About a month ago, I was visiting family in my hometown. I was in the middle of a depressive spell and the sole caretaker of a two-year-old. Naturally, I was tired.
Although I enjoy (for the most part) my bi-yearly visits to my family, I underestimated how helpful my husband was until that moment. For roughly a month and a half, I had to manage allof the tasks instead of mostof the tasks it takes to parent and run a household because my husband had an extended work trip. That was a huge challenge — especially in the first trimester of pregnancy.
But one of the most noticeable changes was his refusal to go to sleep at night. I knew some of this was the result of being 800 miles away from his room and crib. But we’d done that before. Late last year, we spent two weeks with my husband’s family in Florida. None of the eating, behavior, or sleep changes happened.
It seemed like a large part of what was missing was his dad. Apparently, their bedtime routine was more important than I’d previously realized.
My husband and I have similar, yet different, parenting styles. Much of this difference is shaped by my status as a work-from-home mother. I am a textbook ENFP/INFP boarder. My willingness to be social may vary, but I prioritize freedom and creativity. Naturally, this is visible in the way I parent. My style involves giving my child the space to explore the house with a spot in my office areas to draw or write. Restrictions, limitations, and strict schedules have always been my arch-nemesis.
In contrast, my husband is your classic INTJ, and he’s a military brat. He likes committing to schedules and routines so he knows what to expect. These differences are the reason he insisted we enforce a bedtime routine and adhere to a mostly consistent bedtime. Naturally, as a freedom lover, I protested.
During our time apart, I’d tell him what I was dealing with and he’d ask what time I was putting our kid to bed. I thought the question was stupid and bedtime was insignificant, but was ready to get back to our routine.
My hubs first day back marked the end of McChubs’ free reign. The old schedule was reinstated. I was more than grateful for the rest. His dinner was between six and seven o’clock. It needed to be done at his personal-sized table and chair — often right next to my husband’s gaming station. Bedtime was non-negotiable at 8 pm. The process had very little variety. On occasion, it would involve them reading a bedtime story; most times, it didn’t.
“Get a diaper, Chub,” my husband says nightly. As he has gotten taller, he also got progressively more involved in this part. With time, “get a diaper” was turned into “come on, let’s go potty.” Post-potty and diaper, he’s told to hug and kiss me goodnight. Next comes telling him to turn on his fan since the white noise helps him sleep. He hugs Dad, and they say “goodnight” not once but twice. Lights off, door closed.
I was critical of this routine in the beginning, and again when my husband returned, not understanding why he needed a strict bedtime. But with time, it was clear that having my husband handle bedtime was his way of taking the second shift so I could have the night off. And our son responded positively to it as well.
Our recent time apart due to his extended work trip helped me to see how much I severely understated the impact of my husband taking over the bedtime routine. Chub isn’t dependent on me to be home for him to sleep. Much of that is because my husband has been in charge of bedtime for most of his two-year-old life.
It isn’t the same as being home with him all day, like I am. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t an equally impactful part of his day. Bedtime is one less thing I have to worry about during a time where every little bit helps.
As we wait for the arrival of our second child, I can’t wait to see how their schedules evolve to accommodate a new little person. Until then, I’m grateful for one less task.