So excited to have my friend Katelyn from What’s Up Fagans? sharing her wisdom with all of us today!
When you have multiple young children at home, a good stay at home schedule is pretty important, at least if you want to have order and not lose your sanity. This schedule will look different for every family, and every situation, but I feel like there is one key ingredient to a truly successful stay at home schedule – sleep.
Nap times should be sacred, bedtimes well established, and good sleep habits and training instigated. The benefits of revolving your schedule around sleep are for your child, but also for yourself as the stay at home parent.
As a mom of three young children, including twins, I know the difficulties of anti-nappers, and anti-sleepers. I also know the annoyance of staying at home instead of going out at certain times of the day because little boy needs a nap. I know that you have more flexibility when your child doesn’t nap or doesn’t have a rigid bedtime. But, I swear, setting up your stay at home schedule around sleep will be beneficial to all.
4 Reasons Your Stay-at-Home Mom Schedule Should Revolve Around Sleep
1. Sleep is Essential
As a baby and young child, sleep is more than just a time to recharge the energy meters for the next day: sleep is very important for your child’s health and growth. In children, their physical growth hormone goes through its more intense period of release shortly after the beginning of deep sleep, making sleep essential to good physical growth. Poor sleep can also affect other hormones which can alter things like hunger and appetite, as well as the way the body metabolizes these foods. (Source)
But, sleep in babies is perhaps most important to their brain growth and activity. When your baby is asleep, her brain is working on memory and learning, organizing and categorizing all the sights and sounds and new experiences she took in that day. In fact, in every age group studied, children who slept longer have higher IQs. (Source)
Children who sleep longer during the day have longer attention spans and are more fun to be around, more sociable, and less demanding. However, babies who sleep less during the day are often more fitful and socially demanding, less able to entertain or amuse themselves. (Source) Plus, children with less sleep can get hyperactive. When our twins were young, my husband and I would often joke that as bedtime neared the “CC’s” came out – Crabby and Crazy. Kids get worked up and extra loud, crazy, and hyperactive when they get tired. But, they can also get more sensitive, resistant, and defiant, aka turn into little crabs.
Really it comes down to this:
The more sleep your child gets, the more he’ll grow, the more he’ll be cooperative and fun, and the smarter he will be. If your child is growing and smart and fun, chances are you will enjoy this stay at home mom thing quite a bit more yourself! Plus, if your baby sleeps well, you will sleep better too, not having your great REM sleep cycle disturbed multiple times during the night. And more sleep for mom means a smooth-sailing, less yelling and/or crying, household.
2. Kids Thrive on Routine and Consistency
When my husband and I were engaged, our bishop at church was talking to us about our impending marriage, and he told us a bit of advice that I have never forgotten. He said that when kids come along (and the spirit testified to him that we would be blessed with children!) one of the best things you can do is be have a routine because children thrive on a routine. His words and advice have proved absolutely true. As we welcomed children into our home we have always striven for a basic routine (not a micro-managed routine, full of activities every hour of every day, but a general structure of expectations), and have not been disappointed with the results.
There is lots of research out there as well that backs up our Bishop’s advice. Routines create order from the chaos of babyhood and toddlerhood and beyond, because children start to understand that there are rules and patterns to life. We put our socks and shoes on before we leave the house, and have nap time after lunch. Rituals are comforting to children and help them adjust to new environments and any changes, as they give a sense of security, safety, and control over life. Routines also help children develop self-discipline and good habits, as they learn to constructively control themselves and their environments. This is great for helping children foster creativity and independent play.
One of the best benefits of routines though is that it sets up expectations. Child with structure are more cooperative. They understand transitions better, and that this is what happens after X, Y, or Z. They also know that nagging won’t fly very well. Plus, kids will start to look forward to more events, like trips to the playground, or story time before bed. Routines help develop better habits all around, and prevent more fights, as the expectations and routines don’t vary or change (very often).
Of course the curve-balls of life, new stages of childhood, and illness will interfere with your best laid plans. But, that is one of the benefits of staying at home with your child. You can adjust things as needed as life happens and your child grows. My daughters bedtimes and nap times have run the gambit in when they will start, from as early as a 10am nap and a 6pm bedtime, to as late as a 2pm nap and a 8:30pm bedtime, and everywhere between in the last (almost) five years. Because there are transitions!: Dropping naps, moving to a toddler bed, Daylight Savings, new babies, moving, starting school, potty training, and more. As they say, the one constant in life is change, but creating good daily routines and rituals will help you and your child weather the storms of life, and its exciting adventures on a sturdier boat.
3. More Respite for Mom
Having multiple children at home is a blessing, but also makes for a lot of demands of you. With several children, there is more mess, more cleaning up to do, and lots more noise. Sometimes that noise is adorable laughter and coos, but other times it’s loud crying, tantrums, or just screaming competitions, just for fun (my girls, and now my son, do a lot of this last one). Plus, with so many children, you have a tendency to never really be alone, not even to shower or pee or brush your teeth.
While you love your kids, sometimes as a mom, you just need a little respite, a time to recharge, a time to de-stress, and to reflect. Really, you just need some quiet time, literally. Thankfully, your young, needy, demanding children, take naps during the day (at least until some point), so that you can do so.
During nap time (or quiet time), you can take a little time for yourself by catching some shut eye yourself, taking care of your personal hygiene, reading a book, making some phone calls, paying bills, or eating some chocolate as you watch your favorite TV show. It doesn’t really matter. It’s time just for you. Which is why I don’t recommend spending this precious time doing household chores. I’m actually a big believer in cleaning while your kids are awake and around. I also recommend though not spending all of this time working (even though I totally do this a lot as a blogger) or being on social media. Too often if we spend these 1-3 hours consumed with other people’s problems and worrisome news stories, it can feel like we haven’t really got a break at all, as we just spent a lot of time and energy focusing (still) on other people and their problems or needs. To really make the most of this stay at home mom schedule revolving around naps, then please, make this time revolve around YOU. Be a little selfish. But, I also hope you don’t always feel like you need a break from your children. If you do, it might be time to re-evaluate your “Mommy Me Time.”
The point is this:
When you have your schedule revolve around sleep, you as the parent, will get more rest and more sleep (unless you abuse this gift by staying up until who knows when doing who knows what). If you take advantage of a good routine for your children, and then yourself with a good bedtime and quality down time during the day and in the evening, you will better be able to handle the craziness of several young children at home with you all day. As a mom sets the tone for her home, it is of utmost importance that sleep is a priority for all.
4. Less Battles
In case I haven’t made this clear throughout all the above points, one of the biggest reasons to focus your stay at home schedule on sleep needs is so your home will be happier. When everyone is tired, everyone is crabby. When everyone is crabby, no one is happy. Of course we can get crabby for other reasons (hunger being a big one), sleep is a basic need for little people. They need it, and often. When you structure your life around one of their most basic needs it is good for all. Your child will be more cooperative, happy, and obedient. And overtime there will be less battles and tantrums as well.
So, yes, I believe sleep is very important for young children. I am a bit of sleep Natzi. I worked through those nap refusals that occurred at about 2.5 years old to make sure that my children knew I was serious about them napping every day. It was not very fun at all, and took quite a bit of patience and work, but because I persevered (and experimented), I have twins who took naps every day for about 2-3 hours well past their fourth birthday. In fact, one of my twins is still napping most days. The other has officially transitioned to “quiet time” activities.
Managing Sleep Schedules with Several Young Kids
I have always had my twins sleeping in the same room, and sometimes the same bed. It’s not easy to have two young children sleep together. Many twin moms separate their twins at nap time so they’ll actually sleep. If you have the room and it works out, that is definitely an option. But, it just worked out that we established the sleep habits with them together, even though one took much longer to fall asleep, and the other was a great sleeper.
When our son came along, we put him in a separate bedroom, and put him down for the naps he needed, when he needed them. However, when we moved to Texas six months ago, we put all three kids into one bedroom, so they could have an official playroom. My son was about 16 months old at the time and my girls were four years old.
Three kids in one room.
Having all three kids in one room was a bit trickier logistically, especially when my son was still taking two naps a day. Thankfully, the second nap was at the same start time as my daughters’ naps, so it totally worked out beautifully for awhile and I would have all three children sleeping at the same time.
However, since one of my daughters was starting to transition out of naps, if she was in the room with the other two, she would keep them awake, so I had her take a nap on the couch in those first few months. Now she just has quiet time downstairs or in the playroom while the other two nap upstairs.
However, now my son is transitioning to one nap a day from his two naps, and it’s presenting us with some new challenges, as the start of his one nap is not at the same time as his sister’s. He could, most days, go down about noon, but there is no way his sister could fall asleep until at least 2pm. The problem with these different nap schedules is that Alison cannot sneak into their room without waking up her brother. And if he wakes up, it means no real respite for mom during the day. This is a big problem for me. I really like the quiet/nap time for 2-3 hours every day.
So, we’re adjusting and trying to figure it out. Half the time now I don’t make my daughter Alison take a nap, so she won’t wake her brother, who needs more sleep as a toddler. This just means that she has quiet time with her sister, and everyone goes to bed earlier at night. In some ways, it’s been working out better this way.
Learning schedule trial and error.
It’s all about trial and error with schedules, and remembering that each stage doesn’t last forever. When you decide that naps and sleep are the most important framework of your stay at home schedule, you will figure out how to get other things done, like running errands, doing chores, and taking care of business. You will figure out how to still have a social life, even though your children take 1-3 naps every day. You will adjust. And the beautiful thing is all of the benefits I listed above. Sure, you may lose a bit of flexibility being strict about being home at certain times of the day, but you will gain peace of mind that there is a routine and that it is beneficial to you and your children.
So, yes, as non-fun as it sounds, I really am suggesting you live your life around nap times.
As a stay at home parent you have the luxury to listen to the needs of your child in a way that only you can understand. You have the opportunity to let them grow and develop properly with adequate sleep and rest, so make it the essential element of your schedule. Make it the schedule you live around. Time at home, doing things together as a family, and making sure everyone is getting what they truly need – good food, good sleep, and good loving – will help a family be more successful.
Katelyn Fagan is is a positive mom to three young kids, including twin preschoolers. She is painfully aware of her own flaws, and writes to help herself, and others going through similar shortcomings, to become better and more balanced. On her blog, What’s Up Fagans?, you will find parenting advice, penny-pinching tips, cleaning hacks, and general help managing marriage, life and faith. She has been featured and syndicated on Blogher.com and FamilyShare.com, and recently spoke at the Inspiring Mom Bloggers Virtual Summit. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram.
Ready to find a routine that works for your family?
I’ve written a book with my friend Rachel that has ideas for rhythms, routines and schedules that’ll help your children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. There are over 30 printables (all different routines you can print out) including tips for running your day and figuring out a routine with multiple children!
Want more on motherhood?
- Why a Stay at Home Mom Schedule Matters
- Finding a Baby Sleep Schedule That Works
- How to Balance the Schedule With Real Life
Tell me, how has your stay at home mom schedule been ruled or not ruled by sleep? Let’s chat in the comments!