I’ve spent countless hours researching bedtime routines, sleep habits, and helpful products to make sure my toddler gets the sleep she needs. You see, my daughter has always been a great sleeper. But as we approached the toddler years, meltdowns became more frequent, and the only thing routine about bedtime was the tears. After months of making myself crazy, I had to stop and reflect on our personal situation and try to determine what we could reasonably change. What was the one thing that wasn’t consistent at bedtime that I could control?
Let me start by praising my husband for being such an amazing partner and father to our daughter. He is present and patient. He provides for our family both financially and emotionally. He has a big heart, and he isn’t afraid to show it. He even shed a few tears dropping our daughter off at daycare for the first time. But most of all, he is fun. Way more fun than I will ever be. It’s one of the many reasons why I wanted to spend my life with him.
I do appreciate my husband’s humor, especially when my fuse is running short. But, unfortunately, his work schedule doesn’t allow him to be with us every evening. As a solo parent at nighttime, I perfected our bedtime routine and had my daughter asleep by 7:30 p.m. most nights. Then, there would be nights where my husband would get out of work early or not have to go in at all. I noticed our routine became more drawn out when he was home. My daughter would put up more of a fight at bedtime. And I found myself getting frustrated at him but not really knowing why. Shouldn’t I be happy he’s home with us?
Then it hit me. Having Dad partake in our routine sometimes wasn’t routine at all. The lack of consistency was affecting my daughter’s behavior. So, I implemented one simple rule that has cut our bedtime routine, and my stress level, in half.
No Dad at bedtime.
Because he wasn’t home every night, the nights when my husband was there became special occasions filled with fun and laughter. Wrestling on the couch would turn into a chase up the stairs, which led to jumping on the bed. Then I had to be the bad guy and break up the fun, so that we could get on with our routine.
Now, this isn’t because I have a heart made of coal. I don’t hate laughter. And I’m definitely not jealous that he’s the fun parent. My husband has rightfully earned that title, and I’m fine with it (just as I’ve earned the title as the queen of cuddling). Banning Dad from our bedtime routine stems from a much deeper need to maintain some sense of order in our household.
Young children need quiet time to help make the transition from playtime to bedtime.
A strict bedtime routine of bathing, books, and snuggles is a widely-used parenting hack that I can personally attest to. When a child knows what to expect, they are less likely to resist the process. If the time leading up to bedtime is over stimulating, your child could become too excited, drawing out the process and eating into those precious hours of sleep that our children so desperately need (check out other common sleep mistakes here). Sleep is so important to their health and development. And let’s be honest, it’s important for our sanity, too.
Back to the basics.
So, as much as I love and appreciate my husband’s playful side, I have drawn a line in the sand at bedtime. Now, we say goodnight to Dad downstairs. Any wrestling matches happen before dinner. I no longer resent bedtime. And I look forward to enjoying my husband’s company after I put our daughter down on the nights he’s home. Sure, rules are broken from time to time. But overall we maintain a solid bedtime routine that is still filled with love and slightly quieter giggles.