THE ONE THING ABOUT MOTHERHOOD THAT BAFFLES ME

So. I’ve been putting off writing this post for months mainly because:

A. I’ve spent a lot of time mulling it over in my head and discussing it with other mums

B. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit concerned that I’d come across as a bad/ selfish / smug parent (the fact that I can’t decide which one says it all really doesn’t it?!) #parenthoodissuchaweirdthing

C. I genuinely feel like the odd one out in this arena

Ultimately though, the more I share on social media, the more ‘relevant’ I feel it is; it’s a big part of how we bring up our kids, the way we lead our lives and our general family philosophy (that sounds w*nky but you know what I mean). I also get a fair few questions and comments surrounding this issue so I thought it’s time I tackle it head on. And with Sonny now sleeping absolutely dreadfully, I’m really starting to question our ‘ways’ and re-think the way we are doing things. Or not doing things…

 

You see, we are a zero routine family. By this I mean that we don’t do anything by the clock. Everything is based loosely around three mealtimes with a bath at the end of the day, but the time that all these components happens depends entirely on what time we get up and more generally what is happening in our lives. And by “our lives”, I really mean mine and Sam’s. So Jack may eat breakfast one day at 7.30am, and the next day at 10.30am. He may eat lunch at 11.45am, he may eat it at 2.45pm. He may nap, he may not. And as for Sonny, I couldn’t tell you how much milk he has each day, or at what times; I couldn’t tell you when he naps, or how long for. The kids are happy, stimulated and flexible, I think, really genuinely so. And we’re having fun as parents. (9pm bath time+ Justin Bieber+ glass of red wine on a Friday night, kinda vibe)

But with the distinct lack of sleep going on around here at night, although I feel bizarrely OK, there are definitely times I’ve started to think, maybe we’re doing something wrong? Maybe Sonny would sleep better if he were in a routine? Maybe he’d settle better? Maybe life would be better!* You see, nearly two and a half years into the parenting job, the intense focus around routine for children still baffles me.

Sorry if I’ve missed something hugely obvious about the need for routine (I know it gets complicated with work – right now I’m on maternity leave but when I worked full time, having no routine was fine; Jack just had to get up earlier…), and as with everything in motherhood, there are a multitude of methods to the madness, every child is different and there are pros and cons to each kind of lifestyle.

What’s your thoughts? Are you like us, dragging your kids around to the beat of your own (selfish? stupid? smug?) drum or do you stick to a routine? Should I start one? Do my kids need one? Why does everyone else seem to have one?

Thanks so much for reading,

Love one vaguely confused mama x

P.S If you liked this post, you may like 10 reasons why we’re a zero routine family

*I happen to think not !

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37 Comments

  1. November 26, 2016 / 9:58 am

    We just kind of fall into bubs routine & work around her. V lucky to be able to. Routine depends on the family & children I figure – whatever works works xx

    • Vic
      November 26, 2016 / 10:30 am

      We don’t have a routine in the daytime. Bath, massage, milk and bed is the only time I keep to – between 6 and 8 pm. I felt really sh*t the other week when I went for a pub lunch with and my 6 month babe was sleeping in her pram. Another mum asked me “when is she due to wake up?” I shrugged my shoulders… I was just feeling pleased she was asleep at all! She’s a reluctant day napper. I then endured a lecture about how her child had been in a clockwork routine at that age and how amazing it was. Maybe I’m projecting on to her but I felt like I was being called a clueless mum.

      • emmaross
        November 29, 2016 / 11:07 am

        argh that mum sounds ummm, annoying!…. i would have reacted exactly like you – a shrug and a smile! well done for getting her to sleep and hope you enjoyed some time off. thanks so much for reading and your comment x

    • Miriam Greaves
      November 26, 2016 / 7:05 pm

      I’m in exactly the same place as you at the moment. An almost 2 year old who sleeps terribly and will only nap in the car and a 4 1/2 month old who is awake every hour at night and barely sleeps in the day. I’m looking at myself these days and questioning everything I’m doing….even though my children are happy. I just need more sleep but that doesn’t make me selfish. I’m a more engaged and happy Mama when I’m not on my knees with exhaustion! But what’s right? I tried sleep training with my eldest and I’ll always regret it – it didn’t work and it caused more tears than I care to remember (not just her but my husband and me too). I now go with the flow a lot more as anything that has ever worked always seems to take U turn a few weeks later and I’m back to where I started. 2 years into this parenting malarkey and I’m now trusting my Mama instinct more than ever. It’s powerful stuff. I’d love to hear other people’s views on this so I’m so glad you’ve written about it. Would I like a bit more routine and sleep? YES! But will it work for my family? Who knows….I think ultimately you’ve got to trust your Mama gut and do what is right for you and your family.

      • emmaross
        November 29, 2016 / 11:13 am

        the mama gut is real hey. ah lovely, i feel for you – we’re right there with you! going with the flow is what its all about though i am sure and we just need to remember that this non sleeping thing is a phase (PLEASE PLEASE !!!) and that’s awful re the sleep training. you’re doing really well, i know it x thanks for taking the time to read this and to comment x

    • emmaross
      November 29, 2016 / 11:06 am

      hey avril – thanks for reading and makes a lot of sense re falling into a routine – that’s the best way 🙂 have a lovely day x

  2. Sarah Hadfield
    November 26, 2016 / 10:06 am

    I was very routine with Henry my first and he was a horrific sleeper till he was three! William is six weeks and though i plan to adopt some kind of bedtime routine in a bid to get back to Netflix binges, I already feel more relaxed and in the mindset that it’s not the end of the world of scrambled eggs isn’t served promptly at 12pm! Enjoying my second so much more due to not being worked up around routine so intend to keep it that way! We’re coping with the routine of school run so far so whatever works and all that!

    • emmaross
      November 29, 2016 / 11:14 am

      ah you sound like you got it down mama 🙂 and yes, scrambled eggs can wait and bring on the netflix binges… thanks for reading sarah x

  3. Patty
    November 26, 2016 / 10:06 am

    We look at what our child needs and she does best on routine. This strict routine started since she wasnt sleeping for 15 months! Woke up every 1,5hour so I was a mess. For us as a family to make it work we all benefit from the routine as in : we get sleep now and we have a plan which makes us feel happy
    She finally sleeps through the night and im a more fun mum again and person yay! It does mean we miss some parties here and there but thats still there in a few years 🙂
    Thanks for all you share, love reading your relaxed lifestyle blogs and your honest stories!

    • emmaross
      November 29, 2016 / 11:15 am

      ah thanks for your helpful and kind comment Patty. sounds like you guys have got it down now and are in a much better place. im so hoping this is just a phase with sonny….. have a lovely day you x

  4. November 26, 2016 / 10:41 am

    I’m not sure how old Sonny is, but I think my boy O is a similar age (just coming up to six months). My other half works long hours and slightly eratic ones and we’ve never been ones for routine anyway (not smug or selfish – just us)! So if our boy had a routine him and his dad would never see each other (not an option). Anyway… I tried to do things the way you’re meant to (cot, routine etc) for a few months and it was horrible. So I decided (out of necessity and desperation) to cosleep (bedshare) and just focus on how O seemed rather than enforce a routine. O had a particularly sleepless patch around 3.5-4.5 months but since then has settled a lot. He was so much happier sleeping with me and from day one we got more than a full nights sleep (almost every night). This has also had a knock on effect on his day time napping and the smile count we get each day 🙂 I think it’s important that he’s not overstimulated or being dragged around all over the place… But generally I think routine isn’t that important as long as he feels secure and reassured in other ways. I watch for his signals for feeding and napping carefully and respond, and I try to avoid him getting upset and crying as much as I possibly can… I know this way is not for everyone but it feels so natural and works well. So far so good anyway – everything’s always changing anyway isn’t it!?! Sorry for the dissertation – I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject recently too 🙂 x

    • emmaross
      November 29, 2016 / 11:17 am

      thanks so much for this! such a helpful and sensible comment. i am right there with you on the whole watching for signals thing and just going with what works for you… i also love that idea of baby just feeling secure and reassured – which i *think* mine is (?) also dont like having him cry etc which i think can come hand in hand with routine x

      • Annie
        December 9, 2016 / 2:36 am

        I am due my baby in 2.5 months! I have thought about routine and what would it look like when maximus (the bump na’me)comes along! I really like what you say about going with mumma instinct and not having routines! I dont have routines in my own life as it makes me feel robotic and some what trapped! So why not incorporate into my child’s life 😀

        • emmaross
          December 15, 2016 / 9:36 am

          exactly my thinking ! adults nor babies are routine…. good luck mama & thanks for resding <3 x

  5. Tracey Bravo
    November 26, 2016 / 10:47 am

    Em, I was just thinking that very thought this morning! Isaac is only 14 weeks old but we have no routine, which means we don’t get upset when it doesn’t work out. I love that Isaac and I can just do what we want when we want to and not tied to times. Not sure how long g it will last as everyone is saying ‘routine’ to me and I can’t imagine going g back to work without one but that isn’t until May!

    • emmaross
      November 29, 2016 / 12:26 pm

      ah hey lovely! so nice to hear from you. sounds like you and Isaac are doing super well and totally in your own groove – YAY! just go with it, and he will thrive, i am sure. cant wait to meet him at Christmas! thanks for reading <3

  6. Kim
    November 26, 2016 / 10:57 am

    I am a routine kinda person (mainly centred around bed time routine). I think it comes from knowing I will be going back to work and I need to be abe to have enough sleep to function for 12 hours at work and leave the house at 7.20am. The down side is that when your routine breaks it feels very stressful. So I am trying my best to be less routine focused with bubba no.2. I think it all depends on your family circumstances and what works best for you. Pros and cons with both.

  7. November 26, 2016 / 11:09 am

    I have a 7 year old and 5 year old and although I never been one for a strong routine, our kids have always been in bed at 7 with exception to holidays and occasions. It has just kind of happened without much effort or drama from very early on and our peaceful evenings have always been appreciated! I do not judge your way of doing things and it sounds like you are working as a team with your babas and it will all figure itself out.xx

  8. Sarah
    November 26, 2016 / 11:32 am

    My understanding from a child development course I once did is that babies benefit from a routine but that it doesn’t matter what time you do things but more the order that you do them. It sounds like you are already doing that by having dinner/bath in the evening and then bed time.
    I am someone who needs routine in my own life and so I benefit from having one for my kids but if you’re not that sort of person then I can’t see restricting yourself being very helpful. At the end of the day, having happy, confident parents with a strong sense of self is much more important than an arbitrary routine. I think you are totally acing it x

  9. Laura
    November 26, 2016 / 11:38 am

    Up to about week 12 of life with baby, we had zero routine. We cosied in bed, we pottered to coffee shops, we napped. My little girls sleep was just bloody awful and my no routine didn’t seem to be working. So many people suggested we start to implement a vague routine and it’s really helped with her sleeping a night. Sleep to promote sleep (or so they say!). I thought I would hate being a mum that had a routine. Now I love it! She has a 45 minute nap in the morning (that’s a bath/shower and potter for me) and an hour and a half in the afternoon (emails, life admin or a nap with my sleeping babe). You just need to do what works! I can only speak for us but a routine helped a lot and now her sleeping at night has drastically improved.

  10. Amy
    November 26, 2016 / 3:45 pm

    I had an obsessive routine with my first, with my second, less so (they’re now 3 and 6). My most obsessive routine was bedtime. I’m a painter and teacher, my husband collects vinyl and loves the freedom of listening to music in the evening. Of course, all of these things you can attempt to do with children in your presence, but to varying levels of success and satisfaction. I aldo felt they were tired around 7-8ish, and ready to give their bodies a rest. As a result of our routine, kids are in bed by 8.15 at the latest, and often ask to go to bed and for the most part sleep well. Reuben is an early bird and up at 6ish most mornings, Franny tends to sleep until 7.30ish depending on whether it’s a school day for me and then we have to be out by 7.30am. What’s my point! I think for my own sanity and to be able to manage the complexities of everyday life post maternity, I needed that one routine, and I believe it did help my kids. I need them to be ready for the physical and mental demands of school (which in year 2 is stupendously crazy!) and even pre-school for Franny. I wanted them to be recharged,and as conventional as it sounds, prepared for the next day to be similar in the morning and evening. It means the days I’m teaching that I don’t have meltdowns ensuring I’m out on time. It also means in the evening are quite calm, absorbed in each other’s company until we go into the snug, calm down, Have a bath. These things have turned into Pavlovian signals where a domino effect of one thing informs the next. When in bed, we leave bedroom doors open, downstairs doors open, have music playing, do not lead a ‘shush’ life and my kids sleep soundly because this is the norm, they’ve never known any different. They don’t wake, and sound and movement is part of their lives. I can then recharge too, I can paint, or do school stuff, or go out. This is not just for my own well being, I feel it does help them, but who really knows, a child is what a child knows! I hope ultimately you find confidence in the choices you make; something about these choices must have been important to you in the first instance to go with them, like they were for me. However, that’s not to say these values may change and to that end, the way you approach them. One belief I hold dear is the organic nature of parenting and the freedom to evolve and adapt an approach when we have a niggle that something is working quite like we’d anticipated.

  11. Laura
    November 26, 2016 / 7:58 pm

    We sort of have a routine in terms of day time naps and bed time. But Emma, ITS GOTTEN WORSE. Rohan woke at 12.30 last night and stayed awake ALL night. So I dont think routine helps one way or the other. If anything it helps me with tidying and making dinner.

  12. Ling
    November 26, 2016 / 10:11 pm

    I have my 3 year old on a routine of sorts, when it comes to meals, naps and bedtimes. Meals is always brekky in the morning (no set time), lunch about noon, dinner 5:30-6pm. He always has a 3hr, sometimes 2hr nap from around 1:30-2pm. I’ve always been rigid with naps, so I have a good 3 hour break to myself, do chores etc. Then bedtime at 8pm. He has a bath every few days when I think.he could do with one! And each day/week we do different things, see different friends… He used to sleep until 8-8:30am every day, until he turned 3, now he gets up at ridiculous times, any time from 5:30am onwards.
    We just kinda fell into this routine. Just do whatever works for you and your lovely boys!

  13. sarah
    September 27, 2017 / 8:03 pm

    I was much more focused on a routine with my first, mainly cos everyone else was and I was worried my son’s development would be stunted if he didn’t get 12-14 hours sleep, ffs! He did do well with a routine though and slept through from 10 months and napped well until he was 3. I’m much more relaxed with my second (nearly 7 month year old), mainly as you have to be when there is a nearly 4 year old also needing you attention. But the baby naturally ended up wanting to go to bed around 7pm and it’s nice knowing we have our evening. He doesn’t nap so well but I don’t feel too bad cos I know he sleeps well at night. I think it’s whatever works for the children and you but it’s gotta be a bit of give and take. We always keep them up late when we’re on holiday so we can stay out but then we take the sometimes crabby behaviour as a result. Good luck with what you decide x x

    • emmaross
      September 28, 2017 / 10:38 pm

      thanks mama, this is interesting to read. love your little “ffs” re his development #firsttimemama – i hear you!! sounds like you guys are in a nice groove though and yes TOTALLY, all about whatever works for the kiddos and for you. thanks for reading the post and for commenting <3

  14. Gemma
    September 27, 2017 / 9:30 pm

    The one thing we can learn from children is that things never remain constant for too long! You think you’ve nailed the sleeping and then bang, they hand you some extra dark eye bags! Two boys, one without a routine and one with and you know what, they both go through stages of really disrupted sleep. A routine definitely makes it harder to leave the house when it’s normally their bedtime (cue all the breakdowns) but maybe I haven’t got that one nailed down yet? Think we’re all just learning on the job aren’t we? What works for one never seems to work for another?

    Sending you all the sleep vibes!

    • emmaross
      September 28, 2017 / 10:34 pm

      hey mama, first of all, thanks for reading! and yes TOTALLY – every single day i am learning on this mothering job – more than any other job ive had ! interesting what you say about routine making some things harder but also absolutely, what works for one may well not work for another. anyway, thanks for being here and for reading 🙂

  15. Jasmine
    September 27, 2017 / 9:48 pm

    Hmmm…🤔. I doubt a routine would make a lot of difference to the sleep situation. We have a routine of sorts (it exists in my head and we aim for a similar setup each day, though in truth it doesn’t often go to plan) but my 16 month old also isn’t sleeping AT ALL. I think it’s just one of those many phases. Also I thought you had gone back to work. I have just done the same and I am sure that is linked to the no sleep situation.

    • emmaross
      September 28, 2017 / 10:33 pm

      hey jasmine – thanks for reading and for commenting. firstly, yep im back at work – this is a post from my archives but still oh so relevant as routines is something parents seem to discuss daily ! hope your little one gets some good sleep down him soon – so you can too. sending love mama x

  16. September 28, 2017 / 7:56 am

    This sounds very familiar! I have never been one for routine, and as we embraced attachment parenting with Arthur we just sort of followed his lead, doing our best to accommodate our needs as parents (and people!) along the way. It gave us so much more freedom than I think we would have had otherwise – and even though some non-attachment mamas I know regularly said that they could never be so child led because they needed their own space I really believe that I held onto my own identity much more strongly by not hiding it beneath feeding and sleep schedules. Arthur went through some really challenging patches, sleep-wise, but he loves his sleep now (five years down the line) and is super flexible about where and when he catches zzzs meaning that we still get to go on lots of adventures 😊 We also don’t have the horrible bedtime battles that some of my more routine-led friends seem to. It’s going to be very interesting for me to see where babe number two takes us – we’re on day four of that journey, and I’m hoping he’ll just slot in to our way of muddling through and enjoying life (with little adjustments here and there from us three of course). I certainly have no desire to get caught up in rigid routines if I can possibly help it! X

    • emmaross
      September 28, 2017 / 10:27 pm

      ah we sound oh so similar mama, totally on your page. especially connect with what you say about losing yourself to sleep / feeding schedules… i did try very briefly but it just did not feel ‘me’ at all! your mini sounds like a proper dude and ive no doubt number two will slip seamlessly into your lovely vibe xx

  17. Laura
    September 28, 2017 / 8:12 am

    I always thought I’d want to be a go-with-the-flow kind of mum, and in many ways I am. We’re definitely not strict with a routine – we stay out late if it’s a special occassion unless its not working for all of us (i.e. bubs). But like someone else said we kind of work around what seems to work for our little boy (16 months) – and we’ve naturally and slowly fallen into quite a traditional routine, surprisingly. I do think when I deviate from the routine much and O gets overtired his happiness and behaviour suffer, maybe his sleep too and certainly our mood suffers! I think if your kids seem mellow and happy it’s probably all fine. Development leaps could account for Sonny not sleeping well ATM, in a few weeks it may improve again (as with everything in baby and motherhood – this too shall pass). Anyway, just do what makes everyone most happy most of the time. I’m no expert though! xxx

    • emmaross
      September 28, 2017 / 10:25 pm

      thanks for this laura, and for taking the time to read / comment. it’s such a tough one isn’t it – finding that balance. overtiredness is for sure, NOT GOOD, that much i know! lots of love xx

  18. Nick
    September 28, 2017 / 9:15 am

    I def think it comes down to how you as a family and your individual personalities work best. My husband and I love a routine and hate spontaneity and it seems our son does too! This might not sound very “cool” but it works for us a treat!! He’s slept through the night since 6 weeks old and has barely woken in the night since and is now 18 months old. We can get babysitters / go on holiday and follow the routine and he slots straight in. We road tripped around Canada and Australia with him, he’s been to numerous weddings and holidays abroad but we always stick to the routine on the new time zone! This isn’t meant to sound smug or preachy AT ALL and trust me we’ve had our fair share of family members getting frustrated at our “lack of flexibility” but we find it works so well for us and means his sleep is so predictable that we end up actually managing to have so much more adult time! Does that make sense?! I do think children like knowing what happens next as it makes them feel safe and secure and he is super confident and independent but again who knows if that’s just his personality anyway?? Anyway… my pennies thoughts for the mix! Baby girl arriving in a few months so let’s see what works for her!!

    • emmaross
      September 28, 2017 / 10:23 pm

      not about sounding ‘cool’ – it’s about getting enough sleep and having fun through this parenting malarky, and it sounds like you guys have that down. hope you are feeling well mama and excited for your impending arrival. thanks for reading and for commenting 🙂 x

  19. Katie
    September 28, 2017 / 12:45 pm

    I think I love the idea of being more flexible on routine but have definitely swung the other way but possibly for the same reasons…because it suits us as parents. For instance, I like my 2 year old daughter to have a morning nap because of she naps on an afternoon I can’t get her to sleep on an evening (which is tough as I have a 5 year old son to settle also and my husband works away). Also I feel like my son needs a decent night’s sleep as he is at school now and as he tends to wake early I try to get him to bed early too. Routine doesn’t necessarily translate to sleep though as my youngest still regularly wakes through the night and my eldest wakes super early! So from one sleep deprived mother to another…do what’s right for you and your family, perhaps tweak things if it’s no longer working but that doesn’t mean you have to have a rigid routine if it doesn’t suit. I don’t think you have to have all or nothing 😊 xx

    • emmaross
      September 28, 2017 / 10:22 pm

      hey mama, thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment. I SO hear you on kids being well slept enough, i think this is super important too. and yes, it’s totally about doing what is right for you and your own family hey – thanks for this x

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