The Bedtime Routine That Finally Worked For Me! (And Saved My Sanity)

After trying, trying, and trying AGAIN, I have finally found a bedtime routine that actually works!We all know parenting is hard. We read it in every form of print; watch it in every form of media. We live it. Every. Single. Day. But, admittedly, there is one particular time of day that has been especially challenging for me as a momma – finding a bedtime routine.

However- finally, finally, FINALLY, FINALLY, I have found a bedtime routine that has saved my sanity. And it is not even all that difficult! Can you sense my excitement? But let’s start at the beginning.


I Am Not An Expert

“How? How do you get them asleep?” My friend was pleading, her new-mother, sleep-deprived, desperate voice coming loud and clear through the phone.  It was after midnight and I was her final lifeline. Only, I  was the worst choice for a savior of sleep.

“Mine don’t sleep,” I meekly replied as my youngest girl peered silently around the corner at me. “You know they don’t!” I protested before yelling to my daughter to, once again, go to bed.

I was not exaggerating. My youngest girl is notorious for fighting sleep. We have tried everything. I have read books, listened to podcasts, begged, borrowed and stole every method I could possibly get my hands on. Yet, every night she was silently clawing her way back into my bed. And eventually, I stopped trying to fight it.

Even if I was a failure at establishing a bedtime routine, at least if she was sleeping in my bed- she was ASLEEP!

Bedtime routine not working? Read this to find out what finally worked for me!
Even after 5 kids, I couldn’t help my friend get her baby to sleep.
The Final Straw

It was a Monday morning, sunny and warm as most of our mornings are here in the South. I should have felt refreshed and rested after the weekend. Only, when my alarm went off, I had not even had four hours of sleep- less than two of which were consecutive. I was starting my week off even more exhausted than I had finished the previous week.

To compound matters- it was a big week. Unnegotiable meetings at work; multiple (necessary) doctor’s appointments for more than one family member; and family obligations that I could not wiggle out of.

And then…..right before I walked out the door, our middle daughter began vomiting. E-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. I couldn’t take it anymore and knew that needed to do something, and quick! There was no way that I could continue going on as a mommy zombie.

Don't be a mommy zombie! Check out the sleep routine that actually worked for me!
Being a mommy zombie doesn’t help during a busy week at all!
The Bedtime Routines That Were Not Working

After trying several methods, I decided to take a backwards approach. I started thinking about what was NOT working. Bath time immediately before bedtime? Not effective. Walking after dinner? Negative. Letting them choose a bedtime story? Ummmm….no.

But these things all had more than being a waste of time in common. These strategies were stimulating my child, instead of winding her down. Since she was one of five kids, this also meant my other children were galvanized. We all know that kids feed off of each other, and in large families that can lead to a very, very long night.

So, since I was not being effective in the “expert” ways of establishing a bedtime routine, I committed to making a list of opposites. I was going against the grain; going rogue.

Instead of finding your child playing after bedtime, read about the bedtime that worked for me!
Instead of being sleepy after our bedtime routine, they were wanting to play!
The Bedtime Routine That Saved My Sanity

That entire week I shook up our evening routines. We got home and completed homework and resumed normal play for the littlest kids. We finished whatever chores we had. But, before dinner was finished, we went for a walk instead of waiting until after we had eaten.

We are fortunate to live in a relatively slower neighborhood in the outskirts of town. We have empty fields full of wildlife, and virtually no traffic. The kids run up and down the block, socializing with whoever else is outside or chasing birds and bunnies, while I walk behind. They get plenty of exercise and have a blast while doing it.

After terrorizing the neighborhood, we went straight into our bath time rituals. They could smell dinner and were getting hungry which made bath time actually go more smoothly than the nights that we waited until right before bed. I didn’t have to beg or threaten to get anyone out of the tub!

Then came dinner. By now it was later than they were used to eating, but there was still plenty of time left until bedtime. (There are a ton of reasons that children shouldn’t eat right before going to sleep, but we have a child that has night terrors so we definitely try to avoid it.) Comfy in their pajamas, the kiddos ate and then scampered off to play quietly or watch TV (I know, shame on us!) until 30 minutes before bedtime.

Then came story time. Now notice, I did not say reading time. I will reiterate that I am a huge advocate of reading to your children. I still read books that interest even my older kids (such as The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe) so that they can hear how I use inflection, etc. However, now I am reading to them during homework time. When it is time to go to bed, I am telling a story. I am using my kiddos as the main characters and allow for suggestions. But while I am telling the story, we have already turned down the lights. It is dark and calm, with less stimulation. I tell them to close their eyes and imagine the story instead of them fighting to investigate the pictures in a book.

Pretty clever way to get their eyes closed right?

Then it is kisses and hugs, more kisses and hugs, and then time to go to sleep. And it has happened!!!! They have been going to sleep….and staying asleep!

Want to have a bedtime routine that finally works? Check out what worked for me!
They have actually been going to sleep!! And staying asleep!!
 How To Make A Bedtime Routine Work For You

Here is your action plan.

  • Jot down what your evening typically looks like. Do you have routines? Does your family eat at the same time every night, or are meals planned around extra curricular activities, errands, etc.? Do you have a set bedtime? Busy families have a lot going on, but there are ways that you can try to come up with a routine. Studies show that kids do better with a routine. If you need help coming up with one, email me or leave a comment below. We can figure this out!
  • Evaluate what you have tried that didn’t work. Have you tried reading books? This works for many families. I just found that it wasn’t working for me. Have you tried bath time right before bed? Again, many people swear by soothing lavender baths before bed. Just not a solution for my family.
  • Determine what you can change. Can you try establishing a new routine? Maybe try telling stories instead of reading a book. Not creative? Google short stories and retell them using your kids as the main characters. Or, even easier, retell one of their favorite shows or movies using your kids as the main characters. I usually have my stories last about 5 minutes and then leave with a cliffhanger.
  • Don’t give up! IF at first you don’t succeed, try again! But give it a few days to a week before switching things up. It is only tried it for one night and said forget it.

Do you have a bedtime routine that works for you? Let us know in the comments. You never know who you might help!

You might enjoy- Meal Planning For Busy Moms.

Meal planning can definitely help save time while you are trying to establish new routines.



Disney on Ice Survival Kit: How to Make it out With Your Sanity and Your Budget Intact

Make it out of Disney on Ice with both your sanity and your budget.

You did it! You are taking your kids to Disney on Ice! You just committed yourself to being the best parent in the world. You just purchased tickets to the live musical ice version of the Disney movie that is constantly tormenting you, I mean constantly on repeat, in your house. If you think that succeeding in suppressing your gag reflex while clicking the online purchase button was the hardest part of this commitment, you are sadly mistaken. Here are some valuable tips to surviving Disney on Ice.

  1. Set a budget.

This is actually more complicated than some rookies may realize. Yes, the tickets are most likely going to be the bulk of your expense. However, they are most certainly not going to be your only expenses. These type of events will try to suck every last dollar out of you. Parking is typically not free and can vary with each venue so you definitely want to check into the cost ahead of time. Most dangerous of all, of course, are the souvenirs. Everywhere you look there will be light up swords, costumes, plush toys, and $15 bags of cotton candy. If you think that you dodged the bullet when you somehow maneuvered your kiddos past the onslaught of booths right inside of the venue, you are sadly mistaken. There will be peddlers skillfully navigating the maze of seats throughout the show and intermission as well. (Personal tip- Buy some “souvenirs” from Amazon, wrap them, and give them before you go. I then suggest we leave them at home so that we have nothing to “slow us down” while trying to make it to our seats.)

2. Plan your entrance, and your escape.

Those toys we talked about, bright flashing hunks of plastic that eventually are going to pad the landfill of the bottomless closet or toy box, are all available before the show. Know where your seats are ahead of time and plan for the entrance that allows you the shortest route. That parking lot you just paid to park in is about to be a catastrophic mess. All of the parents fleeing as fast as they can becomes a breeding ground for road rage and very unDisney-like behavior. My advice, park closer to the exit and take the extra time during the walk into the arena to remind your kids that they already have their “souvenirs” waiting for them safely at home.

parking, Disney,
Parking may be a disaster.
3. Be an adult.

Yes, Disney was created to be enchanting. Yes, it is nice to be swept up into the magic of make-believe even as an adult (hello- soap operas, romantic comedies, etc.). HOWEVER, Disney on Ice is particularly special for children. These little boys and girls are excited. They are overstimulated. They are going to be loud, rambunctious and possibly inappropriate. You need to be an adult and you need to NOT be inappropriate. You need to remember that while you spent a lot of your hard-earned money on tickets, so did the parent of the sugared-up Elsa doppelgänger kicking the back of your chair while singing “Let it Go” in an excruciatingly loud screeching voice. Suck it up buttercup and let the kid be a kid. (To the woman who rolled her eyes at my little Elsa, I hope you read this. By the way, you were turned into a lesson on how NOT to behave in public.)

4. Find your happy place.

If you are not one of those adults who can fall into the rabbit hole and slip back into childhood fantasies, enter the arena with a plan. I, personally, am not the biggest fan of these type of events. I am, however, a huge fan of my kiddos. I truthfully pay attention to less than a quarter of the performance. My attention is captured by the sheer joy that is radiating from my little Elsa and Ana (at least before intermission). I have more pictures of my Elsa frozen (hehe, no pun intended) in utter shock at watching her idol elegantly glide across the ice rink than I do of the show. My babies being happy is my happy place. If that doesn’t do it for you, then retreat inside your head. I won’t shame you if you spend the entire two hours planning your next project at work, or if you are replaying your favorite sappy movie in your head. And I definitely won’t blame you if you are inside the safety of your own head mentally punching the mom a few seats over that refuses to stop shooting dirty looks to your four year old because I may, or may not have, chosen to spend a few minutes of my experience doing the same thing.

5. Try to put down the camera (phone) and just be there.

If you like the show, watch it live instead of on video once you get home. If you are more interested in watching your kiddos, take a few photos here and there, video the rugrats singing their favorite song, and spend the rest of the time taking in the smiles and random hugs, kisses, and compliments. Sometimes we focus so much on capturing the moment that we don’t experience the moment.

smartphone, camera, pictures, Disney on Ice
Try to put down the smartphone or camera and just enjoy the experience.
6. Be prepared for after.

Did you think that having the pre-nap time show will equal a longer than normal nap time? Did you plan on the last show because you predicted that they would be exhausted after all of that excitement and bedtime would finally, finally be a breeze? If so, how did that work out for you? No matter how many times I have learned this does not work for my kiddos, I still  almost believe it may. If you are planning on not parenting after the show then you are probably planning incorrectly. They will either sleep on the ride home and bounce right back up as soon as you pull into the driveway, or they will serenade you the entire drive home and then reenact the show in your living room for what seems like the rest of eternity. Over stimulation does two things- it gets the mind juices flowing and/ or creates the crankiest little monsters you have ever met. Either one does not bode well for a relaxing evening after the show.

Following these tips may not guarantee that you actually have the time of your life. Following these tips, however, may just help guarantee that your little ones have the time of their life, and ultimately isn’t that all that matters?