How I Learned to Love Putting My Kids to Bed Instead of Dreading It

Sleeping babyFor most of my parenting tenure, I have hated my kids' bedtime. With four children under 9, it's a serious challenge to get everyone bathed, brushed, and asleep, and mostly, I just want them to hop in and go to sleep quickly so I can enjoy the quiet before I collapse.

But lately I've had a huge shift in how I feel about the time before my kids fall asleep, and it's become one of my favorite times of the day. And with a little adjustment, it can be yours too.

Like most experiences with parenting, these moments don't last forever. I used to hate when people would tell me, "Treasure these times because you'll miss them." Which, yeah, I don't really want to hear when my kid is throwing a tantrum in the middle of Target.

But I've actually seen that the bedtime moments don't last forever. My oldest can put herself to bed 100 percent on her own. And I'm sure my near-7-year-old will soon follow.

And with school and activities and work, I don't see them as much as I used to. The quality time we might have had during the day has disappeared. And let's be honest. Even though I was with them much more earlier on, how much quality time were we really having anyway? Not as much as I'd like to think.

So these days, I make bedtime our quality time together, and it's become something magical.

For me, bathtime occurs every other day to make life easier. And we start bedtime much earlier to give ourselves lots of time for stories, cuddles, and private talks; that's what I call the moments I spend with each kid in bed where they get to talk about anything they want for a few minutes with my undivided attention.

At around 7 p.m., I put my phone away and gather them up, and we begin our routine. They must all be dressed for bed before they can come have their teeth brushed. Then when they're all done, they're each allowed to pick a story, or we read longer from one book.

Then they negotiate who gets first, second, and last cuddles (my oldest goes to bed later than the littles), at which point I hop into bed with them and let them talk my ear off for a good solid five to seven minutes.

I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have those moments where I'm completely and 100 percent engaged with my kids. I'm not thinking about laundry or the dishes. I'm not worrying about work.

I realize this isn't feasible for everyone's situation. I'm sure you SAHMs are probably ready to throw in the towel after a long day home with your children.

And it's time-consuming. I'm not going to lie.

But if you're dreading bedtime every night like I was, there's something awesome about embracing it and making it a time to look forward to. Not just for your kids -- but for you, too.

What's your bedtime ritual with your kids?


Image via Samiksha/Flickr

bedtime, kid sleep


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mande... manderspanders

I agree...  I was having a tough time coping in the evenings trying to get my 6 month old to sleep.  Once I decided that I needed to just embrace the time I get cuddling him while rocking him to sleep, it has been much better - I'm less frazzled, and he responds better.

So, I think that is true across all ages. We only get this time today with our children once... they will never be as small or as innocent as they are today.

Kattey Kattey

I wish my little one would cuddle. She's always been so fiercely independent that I'm lucky if I get a hug, and she's only 2. I tell her it's bedtime, she crawls into bed, I plant a kiss on her face and leave her alone. Sadly she never wants to snuggle mama before bed.

nonmember avatar Paige Kaye

@Kattey, my oldest was like that as a toddler, too - never needed to cuddle and hardly seemed to need ME! Sometimes I'd worry...

She continues to be fiercely independent and opinionated, but I've recognized it as a blessing as she enters her teens. We have amazing conversations about science, politics, and the world, and I never worry that she'll cave to peer-pressure or be lacking in confidence. Best of luck to you and your little one!

nonmember avatar AmyH

I have started to embrace bedtime, too. One thing that is helpful is to have them bathe, brush teeth, in PJs before I let them watch their 1 show a day on TV. Even if that means they are starting to bathe at 6pm and in jammies by 6:30 they are willing to do it for that 30 minutes of kid TV. When the show is over we go upstairs with no teeth brushing drama (used to be our Achilles Heal) which leaves time for reading and 1 on 1 talks. Kristen--What role does your husband play in bedtime routines? Mine tends to switch off with me so he'll take 1 kid while I take the other and then we switch so we both get alone time with each kid. Is that how yours works when he isn't flying?

Ashley McCormack Aldridge

Betime is a blessing and curse for me. My child is 2 and fights going to sleep. Oh sure she is exhausted (red under her eyes, rubs her eyes and plays with her hair) but she fights going to sleep. She is always trying to find a way to stay awake. Playing with her hands, talking, playing with my hair, asking for a book (looks at it for 2 seconds) and wants another book (repeat), wants more milk, etc. I'm exhausted myself from getting up at 5:30 for work that by the time. I know this time is fleeting but its just such a long process that I don't look forward to bedtime.

Kattey Kattey

Thanks, Paige. Don't get me wrong, I do love her independence. She reminds me of me. I just wish she'd snuggle more.

nonmember avatar Jena

Mine are older so it's cuddle time in my bed and watching TV and chatting before hugs and kisses and they hop off to their own beds.

April... AprilJune

@Ashley McCormack Aldridge: my older daughter was like yours. And I felt the same way as you. I tried so many different things because we were expecting a second baby and I knew I wouldn't have an hour each night to devote to wrangling her into bed and getting her to sleep. What finally worked was a timer. I set it for 5 minutes and when the "timer doggies" barked (it was the timer on my phone), she knew it was lights out, no more drinks/books/etc, and cuddle time was over. The first week was hard- she would cry when I left, but after a couple of weeks, she had trained herself to fall asleep before the 5 minutes so she wouldn't have to fall asleep alone. Now (a year and a half later), bedtime is easy and doesn't require the timer at all. Just wanted to share in case you're looking for strategies. Good luck!

nonmember avatar Gretta

We have a very similar routine!

Sometimes I really dread it because it takes a long time. Sometimes I just want to GET THEM IN BED.

But they LOVE IT. They look forward to it and I think the routine is good for them. Our routine even involves me singing a special song. I know it won't last forever so while it does, I try to embrace it.

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