My husband works 3 or 4 nights a week so on those nights, bedtime routine is all me. Within roughly a 30 minute period I put all three kids (3 years, 2 year, 1 year) in their beds for some zzz’s.
Some nights I think I will rip my hair out or just make myself faint and pray I wake up to children who’ve fallen asleep in their own beds after an angel brushed their teeth. Alas… but 90% of the time I have the routine down pat and all get tucked in with very minimal fuss.
Here’s how I do it.
Oh and, note to the single parents out there, I won’t even try to say I know how you feel because, honestly, part of what gets me through the many parenting hours alone is knowing that some nights I am not alone. You are really doing an amazing job out there.
6:30 pm – 6:45 pm
While reading individually to children is very important, it’s just not something I’ve found success with at bedtime when I’m on my own. I generally read to all the kids at once on the couch from 6:30pm onwards.
I try to keep them seated on the couch or the floor in front of me and direct them back if they begin to get rambunctious. I find it settles them. I rotate books between the various levels, board books to easy reads to Fancy Nancy.
I attempt to get everyone into bed between 7-7:30pm most nights. I begin the process a few minutes before 7 and everyone is generally tucked in tight by 7:30pm. I’ve found that altering this time by even 20 minutes can result in contagious meltdowns. And let me tell you, that’s something I try actively to avoid when I’m on duty alone.
6:45 pm – 7:00 pm
I’ve found it’s easier to put Prince (1-year-old) to bed first because the older kids are able to sit relatively still during this part. I give Prince a little snack around this time and some milk. I then change diaper, put on pajamas, and kiss and cuddle until I’ve had my fill. I pray over him and then go upstairs with the older kids.
While I’m putting Prince to bed I ask the other two kids to wait on the bottom of the stairs (or go upstairs if they wish) for me. I like to ask them to sit at the bottom of the stairs so they are away from Prince and don’t get him excited, and so they have something to “do.” Even sitting gives them some kind of goal and prevents them from finding or playing some super exciting (too too exciting) game right before bed.
7:00 pm – 7:30 pm
When I’ve got Prince in bed, we all go upstairs. I then get everyone dressed in pajamas, teeth brushed, and ready to go to their respective beds. I will send my eldest to her room to quietly read a book or play with her dolls while I put her brother to bed. I turn on the fan, monitor, and hug and kiss and cuddle until he wriggles out of my arms. I pray and sing to him and off to bed he goes.
Then I go to my daughter’s room who, at 3, is the most challenging to get to bed without a million questions. Not only do we pray and sing songs, she wants stories that I start and she can finish. She likes her clothes, blankets, and nightlight just so. She wants to drink water – which I know isn’t recommended at bedtime – so I usually give her one gulp before laying down. I tell her I’ll check on her later and daddy will too when he gets home.
How I get through the stress of the evening routine alone is to be organized, compartmentalized, and about the business of bedtime. After dinner before bedtime lead up we can play and be a bit rambunctious. Then, when it’s nearing bedtime, I get them to remain in one place or do something quiet as much as I can. I remind them frequently that “it’s almost time for bed” so they come willingly when it’s time.
After dinner I get on to the dishes (that I didn’t wash while cooking) immediately so that task isn’t looming over me as I finally get the kids down. Just before bedtime wind down I get the kids to help tidy up.
Since all toys go in baskets that they are familiar with, this process doesn’t generally take too long once they’re motivated. I direct one to put up books, another to put away toys in this area, etc. and direct them to return certain items to their place.
It is a tremendous weight off my shoulders to know that – after they’re tucked in bed – I honestly don’t have any household related chores to do.
Sanity saving tips
- Give them a calm directed activity (or do it with them) for the 30 minutes leading up to bed
- Get them to help you tidy up and clean where possible so your recharge time will be maximized.
- Corral the little ones and direct them to stay in one area so they don’t go tearing up the house while you’re putting one kid down.
- A small snack goes a long way towards helping them sit still and get calm.
- Use white noise so that the sounds of those still awake doesn’t prevent those already in bed from settling.
So… that’s about it really. Whole house clean, all kids in bed, mommy relaxes. Or, more accurately, goes to bed by 9pm. :)
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