One of the oft-cited benefits of a good habit is that it takes virtually no effort to keep on the right path. When exercising is a habit, we do it whether it’s pleasurable or not. When eating healthy is a habit, not eating healthy is something that happens rarely. Since I had bebe, I don’t have much of an exercising habit, but my healthy eating habits fortunately stay strong. I do not have to think about what to eat…a natural repertoire, cultivated over the past 10 years will furnish me with some combination of vegetables and protein, unless junk is to be found in the house. My parents are much more into carbs so I can gorge myself on nutrition free white crackers from time to time.
I have lately been reflecting on how having a routine has changed my life. It became clear around 2 months that the bebe needed to sleep at around the same time every day, and that she would FREAK OUT late at night. We finally (duh) realized that she was tired. We Ferberized her over the course of 48 hours. She responded extremely well to sleep training…
In other aspects, I found keeping a routine simplified my own life in terms of ensuring all her needs were met in a timely way and in return I’ve seen her respond extremely well to the routine. I try my best now to deviate as little as possible from it. When we do, we pay in tears. Saturdays have been hell because we decided to take a swimming lesson downtown. We end up stuck in traffic for several hours and she usually doesn’t have the patience for that. Day trips out of town used to be fine because she slept a lot – now she hates being the car for hours and hours. She doesn’t seem to be able to settle in the car even at night.
My routine is this: In the morning my parents help me (we all have flexible work schedules – yeah). She will use the potty as soon as she wakes up (if we catch it! Lately I’ve had a terrible cold and I am not responding in time). Then it’s breast, bath (my parents usually bathe her, which is their special time with her), maybe more breast and then breakfast (usually oatmeal with fruit), followed by play until the 10am nap. During her nap I try to work. After the nap, I potty her again, breastfeed again, possibly change her clothing and then take her to daycare. She usually spends the afternoon in daycare while I work and handle personal business. At daycare they give her lunch, a nap and an afternoon snack. By 6pm we are home again and I handle dinner and bed by myself. She hasn’t had any breastmilk at daycare so I feed her again, if there is time we play a little, then I plop her in the exersaucer and chat with her while I whizz up a few things for dinner (for her) and make a plate for myself. I feed her while I eat dinner, and by 7:15 it’s potty time again, followed by a soap-less bath, which she enjoys greatly (twice a day baths may seem excessive but it’s all par for the course for a Caribbean family! my mother would seriously protest if I dropped the end of day bath). If she has energy I read her a book while she tries to rip it from my hands to chew on, and then I lay her down to sleep between 7:30 – 8:30pm. I know it will be a good night if she immediately rubs her little eyes when I put her in the crib. We are not rigid. She may fret for a few minutes but then she is out like a light until about midnight. We no longer co-sleep because I find I get a much more interrupted slumber, plus I overheat – she seems to think the buffet is never closed.
I realized today that her first sleep in the evening is the perfect time for me to go and have a workout, since one of my parents would usually come home around that time. I am going to join the Y soon and start working out again. When her father is here, my favorite time is after we put her to sleep we collapse on my bed and chat for a bit. Or we might have cooked something more elaborate and we might eat leisurely after she goes to bed.
The benefits of this routine seem to be that she is very happy, rarely fussy but I think the biggest benefit, esp. when I hear about all of people’s sleep woes, that she sleeps very easily. It is important to note that generally she is an unfussy child, but if we stray from this routine she will fret for either food or sleep. On the weekend she was fussing for no immediately discernible reason in the afternoon. I realized she is accustomed now to having a snack. When I gave her some pureed pear she immediately perked up. So – woe on us if we do not heed the routine.
From my perspective, this routine was a sacrifice. Even though I saw the benefits for DD, it robbed me of spontaneity (although if I was really honest, having a child is the thing that stole spontaneity from me). No longer could I accept invitations or go anywhere during the week. And woe if a plan strayed beyond 7pm when she becomes extra fussy. Even though my activities are constrained to these time periods of her slumber, I was seeing it as a net loss. The fact is, I do not yet have good personal habits getting me through my chunks of free time, so I am likely to fritter the time away reading my RSS feeds, social networking, landscaping, etc. And still I hoped to be done with this routine so I could resume my freewheeling, come-as-you-please life.
Well, today it occurred to me that this routine, coupled with the massive emotional/mental makeover of becoming a (single) mom, is helping me to be more contemplative and in my contemplation, more humble. It seems as though I can see my adolescence and young adulthood with new clarity– my personal foibles and the things that I still need to ‘work on’. How long have I been clinging to my own point of view, an old image of myself as a precocious and ruined… Routine has actually granted me the mental leisure to come to these conclusions. No longer am I filling time with impromptu dates, work outs (ok, obvs I am going to get the work out going again but they will be preplanned), lectures, tv (I have one, I just try not to sink in front of it in the evening). Routine, ultimately, will allow me to create better habits & free up mental energy, both worthy goals. Now I would like to routine-ize a few more things – a grocery shop, the trip to the library, the workouts, laundry, folding clothing…everything that needs to be done over and over again. Wouldn’t we like to do these with as little thought as brushing one’s teeth requires? I would.