My first child wasn’t even a week old when the unsolicited tips for how to successfully get her into “a routine,” began.
Well-intentioned friends, a few months ahead of me in their role as a mom, had found inspiration from one particular book. It was the be-all for every mom in my circle. It was a MUST have, they said. It had EVERYTHING you needed to know about getting your baby into a 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. routine. It told you what times to wake the baby (which is pretty much when I knew this system would be a no-go for me). It described how to ensure solid naps (which involved staying at home and required black-out blinds on your baby’s windows). The book also offered a bedtime routine to follow with suggested bath-time rituals, beginning at 6:20 on the dot. One browse of that book and I knew exactly where I’d stuff it.
I wasn’t buying it! I couldn’t possibly believe that every new parent needed it nor would I accept that every baby would follow along with the prescriptive routine inside its pages. Gah! Talk about stress-inducing!
The idea of having to follow, and get your baby to follow, a scheduled routine gave me heart palpitations and waves of dizziness. I was (am) not a routine person by nature. I can’t even follow a stinkin’ recipe without doing something my own way, just … because.
All this talk about the book and the routine made me realize just how much I disliked the word “routine,” and all the structure that came along with it. I was a new mom, with a new baby whom I wanted to get to know. How could a book tell me what she needed? And why would I want to force my baby and myself into someone else’s plan?
My husband’s works schedule meant he was home around 6:00 each night and I wasn’t about to cut short dad and baby cuddles because it was bathtime and we had a routine to stick to. I quite liked that we could take our baby out for dinner with us if we wanted to, she would sometimes just fall asleep on our laps while we ate. And I loved that her afternoon naps could be had in a stroller, or the car, at a café or a friend’s house. I saw zero reasons for us to routine ourselves because a book suggested it.
What I wanted was to go with the flow. I wanted to learn to listen to my instincts. I wanted to do what worked for us and to figure out what that looked like. That was all I had planned. And it felt like the best kind of plan, wide open and without restriction.
About six weeks in, talk of the book and the need for routine had waned. I’d tolerated the chatter with a smile but was glad my mom-friends had moved on from the topic. One night, our little bundle began to stir in her bassinet, as she had done every three to four hours since we brought her home. As I pulled my groggy self upright with a slight groan, my husband spoke these words: “Perhaps,” he began, “we should consider getting that book everyone’s talking about. Joe says Sammy has been sleeping through the night since he was 6 weeks old. Maybe we should try the routine.”
And there it was. The R-word. Again.
And that’s when I launched a dragon-breathed rant upon my unexpecting husband.
“IF I HEAR THE WORD “ROUTINE” ONE MORE FREAKING TIME, I AM GOING TO LOSE MY MIND! I’M GOING TO ACTUALLY LOOOOOOOOOOSE MY MIND! I AM NOT BUYING THAT STUPID BOOK. EVER! NEVER SPEAK OF THAT BOOK AND NEVER SAY THE WORD, ROUTINE, AGAIN!”
And that was the end of that.
Life was peaceful (well, as peaceful as it can be with a newborn in it) and all was well.
In our own time, we flowed ourselves into the kind of routine that worked for us. There were no black out blinds. Nap time happened generally at the same time each day but could be done en route or in a stroller. Bathtime happened when it happened. Bedtime happened (with a favourite teddy and a handful of soothers) sometime between around 7:30 and 8:30, unless we were out in which case it could be later.
My baby grew into a happy, easy going girl; a total smiler in fact. She was, and still is (at age thirteen), a good sleeper (like her mom) though slightly less easy going these days. Her younger siblings have followed suit (though the youngest dished out scowls instead of smiles from her stroller).
Implementing a structured routine wasn’t right for me, as a new mom. (Nor is it right for me now). It worked for some of my friends though! Being in a routine made them feel organized, that’s what suited their personalities. Most of them anyway. One of those moms later admitted to burning the book in her living room fireplace.
I’m glad I listened to the little “hell-no” voice inside of me back then and I encourage other new moms to listen to themselves too. Of course, our fellow moms have valuable insights to offer, and it’s good to be open to suggestions and ideas, but don’t feel pressure to do what other moms around you are doing. Just take suggestions that make sense for you. And don’t be afraid to dismiss the ones that don’t. After all, you’re the mom, and you know best.