It's a funny thing when you have a baby, you get inundated with conflicting advice (don't use a dummy, do use a dummy, find a routine and stick to it, go with the flow, use blackout blinds, never use blackout blinds, never let them sleep on their front, they sleep better on their fronts...) and hand me down parenting books (Gina Ford's raisng contented babies, The Baby Whisperer. Your Baby Week by Week..) and told 'oh your instinct will tell you what to do' and 'don't compare yourself to others'. It's a whirlwind of sleep deprived confusion and chaos and you fumble your way through, googling in the middle of the night and looking up 'sleeping through the night' in the index of the giant 'What to Expect the first year' book. You try co-sleeping, constant breastfeeding, rocking them to sleep and shoving a dummy in their mouth when they cry, anything to get through those early days and keep a small person alive. Parenting skills are a steep learning curve, changing every few weeks at the beginning.
Having always been a bit of a control freak with a really moody personality on lack of sleep (ditto with my husband) it soon dawned on me that I was one of those people that needed to have a routine with my baby in order to feel in control and happy and ultimately survive this battlefield (ditto with my husband). I need to know whats happening when and how to deal with it. I hate myself for it, I always wanted to be one of those cool laid back mums that just went with the flow, carried my baby everywhere in a sling, co-slept with my baby and breastfed well and beyond those recommended months and was all about a baby led schedule.... But I've realised that wasn't for me (that's my bed space sanctuary thanks and I need my evening downtime to myself) what works for someone else doesn't necessarily work for me.
Naps - Finn was never a napper when he was a baby, it was random, sporadic and stressful when he would become overtired and have a meltdown whilst out and about. With newest baby V, following a session with a sleep trainer (best money ever spent), I learnt what her awake windows should be and how long she should be napping for everyday at every month milestone until she is one. I think some people find this shocking and odd, yes a 3 month old baby is supposed to be awake for no longer than 1.5 hours. But the sleep timetable and naps work for us, I work my day around them and she is a happier, more contented baby and I know the structure (roughly) to each day. Phew in control and back in the game. I know this isn't everyones cup of tea but for us it's good, works and long may it last!
The downsides do mean a lot of napping at home as she sleeps better there than in her buggy, so leaving the house before 10.30am doesn't tend to happen and we are very good at missing all the baby classes that all seem to be on at 10am. However I can get a lot done in those early hours, including blogging and it's nice to know that I can spend time doing it around her naps. Getting her to sleep in her buggy is a complete pain now and bus journeys can be a nightmare. We are also very unlikely to backpack around the world with kids or even hit a kid friendly festival for a good few more years. How can people deal with 5am or 6am starts at a festival??
At the start of the summer we went on holiday with some other families, OK we were the only ones with a 4 month old baby but I thought - it's fine we can spend the day on the beach, all hanging out, drinking cocktails and experiencing the famous sundowners. Baby will sleep in buggy and all will be fine and dandy la de da. Nope, after two days of cat naps in the car and attempting to push a hot baby in a sandy buggy around and battle with UV sun tents on the windy beach we were all a bit of a mess. As soon as we got anywhere she needed to bloomin nap or kick up a fuss as she was overtired. She's not one for being transferred from car to buggy or cot without waking. With toddler in tow this was exhausting and stressful, it doesn't take much when you're completely knackered. We had to abandon ship and spend the majority of our time at the villa, back to what we knew worked for us - a routine. Sob, goodbye fun sundowners.
I find comfort in routine, it's like a friend who I can always rely on. Bath is at 6pm, beddtime is at 6.30pm for V, 7pm for Finn and we have our evenings to have our time, adult time, downtime, recooperation time. In fact I have a routine for myself, a coffee at 10.30am, 4pm, in bed by 9.30pm asleep by 10pm. God what a bore I am! But at this stage of my life it's the ONLY way I can function. And when we do have the odd late night or night out I do pay for it the next day and am a miserable mama. It's really hard and I do find it tough to get a balance of being a responsible mum or a moody hungover mum. But hey the most important thing is that me and my kids are healthy, content and happy. I love them to the moon and back and am still in amazement everyday that they came out of me and can fill me with so much pleasure, joy, tiredness and pain all at the same time. Parenting is hard and to all you mamas out there you're doing a great job - parenting the sh*t out of life.
Routine is boring, routine is groundhog day but it works for me and I'm not going to let go of it for a while. A glass of wine most nights helps take the edge off. Before I know it they'll be going to university right?
What works for you?
(Top Main image - Sweatshirt by Parent Apparel)