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.


Erin said...

I think it depends on the kid and on the parents. Lorelai's a pretty adaptable baby, and I do make sure that she gets one good nap a day in her crib. But she doesn't need to be in her crib to sleep, and actually sleeps better at night (and as a result we're both happier in the morning) if she doesn't get too long a nap in the afternoon. So I tend to run my errands after lunch, because I need to run my errands, and while she *will* sleep for 3 hours if we're at home, she will also sleep in 20-minute increments off an on during the afternoon, and goes to bed easier and sleeps longer for it, which I view as a win all around.

That's just my baby, though. If she was a kid who needed to be in her crib at 2 pm every day, then I wouldn't take her out of the house at 1:55.

I think the key is finding something that works for you AND your baby. If you never leave the house for fear that it will disrupt the baby's schedule, that's not good for you (I mean the hypothetical you, not you-you). Just like if you're out all the time and she never gets a good nap, that's not good for her. I think as long as you know your baby's tolerance for changes to her routine, and don't push her limits (often), then you're doing okay. And really, that's the best we moms can hope for most days!

Mary-Carolyn said...

I agree with both Erins! I believe babies need sleep and do need some basic routine, but that being married to a schedule is, in the long run, not good for anyone. Some babies need more sleep than others, and some moms are willing to accept the consequences of lack of routine (crankiness, in ability to plan day, have set bedtime, etc.), and if they are, fine by me. What gets me are A.) parents who go out during naptime and then complain that their kid didn't nap/is cranky and B.) parents of kids who clearly need sleep and want to sleep, but don't let their kids sleep.

In a mom's forum, a mom posted a question looking for advice on how to get her son to take his nap while she was running errands because he needed a nap and would sleep at home but not while running errands. But, she said, she wanted to be able to be out during his naptime because it was more convenient for her. Well fine, but then, in my opinion, she needs to accept that he will not nap and will be cranky. If she really wants him to nap, she needs to stay home, let him nap in his bed, and run errands/shop another time.

A friend of mine brought me her baby to babysit and said, "Well, she woke up at five (it is now almost 9 am) and she would have taken a nap in the car, but I didn't let her." Um, what? I just don't get that. Why, if your baby is tired and falling asleep, would you not let them sleep? Especially if they have been awake for four hours? I just don't get it. She may be content to deal with a cranky, sleep-deprived baby, but I really wasn't.

Oh, but Erin, Lorelai may not continue to sleep like that! Colton used to sleep anywhere if it was remotely close to naptime, but he won't anymore. It's almost like the older your baby gets, the more thy need the routine because while they need sleep, they're too busy and into everything to actually sleep unless you make them. Or maybe that's just my kid!

Sunk Costs said...

Erin I totally agree. I'm sure a good bit of my hesitation is MY personality. I do not like the unexpected or feeling out of control, and when we go out I can't predict how she'll do or what it'll mean for the rest of our day. Also, like Colton, Wynne was a different baby at 2 months than she is at 7, and it was easier for us to go out back then (though it may be simply that we didn't HAVE a routine at all). Now, the effects of a disruption are much more perceptible and problematic. Wynne would stay awake all day unless we put her in the crib, turned off the lights, and left the room. And I'm sure as she gets older I'll have a third new philosophy.

Erin said...

Oh trust me, I know Lorelai will change her routine in time. Right now she sleeps in the car cuz she's so young, and I know there will come a time when she needs that long afternoon nap in the crib (and will likely not take nearly as many 20-minute snoozes during the day). But for now, I take advantage :) though I do sort of miss the 3-hour nap she took in the middle of the day when she was teeny; made doing housework and checking email way easier!

Erin said...

Oh, the other thing that drives me crazy is when people wake their babies from naps to run errands or something. Isn't the first rule of the universe "never wake a sleeping baby"? I mean, if you have to go to like a dr appt, okay (but isn't it better to schedule it for a time you know won't be naptime?) or if she's sleeping too long too close to bedtime and you know it'll screw up her night, fine. But don't wake a baby before her normal nap is over, so you can go get more Oreos and a latte, and then act surprised when she's a crankypants the rest of the day. Oy.

Erin said...

I posted a comment and now it's gone! Urg, stupid Blogger. I think what it said was something to the effect of "oh, I know Lorelai's sleep habits will change, which is why I'm taking full advantage of them now!" And there was some other stuff too but I forget it.

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