You know the one. The friend who declines invitations because it interferes with her children’s sleep times. The one who makes a mad dash from any fun social gathering when the clock strikes 7:00pm. Yep. That’s me. I am a children’s bedtime Nazi and here’s why.
My husband and I get at least 2.5 protected hours EVERY NIGHT for just us. Let that soak in. No kids … just us. Sometimes, we spend that time together and other times, we use it for the alone time we crave. We can catch up on our overflowing DVR, sit on the porch and enjoy a glass of wine, go to the gym (only one of us, obviously), etc. You get the idea. Kid-free time is sacred to parents of toddlers. Because our children are asleep by 8:00 pm, that gives us plenty of time to refocus and regroup in order to face the next day with a two year old and threenager. The struggle is real.
I don’t know about you, but when my kids are tired, they are cranky(er). The temper tantrums are ramped up, and we are all on edge if a nap is skipped. Unless we are in Disney World, and then all bets are off. But on a regular day, naps are not skipped and bedtime is not pushed back. My kids deteriorate in front of my eyes when they are awake past bedtime. (Which for us, begins at 7:30 p.m.). No one is having a good time, so we might as well put them to bed and circle back to #1, am I right?
Routine and predictability
I am an attorney, so it comes as no surprise that I thrive on lists, structure and organization. I operate my household that way because it is the only way that feels natural to me. I do think my children benefit from knowing what to expect out of their day. With the exception here and there (festivals, birthday parties, dinner parties etc.), my children know that every night they eat dinner, take a bath, watch a t.v. show (or 2) in mommy and daddy’s bed, and then it’s in their beds for story time, prayers, lullabies and off to sleep. We have found that if we drop any of those activities, bed time is infinitely harder. As in we get called back to their rooms because the covers aren’t just right, or they need just. one. more. sip. of. water. If we stick to the routine, they are truly happier. And alas, their parents are too.
We can go on date night and still get a good night’s rest. I like to have my kids pretty much ready for bed when our babysitter comes over for date nights. That means we usually leave the house around 7:00. Plenty of time for cocktails and dinner and even more importantly, to be snoozing before midnight. Can you tell I love my sleep?? I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. Just ask my family.
As all parents do, we try to practice and instill healthy habits. That means we cannot get dessert if we don’t eat our meal, we have to eat our vegetables, and outdoor playtime is as vital as sufficient rest. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that toddlers get 12-14 hours of sleep every day. I believe it is also recommended that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. My kids get 13 hours of sleep on average, and we get approximately 7-8. I think that is what you call a win-win.
I absolutely believe that there is no one right way to raise children. We all do our best, and that is enough. But what I do believe is that children need their rest, and if they are getting what they need, then you should also be reaping some of the rewards.
When I worked full-time, out of the home I often felt guilty putting Mark to bed at 7:30. It meant we only had a couple hours together from Monday through Friday. As with most parenting decisions, I had to take my “wants” out of the equation and do what I felt was best for him. I am so thankful I did. The guilt for not doing so, well I can just add that to the pile.
A Note From The Author ::
(Added on April 13, 2016) I am writing in response to a very small group of readers who have accused me of being an anti-Semite (via personal Facebook message). While grotesquely untrue, I think the nature of those allegations warrant a response from me. I am an American AND I have Ashkenazi Jewish heritage (edited because my previous language suggested the two were mutually exclusive). I believe wholeheartedly that you do not have to be Jewish to be heartbroken and horrified by the Holocaust. Not only have I been accused of professing anti-Semite ideology, I also have been accused of helping the movement that denies the Holocaust. Those are powerful accusations coming from behind the protection of a screen and keyboard.
I am a mother. I could be your neighbor. I could be sitting across from you at Bible study or soccer practice. I am struggling just like you are. I do not have hate in my heart. I am also a writer and well-aware that when I publish my words, they have impact. I fully accept that responsibility.
What I do not accept is that using a 1990s pop culture reference from one of the greatest shows of all time (SEINFELD) in a blog post is reducing the Holocaust and its 6 million+ victims to a trivial event. The blog post is about sleep training. The title is a Seinfeld reference to the “soup Nazi.” The word “Nazi” in this specific context is used to make light of my own strict and militant sleep training tactics. Context of a word matters deeply.
I am sorry if the use of that word in this specific context triggered emotions for some of our readers. My intent was never to do so. If we could all consider intentions and an author’s purpose and meet people where they are instead of expecting the entire world to be like-minded, we might actually be more civil to each other instead of spewing hateful allegations on the internet and assuming we know people’s motives.