This is a guest post from Julie, Mom of an insane toddler who is currently running the asylum.
After the birth of our first child, when my eyes were wild with sleep deprivation and I was obsessed with parenting self-help books, the recurring theme I came across was the importance of routine.
Experts said that a routine improves a baby’s sleeping, eating, mood, and pretty much every aspect of life. It seemed like such a panacea that we began to wonder if establishing a routine for the baby would also help our teeth get whiter or our investments do better or increase our chances of finally getting on The Price is Right. It didn’t, but we still went all in for the baby.
Having a routine was helpful at first. I think. And then things slowly got out of hand. Before we knew it, our now-toddler’s Bedtime Routine included:
- Toddler drinking chocolate milk by herself in the rocker while my husband, long-standing second class citizen in this family, is relegated to sitting on the floor;
- Husband reading the same book multiple times;
- Toddler brushing teeth (i.e., eating toothpaste) with a self-applied heap of toothpaste the size of a grape;
- Husband chasing Toddler around the apartment to secure a nighttime diaper while she tries to stand on her head, spin around in nude circles in front of a large picture window, in full display of the neighbors, or torment the cats;
- Toddler selecting pajamas;
- Toddler selecting alternative pajamas;
- Toddler deciding pajamas are actually unnecessary;
- Husband reading Toddler another story while she’s in bed;
- Husband singing Toddler a “special song;”
- Husband singing Toddler the “Sleep Rules Song;” and
- Toddler demanding that mom be tracked down to tuck her in with two specific blankets, both of which must be covering her elbows.
Needless to say, this Bedtime Routine takes about four hours to complete and is hardly in need of augmentation.
So you can imagine the horror I felt when I discovered that my husband (Chairman of the Bedtime Routine) had tacked on a new addition. Apparently he’d decided one time that it’d be fun to march around the room while singing the “special song” (see Step 9).
Now, I love a good parade as much as the next American, but this move meant that the adult in charge of The Routine (which would occasionally be me) was forevermore required to high-step in tight circles around the room—with appropriate enthusiasm, of course, or the number had to be performed again. Without successful completion of this step, bedtime stretches on for hours and will inevitably end with me touching my swelling pregnant belly and asking myself, “Did somebody tell me drinking during pregnancy was off-limits? That can’t be right. Also, why am I pregnant again?”
But the damage was done. Shortly thereafter, my parents came to watch our daughter for a long weekend. In preparation, I asked my husband to type up the gist of the bedtime routine. The pared-down result was four single-spaced pages. FOUR PAGES.
When he showed it to me, I stared at the computer screen and couldn’t believe I’d become the type of person who would support the creation of such an absurd Word document. I’d always been the kid who forgot to turn in permission slips and found them months later, jammed into the bottom of my backpack and stuck to an unidentified brown paste. I just prefer to go with the flow. Nothing in my house is ever organized until the hour before company arrives, and few things are ever scheduled.
But now we have a kid.
And we’re about to have another. (We are very dumb.) We live in terror of the thought that New Baby’s Routine most certainly will not compliment Toddler’s Routine and the universe will implode.
Slightly less frightening has been my attempts to reconcile my newfound employment of routines with my discombobulated personality. At first, adoption of the Routine Lifestyle led to the kind of proclamations you see on diaper commercials—things like, “Motherhood has changed me!!” or “The moment a child is born, a mother is also born.” And I tried to embrace my stringent new behavior as a sign of self-improvement. But a piece of me felt like I was betraying the core of my identity—a distinct unreliability that I’m sure others find endlessly charming.
I am nowhere near a solution to this identity crisis, but at the moment I’m comforted by imagining myself as a product of Darwinism: I am adapting to the present situation so that I don’t perish.
A dramatic conclusion, perhaps, to draw from Daddy deciding on a whim to add some flamboyancy to a two year old’s evening. But it gives me a sense of peace to think that I’m not (necessarily) becoming a mom from a diaper commercial. Instead, maybe I’m just in a transient life stage that requires a little more structure. (Er, a lot more structure.)