As a busy working mom, there are few routines these days I’m able to stick to. I dream about mornings that are less rushed and more orderly, and I find myself covertly jealous of my friends that have steady gym routines they actually follow. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to find a rhythm that gets us out the door any sooner or the discipline to squeeze in that weekly fitness class.

For the most part, I’ve learned to accept the sometimes unsystematic nature of motherhood and embrace the chaos and lack of structure. BUT the one routine I have managed to hold onto is our bedtime routine.

In our household, the bedtime process starts at 7:30 pm and is the same Every. Single. Night. You might even say that our evenings revolve around our bedtime routine and, honestly, I am completely OK with that.

Navigating toddler sleep class

By having a routine that is consistent and predictable, our kids know exactly what is coming each night. I firmly believe this has taken the stress out of the bedtime process overall and has given our kids a sense of stability and safety.

So how does it work for us exactly?

By 7 p.m. electronics are shut off, the kitchen is closed and family quiet time begins.

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This helps us to transition more gracefully from the over-stimulation of the day into a time of settling down to prepare us for rest.

At 7:30 we head upstairs as a family—we brush teeth, change into pajamas and pick out one book to read. This is definitely my favorite part of the day. There is something magical about watching and listening to my child read to me that gives me all the feels.

I find myself often wanting to freeze that moment and go back to it anytime I need a reminder of the precious innocence and gentleness that emerges during bedtime.

After the request for another book that is (usually) denied, we spend a little time talking about the day. Through this part of our nightly routine, I’ve learned that my children become little chatterboxes at the end of the day, so I save up all of my questions about the day’s events for this exact moment.

Next it is prayers, calm music and hugs and they are off to dreamland for the next 12 hours.

Yep, you heard that right—our children sleep 12 glorious hours and I am convinced it is largely due to our bedtime routine that hasn’t changed in years.

Bedtime is the time in our family that we use to nurture our relationships. Without it, I think we would all be a little lost. We look forward to this time—and not just because it means Mom and Dad get a little time to themselves—but also because the repetition of our routine has given us many opportunities to truly connect with our children.

Our children hardly open up at the dinner table or want to give their daily recap after school, but at bedtime they feel safe enough to be vulnerable and share their stories and ideas.

At bedtime they know we are fully present and are not distracted. They take full advantage of that time.

At bedtime they are given a quiet space to process the day and use their voices to share what is in their heart.

At bedtime they have the opportunity to take ownership of their self-directed routine—helping to foster independence.

At bedtime they have choices—from which books they want to read to which pajamas they pick out—helping to build their confidence and their ability to express themselves.

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At bedtime they get all of us—all of our attention, all of our time—and they know nothing can steal that from them. It is a gift for the whole family.

Our mornings can be disorganized for sure, but our bedtime routine is solid. And even though it repeats itself Every. Single. Night—it is the perfect way to end even our most imperfect days.

A version of this story was originally published on April 18, 2018. It has been updated.