The ‘R’ word – ‘Routine’ has to be the buzzword for all parents. If you’re a new mother, then books like ‘The contented little baby’ by Gina Ford and ‘The happiest baby on the block’ by Harvey Karp may be familiar. I can recall feeling quite positive in setting the routine before Reeyan was born. I was so confident that I only skimmed through the books. Then he arrived…There wasn’t quite the regimental schedule I had in mind. Despite Reeyan being quite a rebellious newborn, a routine was still in place and thankfully so, as Leela subtly fitted around it when she was born later that year.
I am able to enjoy a meal and even an episode on Netflix with Roy pretty much every evening. That is simply because the R word is in place. I have heard some comments like “does that mean the babies are not able to enjoy an evening out with you?”
“No”, Sleep is the most important part of a child’s development and sacrificing ‘taking them out in the evening’ is something we are willing to do, well for now!
I’m not going to bore you with intrinsic detail of the routine and helpful must-haves (but for those who are interested, there is a pdf attached!) I have summarised only a few of the advantages and disadvantages above. But let’s look at it in a bit more detail.
Disadvantages of the routine
Starting with the cons of having a routine in place. On separate note, I thought this would be the harder section to write. Turns out it’s not!
I know this now from hindsight. The routine has to be a regimental one, because in order for it to work, you have to stick with it. That is from the moment your baby is placed in your humble arms at birth. The second time round, I knew exactly what I was doing and that was feeding her every two hours and putting her down every 45 minutes. Did you know a newborn cannot stay awake longer than 25-45 minutes? I had no idea with Reeyan We used to feed him, keep him up and wonder why he was so cranky. Then when we tried to put him down, he was so over tired that he fought sleep. Epic fail. But, I was ready for Leela. She responded so well to the routine we set for her. Till this day, 6 months on…we’re doing the same thing.
By doing the same thing, day in, day out, the routine is of course mundane. There are no surprises – apart from when the babies don’t stick to it. The most surprising of the R word is the fact that you’re doing the same thing day in, day out – at home and not at the workplace, the place where you usually carry out mundane tasks. Normally home is associated with ‘spontaneity’ like staying in bed longer than usual or making a marmite and jam sandwich – just for the sake of it. Once the baby arrives, the monotonous duties take over. It is exciting for the first three months but as the critter grows, the boredom of feeds, naps and nappy changes grows with it.
You can work and work at a routine and it will go brilliantly one week but disastrously, the next. It just so happens that sometimes it doesn’t go according to plan. A newborn’s feed time can also take a whole two hours. For example, they may feed a little when they wake up, feed during ‘play time’ and then feed a little more before their next nap. In my experience, when a schedule is set up with another party, they usually cooperate with full attention. If for some reason they are absent, or fail to collaborate, full communication is usually provided. This, ladies and gentlemen is what happens in the adult world. However, there is no such exchange within the adult and child world. Actually, I tell a lie, we all know the sound of it. It’s usually a loud cry. And that my friends, confirms, that no matter how hard you’ve worked at constructing this amazing life-saving schedule, they don’t always play ball. When things do go smoothly however, it usually has an impact on your social life.
It is to be expected, that you’re no longer going to be able to walk out of the door on your own without feeling the heavy emotions of responsibilities. Your social life, indeed, takes a turn. There used to be social interactions, every part of the day. Whether it is sitting in silence on the London underground (!) or getting your morning coffee at your usual caffeine joint, it happened. Now, you’re in the confines of home. As lovely as this may be, the only communication you’re getting is either from Mr Tumble on CBeebies or screeching cries. It gets better as they become toddlers. There is an abundance of communication at this age and its all very funny stuff. At the moment Reeyan can be mistakenly heard for saying boobies instead CBeebies oh and don’t get me started when he says ‘fork’.
Thankfully, we have our close friends who have also had babies. This helps loads. We are all in the same boat in life and so there are tons to talk about. The problem is however, there isn’t much time to do that. When Reeyan was around 3 months old, I started taking him to baby rhyme time, a baby group focussed on singing nursery rhymes. He enjoyed it and with the sleep he had after it – I enjoyed it too. However, I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed being around other mothers…there, I said it. I didn’t want to talk about the age of my child, how much he sleeps or eats and his developmental stages. It’s a comparative conversation and it made me uncomfortable. Back to the routine, your social life is undeniably affected, as you will consciously make plans around your baby’s sleep times. One piece of advice I will give, no matter how hard it is, don’t give into missing social gatherings as a result of your babies routine. Always try and work around it, as it is these times that can definitely make you feel yourself again. When this happens, you even feel a sense of success; so much so, you begin to reap the rewards of the routine.
Advantages of the routine
I’m going to put the fact that the routine is regimental into this subheading too as it has it’s benefits. Because you are conscious of the routine, which should be quite rigorous, your day tends to go accordingly. You know what you’re doing next. If you’re anything like me, this can give you a sense of security. As you have, well, you think you have some form control.
The beauty about a well-developed schedule is that eventually your baby will have an understanding of it all. They will instigate the next part on the agenda even if you just so happen to forget. The most rewarding of all is the fact that they will start to feel sleepy at the right times, which is comforting to them and you. Behaviour is predictable as a result, for example, you will know for sure why your say 4 month old is cranky straight away and that’s because their naptime has been delayed. Now 20 months on, Reeyan understands that 12pm is his naptime. There are a series of cues I give him daily, which he associates with sleep time. For example I would say “Lets say goodnight to the TV” and so he would happily press the red button on the remote, as we move through the house towards his bedroom, we’ll say “Goodnight” to the kitchen, the front door, the bathroom and eventually to mummy.
As a mother of two, time is of the essence and the routine makes the notion of time manageable. You finally have the time to do the dishes, sterilise the bottles and even prepare dinner. Pushing it, you may even be able to paint your toenails but that’s a long shot.
I could seriously understand the benefits of a strict routine after giving birth to my Leela. It is life saving when you have more than one child. Leela fitted perfectly into our day. Don’t get me wrong, she added a whole new dimension to things but as a result, our day is more structured. It has for sure, given me my sanity and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
There are many pros and cons of the routine. Having more than one child can be testing, especially, if they are both under the age of two. To be fully immersed into a routine and to reap it’s rewards, it has to be quite rigid in the beginning. Your lifestyle is indeed affected as well as your social life and sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan. Perseverance is what you need – so keep at it! Once you’ve clocked it, you’ll be sipping a glass of wine in front of the TV in the evenings, with only the humming of the dishwasher catching your ear.