We all know the basic rules of getting your child to go to sleep: relaxing bath, quiet time, dimmed lights, relaxing stories, soothing music. But sometimes LIFE HAPPENS and like they say in the Marines you've just got to Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome!
Last Fall, my husband had to travel extensively for work. He'd fly out Monday morning and come home late Thursday night. So, for most of the week, it was just me and our girls. As you can imagine, this new paradigm disrupted their behavior and affected their sleep. Suddenly, my girls who had always responded well to our routine of quiet time, bath, stories, and a medley of lullabies, were no longer falling asleep. But you know was? Me! Working full time, managing house and home by myself, I was lucky if I got all the way to the first lullaby. And 9 times out of ten, by the time I sang the last lullaby I was out cold and would usually awaken to someone dancing on my head or a "Mommy! She took my princess doll, help!" I'd give up on bed time, in favor of getting "house stuff" done (ie: making lunches, cleaning the kitchen, doing the laundry, etc) while I let my kids play nicely and ultimately prolonging their bedtime creating even crankier kids, who were even sleepier (and crankier) the next day.
I knew things weren't working. It was bad. Something had to be done. I could've spent time researching the perfect formula for change, but honestly, I was too exhausted and sleep deprived, so I decided....If you can't beat them, join them!
Step 1: Adapt
I ended up pushing back bedtime by a hour or so (from 8-9pm). I would set the timer and get as much "house stuff" done as possible after dinner, then once bedtime started, it was special Mommy/Daughter time. No distractions-no laundry, no cleaning, no email--just one on one attention for my girls. (Sure, there were some nights when I had to leave some dirty dishes, laundry, etc for the next day, but I realized that a house full of tired people was not benefitting anyone, and I had to start making more time for myself and my daughters.)
We got ready for bed together. I'd model perfect teeth brushing, and they would model their favorite princess poses. We would do our normal bedtime routine: quiet music, stories, and lullabies. Sometimes, they would both fall asleep right away and then I'd have some extra quiet time for myself (Woohoo!).
Step 2: Improvise
Then there were times when they missed Daddy and just couldn't sleep. Since I was ready for bed too, we would just move over to my room. I'd get out my sudoku and the girls would get out their crayons and coloring books. (Side note: Have you read about the new studies showing coloring is a great relaxation tool for kids and adults?! Love it!) We would doodle and puzzle together until we all dozed off.
Step 3: Overcome
It wasn't ideal, but it worked. As moms, we so often strive for perfection. We want to make sure our kids have the perfect amount of sleep, sleep in the most relaxing room at the most relaxing temperature. And then we're worried about our homes and getting everything done. But sometimes, we just have to throw out conventional strategies and create a new normal that may not be the best but is the best at that moment. After all, when we look back at the years, we're not going to be nostalgic for the hours we spent washing dishes and doing laundry. We'll remember the special things that made those years uniquely ours.
My younger daughter found my old sudoku book the other day and said, "Mommy! can we have another Mommy/daughter sleepover? Like we used to?" And I said "Yes! But let's wait until the weekend...when we can sleep in."