People often ask me how I do it. How do I survive a deployment with two kids? How can I train for a marathon while my husband is gone? How do I spend quality time with two kids when it is just me? It’s an honest question and there are days where I don’t have the answer, but I almost always answer by saying, “it’s all in the schedule,” namely, my kids’ early bedtime.
Most parents who stay back and run the household while their spouse is gone will openly admit that evening is the hardest time. Dinner is hard, bedtime is hard and finding time for yourself at the end of the day can be hard.
So, to ease the stress, I have always been strict with our nighttime routine, and it has made such a difference.
Changing up our kids bedtime, whether my husband is home or not, is a hard NO in our family, and I am OK with that.
Ryan left for his first deployment when Lucas was around 8 months old. He was a needy baby, who nursed all the time and woke often throughout the night for more nursing time or just cuddles. It was exhausting and I remember having many breakdowns because I just needed some “me” time, and I was not getting it. By the time he went down at night, I was ready to crawl into bed myself. It was both mentally and physically draining.
About 2 months in to the deployment, Lucas quit nursing cold turkey. It was the strangest thing. He went from nursing 24/7 to just not wanting to nurse, ever. He also started to sleep through the night. Literally, the day he stopped nursing was when he slept through and woke up happy and rested.
When I realized it wasn’t a nursing strike or a weird fluke, I decided to roll with this change and not deviate from the schedule. Since then, we have survived three deployments, just Lucas and I, and I can honestly say that his schedule has saved us many, many times over.
This deployment it has been me, Lucas, and Cecilia, which has added a whole other dimension. Right before Ryan left, he asked me, “How are you going to do this by yourself, Meredith?”
My answer was simple, “stick to the schedule.” Sure, it took us a few days to master bedtime without tears and fights, but we did, and for the most part it’s been smooth sailing around here.
Let me preface this by saying that we have always raised kids away from family, meaning we don’t have family dinner every Sunday night or family parties that we can’t say “no thanks not tonight.”
We have the luxury of having most evenings to ourselves as a family. If friends want to have dinner with us, it’s an early dinner. Sure, there are some nights that we stay out later than normal, but for the most part we stick to our nightly routine.
By the time that 7:30 p.m. rolls around, I am almost always cuddled up on the couch with either a hot tea or a glass of wine (depending on how the day went, of course), and my kids are always tucked in and off to their dream world.
We start the bedtime process around 6:00 p.m. after eating dinner. On most nights, this includes a sibling bath where we giggle, play and get both kids squeaky clean. I then go in and get Cecilia ready for bed and Lucas comes in to read a story with us. Depending on the day, sometimes Lucas opts to quietly play some more, or he will watch a show,while I nurse and lay Cecilia down. After Cecilia is down, I always like to have 15 to 20 minutes of alone time with Lucas, where we sometimes play Legos or talk to Daddy for a few minutes. If the day has been hectic, he always knows that he will get those few minutes before bed with just me. We brush his teeth, take one more trip to the potty and get him tucked in and off to sleep almost always by 7:30. This RARELY changes.
Sure, this may mean politely declining dinner invites or apologizing in advance to friends when you invite them to eat out with you at 4:30 p.m., but for us, we need this early bedtime. I need to have that time to myself at the end of a long day. Some days it is literally the first time I have sat down all day long. Heck, most days it is the first time I have sat down. While Ryan is gone, it is also the first time that I can talk to him on the phone without little voices screaming or wanting to take the phone and show daddy the new edition to Lego world. Some nights it is only a few minutes of us chatting, but no matter what, it is always nice to have those few minutes.
There are so many different ways to parent and so many hard choices that we have to make on a daily basis. Our decision to have a strict early”ish” bedtime is one that I am very comfortable with and feel no need to apologize for.
Our kids like bedtime, heck most nights Lucas looks at me and tells me he is ready to go to sleep. Most days we are all well rested equaling a better, more productive and happier day. In our family this routine works, and it works well!