I’ve written about having no routine before prompted by Sonny’s awful sleep and a gnawing sense of self-doubt that I was doing something wrong. I questioned if he’d sleep better with a routine, and I became paranoid that there was this ‘thing’ that so many other mums seemed to be doing that I should be doing too. I thought long and hard – I even had a go at sticking to one devised for us by the very lovely Heidi at Parent and Baby coach – but if I’m honest, I knew routine and doing things by a ‘clock’ were and will never be for us. And here’s 10 reasons why in my heart of hearts, I’m more than OK with that:
1. I want our kids to work around us
I think this is really the crux of our zero routine lifestyle and is actually a really important point that I see as key to our happiness as people and as parents. You see, we started having children years before any of our friends and as if having a baby doesn’t change your life enough already, I didn’t (and still don’t want) to be that person who ‘disappears’ when they become a parent or stops having fun as we knew it before. So whilst our friends were still having all night house parties and living it up at festivals, we didn’t want to have to wave goodbye to that part of our lives. It began when my best friend had her 30th birthday days after Jack was born which I didn’t want to not attend. And it went from there really. All our friends watching a big football game in the pub? Sure, we’ll come, but we might just have a kid sleeping at our feet and a baby on my knee. Weddings, pub lunches, dinner parties – as much as possible, we did it all. Now with two, I have to say it is different. (Pushing two kids to sleep in the back garden whilst the house party going on inside wouldn’t be the best look. Or the most fun) But our philosophy is still the same: we want our kids to work around us and our plans, it’s as simple as that.
2. I like to follow my kids’ lead
Because there’s no clock watching, I feel like I know my kids’ signals really well. The minute Jacks asks to watch TV means he’s tired; when Sonny clenches his fists or rubs his eyes, he’s ready for a sleep.
3. I live for the spontaneity
The idea of the kids napping and eating at the same times every day – rather than bringing me a sense of calm which I totally understand it does for some people – actually sends me into a bit of a panic. For me personally – and this is all so personal – I would find it monotonous and take much of what I love about motherhood out of the picture. Every day is so different. Call me a weirdo, but I kind of like not knowing when they will nap; I like wondering where and what they will eat any certain day. I loved our spontaneous family nap in the car this afternoon, I love deciding we’re all going to skip breakfast and go out for brunch instead, I love giving the kids a late dinner quickly in the bath. Most of all, I love the spontaneity.
4.The world is our oyster
I don’t like the idea of being ‘confined’ by a kids routines. If someone invites us out or if we fancy staying out late with the kids or doing a big trip away, we are never restricted by timings (or time zones). I like to think that we are ‘YES’ parents.
5. Creates flexible kids
There is somewhere floating around an idea that you are doing your children some harm or not being a good parent if your kids don’t have a routine. Some people think that children “need” one, and that it’s good for them. In my (very humble) opinion, not having a routine is good for children; I think it makes them flexible and mature who I have high expectations of. So for example, Jack (and Sonny to a lesser degree) can cope perfectly fine not eating breakfast until 10.30am (he may get a little hangry – but don’t we all?!), and stay up til 10pm if we are our for dinner.
6. I’m way too disorganised
I understand how playdates can be arranged around your children’s timings but what about immutable things? That doctor’s appointment slap bang in the middle of naptime with nothing else available until next month? A birthday tea that edges into bathtime but they’re yet to cut the cake? Small details but I know I’d find these are things hard to navigate.
7. The shit storms are a challenge – which I enjoy
Yes, having zero routine means that things do definitely go wrong. Kids getting over tired is probably our most common problem – but doesn’t this happen to kids with routines? And even when things do go wrong, they are a challenge which I sort of weirdly enjoy, or at least learn something from.
8. Kids aren’t machines (adults aren’t either…)
I remember one morning, after noting down the previous day the time that Jack had napped, on seeing that time come around the next day thinking AHA, THIS IS IT – this is nap time! And so off I went to put him in his bouncer. And after sitting there for 25 minutes bouncing the poor kid, hushing him, carrying him, until I just thought – hang on – maybe he’s not tired. Maybe he was tired this time yesterday but today for all sorts of reasons he’s just not tired today. I took him out the chair, gave him a snack and off out we went for a walk in the carrier which he loved and was stimulated by and sure enough, around 45 minutes later, he dropped off. He definitely wasn’t ready for a sleep when I’d tried to put him to sleep. And I know this was only the one day but I had the same realisation on the food front. Maybe he was really hungry yesterday at a certain time but today he’s not. There are definitely days I feel more alert than others, days when I’m not so hungry and days where for whatever reason, I need all the food in the fridge. Adults don’t do the same thing everyday so why should children?
9. Life doesn’t have to change (entirely) when you have kids
Just because we’re parents does not mean we are JUST parents. I touched on this earlier and of course life does change but not revolving our lives around our kids’ routines, I think, makes us feel quite ‘free’ as people still. It might sound awful but sometimes I feel like Sam and I are getting on with life and our kids are coming along for the ride (and making it ten million times better, of course!) As you can imagine, I am a big believe in the mantra – “happy parents, happy baby”.
10. Takes the fun out of parenting (for me)
In my opinion, parenting should be as fun and positive an experience as possible – so do whatever will get you to that place. For me, that means forgetting what time it is, living for and *in* the moment as much as possible and doing what makes US (the parents) as happy as possible (we’re taking them backpacking around Cambodia and Vietnam next year and I could not be more excited!)
Don’t get me wrong, there are times our way of doing things goes totally tits up.I always say that being a non-routine based approach works awesomely for us 80% of the time; the other 20% not so much – but then, isn’t that also just parenthood? There are times when you’ve woken your baby up one too many times from their nap and they become irate. There are times when your toddler naps before he’s eaten so he wakes up at 3pm, really hungry and you’ve just left the house cue dashing to the nearest corner shop for a banana and yoghurt.
The overriding result is that apart from us leading lives as close as I could-ever-have-dreamt-of pre kids, I think we have a lot fun as a family, know our kids’ signals extremely well and have made them into flexible and on the whole, well behaved people. They slot into the rhythm of wherever they are; whether that’s nursery, grandparents or a play date with another toddler. I do believe they just goes with the flow which is something I’m really happy about and proud of them for.
A common argument for having a routine is so that you know when you’re going to get things done. I do understand this, but unless you have deadlines to hit at the end of each day, or a time of the day you HAVE to be on a work call (though when I have those I just stick the kids in front of the TV), I do know that I *will* get some time to myself when one of them naps, or plays.
How do you do things in your family? What works for you? What’s your family’s rhythm?