Previously, I had been working “full-time” as a teacher (15 hours of classroom time and infinite hours of prep and grading), so every weekday I would drop off my baby at the sitter between 12:00 and 12:20 and pick him up after 4:00. The morning was spent getting ready, grading papers, prepping for class, running errands, etc., so there wasn’t really a routine that I settled into. He didn’t always nap at the sitter, so sometimes he would pass out in the car. Or sometimes I would need to run to the store and we couldn’t go straight home. It was erratic, to put it mildly.
When I was vacationing at my parents’ home a couple weeks ago, I found myself without outside influences on my time or mind. I was able to wake up with the baby, feed him breakfast, play with him or take a walk, come back and have a little snack, play some more, eat lunch, take a nap, wake up, eat a snack, play or take a walk, have dinner, take a bath, read some books, go to sleep. Every day. It was great.
Before, he would eat like a bird and I would rush him through whatever scant food he was eating. Now I was able to properly observe him and his eating habits, to pick up his cues when he was finished with something, or when he wasn’t interested in a food. It was like I was feeding him for the first time. Neat! It’s made a tremendous difference.
Routines are important for toddlers, especially with quickly developing language, social, and motor skills, which can get kind of overwhelming. “Your child needs some consistency to her day, a predictable sequence that lets her explore the world without worry,” says Victoria Manion Fleming, PhD, a child and family therapist in Northbrook, Illinois (www.parents.com).
It has also been particularly helpful when planning errands, playdates, etc. Since our schedule has been regular, I can better predict when a trip to the store is going to be fun or frantic. I can gauge whether or not I can make that extra errand, or if it’s better saved for later. This makes for both a happier baby and mommy. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want?