Before kids, I considered myself a morning person. I loved waking up, enjoying a warm cup of coffee and reading. It was both relaxing and energizing for me. It was when I felt most alive. After our first child was born, I quickly realized that I'm more of a mid-morning person. Wake-up calls at 5:30am did not make me feel alive.
I struggled to love my new morning routine—sometimes I even dreaded it. I was using my daughter as my alarm clock and it was not good.
After a few months of having a stressful morning routine and feeling out of sorts, I knew something had to change. I'd heard many sleep tips from other moms and read dozens of articles on how to get your baby to sleep. So I decided to try a few things.
First, we started putting our kids consistently to bed at 7pm.
They actually slept in longer when we put them to bed earlier! We also felt a little bit of freedom again. We could spend time together as a couple before hitting the pillow exhausted with no one-on-one time.
It was exactly what our family needed. We realized that all of us did better with a structured sleep schedule. By setting a bedtime at 7pm it allowed us to create sleep boundaries in our house.
Second, I got my morning back! Our children go to bed at 7pm and wake up at 7am.
Motherhood is beautiful and exhilarating, but also exhausting and emotionally draining. I missed my relaxing morning time. It gave me energy for the day and the patience to deal with two small children. I knew I needed to protect my sanity and my "me" time.
To our surprise, when we put our kids to bed earlier I had more energy and I could wake up before my kids. This ensured I had a few minutes to collect myself because the chaos of parenthood began for the day. My daughter was no longer my alarm clock. I had my peaceful morning routine again.
Setting a boundary with bedtime helped us set boundaries for nap time and morning time, too.
Here is what I mean. One Sunday afternoon we were watching a football game and our daughter woke up early from her nap. As a new mom, I was strict about protecting her little eyes from screens. I knew my husband wanted to finish watching the game, but we lived in a small apartment and if I brought her down she would inevitably see the TV. So I decided to wait.
To my surprise, she was perfectly happy rolling around and talking to herself in her crib for 15 more minutes. Why did I feel so anxious to run to her the moment she woke up? By waiting a tiny bit, I was setting a sleep boundary. Our daughter was safe and happy in her crib. She learned that mommy or daddy may not come right when she wakes up. This also easily transferred to morning time.
If I heard my kids waking up before I finished my breakfast, I would wait until I was ready to get them. Without feeling guilty about it! Okay, sometimes I felt a little guilty, but I was a work in progress. I gave myself to my children all day long and it was okay to need some alone time. (Thankfully, I was often reminded by my support system that I shouldn't feel bad for needing this.)
As with many things, I believe there needs to be a balance. Yes, there were times when we were out later than 7pm and our kids went to sleep past their bedtime. They usually woke up at the same time or earlier the next day. We occasionally paid for it with crankiness, but most of the time it was worth it. Although our family thrives on a more structured routine, as parents, we've quickly learned we need to be flexible.
Creating an early bedtime gave me more "me" time I desperately needed with two young kids. And because of the sleep structure we instilled, surprisingly, my children learned to love their cribs. Our routine has not only transformed my kids sleeping habits, it has also transformed my mornings and evenings.
Quite simply, it has made me a happier and more patient mom.