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Small changes: our new bedtime routine

This blog post on our bedtime routine was inspired by a post I read last night on "Mel's 2 Belles" called Bad Habits.

Bedtime is probably the most challenging time of day. By the time bedtime rolls around, your mind is wandering to the bottle of wine you have chilling in the fridge and your body longs to collapse on the couch (with chocolate).

Here was our old bedtime routine:

Dinnertime sometime between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm, depending on when I started cooking.

After dinner, playing outdoors with the boys.

7:00 pm: bring the toddlers in for bath and pajama time (pajama to the left, pajama to the right, jamma, jamma, jamma, jamma, P! J!) Toddlers then meltdown through entire pajama routine.

7:15-7:30 pm: Toddlers go to bed early because Momma is done listening to meltdowns.

7:45 pm: Momma hollering outside to Husband and preschooler that it is probably time to possibly think about coming inside, maybe?

8:00 pm: Husband wrestles with preschooler through bath time. Preschooler cries through bath time and drags his feet getting pajamas on. A very frustrated-- and rushed-- story time.

8:20-8:40 pm: All the kids usually down for the night. Preschooler is the last one in bed, though the shenanigans in the bathroom and hallway tend to wake up the toddlers.

8:30 pm -ish: Momma starts picking up the rest of the sun room toys, tidying the kitchen and kitchen table, finish packing Husband and preschooler's lunches.

9:15-9:30 pm: Parents finally get to the couch to stare blankly at the television, exhausted by the wrestling match bedtime had become.

Obviously, we needed a change.
So here is our NEW bedtime routine:

Dinnertime, which I already have planned out a week in advance and the ingredients bought via online grocery shopping, is started around 4:30 pm. We usually eat between 5:00-5:30 pm.

Tidy up the kitchen and sun room BEFORE going outside. The toddlers can play outside until, at the latest, 6:45 pm. Bring the toddlers in for pajama time! (Oh, yes, pajama time!) I get them undressed in the same area every night; that way they know what is expected of them ("Okay, it is time to get ready for bed!"). I then have them carry their dirty clothes to the hamper. On bath nights, they go to the bathroom. On nights we aren't bathing, we head to their room for pajamas.

Between 7:00 and 7:15 pm, the preschooler and my husband come inside. (If Husband is not home, D comes inside with us when I bring the toddlers in. He either helps with his brothers or listens to a book on tape while I get them ready for bed.) We read stories all together with all three boys in "the reading chair;" when I read to all the kids at the same time, we try to find easy picture books that appeal to both age groups. I then take the toddlers to their bedroom while the preschooler brushes his teeth and puts on his jams. I read the toddlers some toddler stories (Goodnight, Moon, Jamberry, Sandra Boynton) and put them to bed.

After the toddlers go to bed, around 7:30-7:45 pm, I finish tidying up our living spaces. Sometimes I have our preschooler help with this, like have him wipe down the kitchen table. This is when I finish packing the lunches. (I start packing the lunches when I clean up the dinner mess. I usually pack leftovers for my husband and so half of his lunch is already packed.) Then I come out to the reading chair and read the preschooler some preschool stories (our recent library check outs, Roald Dahl, or whatever books he picks out).

After stories with our four-year old, it is off to bed for him! He gets all his current favorite animals and tucks them all in. Then we say prayers and tuck him in. Lights out by 8:00 pm! (Okay, sometimes we get caught up reading and he doesn't go to bed until 8:15 pm.)

Once all the kids are in bed between 8:00 and 8:15 pm, there is nothing else to do. My husband and I are free to watch a movie! Or a DVR'd show! Or check our email! I don't have a whole room of toys to clean up or a kitchen full of dirty dishes... nope. Nothing. Ah, it is wonderful.

I get done the same amount of things with our old and new schedule. We consciously rearranged our nightly to-do list to make it work better. The kids aren't overtired during bath time and pajama time. By the time we read stories, they are ready to listen. I can relax reading our preschooler stories because I am not thinking about the millions of things I need to get done after he goes to bed. We just made a series of minor adjustments to the schedule. As an unexpected bonus, my husband and I are going to bed earlier. I was staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning (or later) reading and then waking up at 8 am with the kids; this worked until our days got busier and I had less downtime in the afternoon. Now I have time to do the things I want to do much earlier in the evening and don't feel the need to stay up so late to get them done. I am also much more relaxed when the kids go to bed; I felt like I was wound up so tightly before because it was so stressful and there was so much crying.

As a note, the above schedules often say "I do this," instead of my husband doing it. My husband is actually the one who usually does all of this. We try to keep our schedule simplified enough so one person can do it. That way when my husband is home, I can go take care of other things while he takes care of the kids or he can take the preschooler while I take the toddlers. Keeping the schedule simplified also allows me the freedom to go out in the evening, leaving my husband to do bedtime, or vice versa. We've even had-- gasp!-- a baby-sitter. :)


Mel said…
yeah, I went to see a sleep specialist who told me I am just a night person, haha. I did change a few habits and it is getting better - but having down time once the kids go to bed is such a BIG deal! ;)

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