice cream, and I don’t share any. I start doing all the things I’ve been putting off, or that I couldn’t do with my kids around.
While I enjoy my quiet time, the hour creeps later and later. I start to feel tired. I know that morning will come all too soon. But I don’t go to sleep, because I’m enjoying the quiet and the freedom of having two hands all to myself. I end up staying up far later than I probably should. In the morning, I’m not well-rested. In fact, I may even be flat-out sleep-deprived. But still, I do it all over again the next night, because once again I don’t want to give up that precious time in the evening that I have to myself.
One of Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting is strive for balance in your personal and family life. Part of striving for balance is taking care of yourself, and meeting your own needs.
When you have small children, sometimes you won’t be able to meet your needs in the way that you would most prefer to. As a work-at-home parent, I know this very well. I don’t always keep normal office hours. My most productive time is when my children are sleeping. Normally, I prefer to work in the morning. But I’m juggling multiple schedules and trying to meet everyone’s needs. My quest for balance, in part, means making concessions and working in the evening.
All the same, I know that when I’m chronically sleep-deprived, I’m out of balance. I’m also cranky and impatient, which doesn’t make for the most positive parenting. It doesn’t make me the most productive worker, either. While I may revel in the quiet time, staying up late every night isn’t serving me. This is why, recently, I’ve created a bedtime for myself, which has given me 30-45 minutes’ more sleep every night.
Half an hour may not sound like much, but one of the things about striving for balance is that it’s easier to make (and stick with) smaller changes. If I tried to get 90 minutes’ more sleep every night, it would be much harder to keep up. By starting small, I’m making it more achievable for myself. And really, even 30 minutes’ more sleep has had a real impact on my mental state. I wouldn’t say my life is now totally in balance, but it’s more balanced, and I can feel the difference.
I’ve discovered that routines – including bedtime routines – aren’t just for children. Sometimes, as parents, we need to take care of ourselves, too. That could mean going to bed a little bit earlier, like it does for me. Or it could mean getting regular exercise, drinking more water, or taking some time to write in your journal. Really, there are countless ways we could all take a little bit better care of ourselves. Why not try to make a small change for yourself, and see what kind of impact it has?