Thursday, May 5, 2011

What I Think About Schedules: Nobody Asked, and Almost Nobody Cares.

The other day I read a blog post where a mama talked about allowing for flexibility in her baby's routine. They HAVE a routine, but on the days it doesn't fit with the other things that need doing, she doesn't freak out, and the baby adapts. What I took from it was that for them, a strict schedule is too limiting. Several commenters wrote that they totally agreed, that you can't let the baby's naptimes and whatnot dictate your entire life. And I absolutely get the gist- you aren't trapped in your house until your youngest child is through with naps. Even for stay-at-home moms, even with only one baby, it's totally unrealistic to expect that every nap be in the crib, that the baby's waketimes are never too long, that all feedings happen on time or at home. And I don't think any baby has ever suffered more than a day or two from a change to her routine. Maybe, as several moms noted in the comments, the occasional schedule disruption and lack of routine is good for babies (though I have my doubts. It isn't like babies go to bed and process the day to glean life lessons like "go with the flow").

What I think, and what I wrote in the comments, is that different babies have different temperaments and adaptability tolerances. Some babies are hardly phased when 2:00 rolls around and they aren't being set in the crib like the past several 2:00s. My baby isn't one of them; she needs a routine (all babies do, of course, but people. Wynnie don't play.), and when we're out at naptime or even when she wakes early from a nap, she is incurably cranky. It's not fun for her or for us. So I am loathe to disrupt her schedule. Occasionally we do, to visit friends or go out to eat with our families, but Mike and I both know we'll pay for it later, so we keep outings to a minimum. To us, it isn't worth the fussing or the day or two it takes to get back on track.

What I didn't write in the comments, because there's no need to broadcast your snobby dissenting opinions on someone else's blog, is this: I think it's a mistake to believe that as a mom, your life doesn't revolve around your baby and her needs (and other children too, when applicable). That may seem extreme, but I come by it honestly. My mama is a routine snob. Any time we're out and hear fussy crying babies or cranky meltdowny children, she says "that baby needs a nap." or "that child should be in bed asleep." When Emily and I were babies, Mama strove (strived?) to have us at home for naps and in bed at the same time every night. She almost never took us on playdates, shopping excursions, or visits to friends and former coworkers. I don't even think we did the church nursery, though I could be wrong. And I'm sure it wasn't much fun for her some days feeling trapped in those wood-paneled walls with two needy children. But what's that thing people are always saying about parenting? "It's the hardest job you'll ever love?" It's corny, but it's definitely true. Being a parent gives you a million new ways to make sacrifices, and for my money, sacrificing your schedule to your baby's, at every possible turn, in order to have a happier baby, is well worth the boredom, difficulty, and juggling it can cause. I don't want to step on any toes or criticize anybody else's parenting. I think routine is more important for a happy, well-adjusted baby than anything else, but some people may disagree, or may not be able to stick to a strict schedule as easily as we can, and their kids usually turn out great. All parents should do what works best for their family.

Of course, with a 2nd baby this is all out the window. Beyond 1 child, as best I can tell, survival is about all anyone can hope for.