Tuesday, June 21, 2011

To Schedule Your Day, or be Spontaneous?

Sly nestling into his blanky while he sleeps - so precious!

For the almost-ten-months Sly has been around, I've been pretty pleased - and perhaps even a bit prideful - about the fact that he did not have a "regular naptime." During his earlier months, I just let him fall asleep whenever, wherever. But he gradually began to need his crib and quiet in order to get any quality sleep. So for the past few months, I've tried to gauge when he needs a nap (i.e. waiting until he's already really tired, and thus waiting TOO LONG), and "encourage" it to happen by putting him in his crib with his *Special Blanket* and letting him cry for a bit if necessary.

I kept insisting to myself and everyone else that I liked it this way. That it gave me more flexibility, because I wasn't tied to my kid's nap schedule, like so many other moms were. I prided myself on the supposed freedom of it all, and my ability to drag Sly out of the house at any time of day that it was convenient for me.

But a few weeks ago - I think mostly by his own doing - Sly made it clear that he likes more consistency in his life. By paying better attention to his signals - and actually responding to them - I've let him develop his own remarkably regular schedule of sleeping and waking. He still goes to bed at 9 pm as always. But now, instead of allowing me to encourage him back to sleep in the morning (so I can catch another hour or two of sleep myself), he insists on waking me up with him at 7 am. While this took a few days to adjust to, I am loving all the time I have in the mornings now. Sly then takes a two-hour nap around 10am, and another nap around 3pm for a couple more hours. It's great!

This does mean that I've had to plan my days more around his naps, and put off out-of-the house trips to run errands, etc. But so far, I am LOVING IT. My days have taken on an anticipated pace and pattern. And ironically, in ways, there is more freedom in this schedule than in the unstructured days we had before.

The basic rundown looks something like this:
6:40am: Sly wakes up almost exactly the same time each morning. Like, 6:45, with a standard deviation of 5 minutes tops. No matter what time he actually fell asleep the night before. How does he do that?? I nurse him in bed and try to catch a few more zzzz's.

7am-10am: We get up and have plenty of time to shower, get dressed and ready, tidy the downstairs, eat breakfast, put in some laundry and just relax and play.... And some days we get to Mass (we've been WALKING to a nearby Parish, that I didn't even know existed, for 9am Mass ).

10 am (-ish. it's all approximate.): I put him down for his nap, and I try to make sure to do at least one more time-consuming job around the house (vacuuming, mopping, etc.). And then I sit myself down on the front porch with a book (or upstairs at the computer, as is the case today), and a rewarding cup of delicious coffee.

12pm - 3-or-so pm: As soon as he's up, it's lunchtime. After that, we can run errands, visit my mom, or do whatever else needs to be done around the house (ok, well, I do what needs to be done; Sly follows after me grabbing onto my legs and skirt, asking to be held).

3 pm: Another nap for Sly (and sometimes for me!). I usually have a sit-down, and work on paying bills, adding items to our budget, making phone calls, etc.

4:30 or 5 pm: He's up again, we play together, and I start on dinner.

And then Tom's home (and I've been convincing him that a little more structure to our evenings would bring peace and order to our family as well, so that's slowly been working itself out).

It's surprisingly nice to have more of a pattern to our days. I think Sly's better off. Most importantly, I can be sure he's getting enough sleep each day (the pediatrician reprimanded me about this at his last appointment!). I think it's been keeping Sly in better spirits throughout the day. In the past, there were some days he refused to nap very much or even at all. I think he just got so overly tired and cranky, that it prevented him from sleeping. So, of course, it was a self-perpetuating cycle of cranky-baby-syndrome [I made that syndrome up]!

It's also nice now because I know he is definitely going to get a nap at roughly such-and-such a time. I can tell myself, "don't stress out about the pile of papers sitting there for you to go through. You'll have time to get to that this afternoon" or "make the effort to spend quality time with Sly now, because he's taking a nap in half an hour, and you will get your alone time.'

So, how has this changed my approach to my day? Does this mean that I now have to reconsider accepting every opportunity, invitation, or whim that comes my way? Yes. But I think the trade-off of peace and restfulness that it brings to the home and to our persons has been worth it so far.

For more about this topic, do check out A Mother's Rule of Life. I am currently reading it with the Catholic Moms Group of Pittsburgh, and it is very inspiring.


  1. I am not naturally a structured person, and yet I NEED structure to function and not have my day spread out into a shapeless blob. This is why I like school. :-P

    I have long realized that I'll need to be more scheduled when I have kids--and that kids will help me be more scheduled. So I liked reading this post. :) I think it's great having a day structured around something as natural as a baby's sleep.

  2. I'm definitely happier when I have a structured day, too, or at the very least a to-do list that I am consistently working through and checking things off. I'm glad that Sly is less cranky now (although I never thought he was cranky before...)

  3. I started a routine with Miriam, too, and it's great! I actually love having structure like this in my day, so I don't know why it took me so long to get around to it!

  4. i'm glad your days are flowing so much better! i am a very scheduled person and a big lover of to-do lists, so i hope my life with kids will somewhat follow the basic pattern you outlined!