Sleep. It’s got to be the most sought after thing for mothers. What I value most and have the least of! Not only because of Aanavi, but because of my own poor bedtime routine.
As most expectant and new mums, I read a library full of parenting books and from a few that I couldn’t bear to finish, to some that I followed religiously, they all said the same thing – establish a good bedtime routine (for your baby).
The typical advice is a warm, calming bath followed by an elaborate oil massage, a story and a wish good night. I started out with this really well and it worked for a while… But now it doesn’t. For Aanavi, bath-time is the highlight of her day, so getting her out is always difficult. She’s wiggly and curious about everything around her so the ”massage’ is more like ‘get cream on where you can’ and let’s not even talk about putting a nappy on or getting her dressed! She LOVES her books so story-time is not an option either because it stimulates her rather than soothes her.
I’ve come to realise that no book can be a manual for raising your child, and that actually you need to create your own bedtime routine.
I recently read a Lifehack article on the sleep routines of the world’s most productive people citing examples of Obama, Bill Gates, Walt Disney and Ellen. The article highlights the 10 following things to do before bed:
- Reflect upon your day
- Write down your thoughts
- Plan for tomorrow
- Spend time with your family
- Get things done
- Do a digital detox
- Spend time outdoors
- Visualise a positive future
I loved what I read – they resonated true for me and I can understand why many of these would inspire a sense of calm achievement and a peaceful mind at the end of a productive day. But why just for adults? I can see many of these working well with a toddler, a growing little lady and all of them necessary for a teenager!
If I were to create a bedtime routine that works for both Aanavi and I, this is what it would look like:
Our bedtime routine could begin at dinner, where I would ask her, not how her day was, but what was she most grateful for that day? What made you smile? What made you confused? What did you learn today? Who did you meet today? I would want to share with her all my responses to those same questions too. Nearly 30 years of being a daughter, 10 years of working with children and becoming a parent myself, I can prove that there is no greater role model than your own parents.
I would want her to ask me any questions she has that day and know that we have a safe and trusting space for me to answer them and discuss anything she wanted to.
Together we could plan for tomorrow, what are we both up to? She should know my thoughts and plans equally as much as I should know hers. I would check with her that she’s done all of what she needed to today, and help her complete or carry over what still needs to be done. We are each other’s responsibility – giving your child this place in your life can be hugely empowering for them.
I would give her a gratitude journal where she could note down her thoughts and reflections.
I hope to be able to encourage taking a walk in the garden and reading together before bedtime. Doing all of this is a great way of spending relaxed and meaningful time together.
Above all, during this time, I would ensure that mobile phones are on silent, TVs are switched off and the Internet is something we use only in the day time. This is going to be harder for me than anything else – my biggest crutch is technology binging! Whether it’s on my phone, iPad or TV, I usually fight to fall asleep on one of those three.
As we switch off the lights and go to bed, I would kiss her good night and do a meditation. Meditation and mindfulness activities come in many forms and lengths, especially for children (if interested, contact me and I can send you a bunch of resources).
Why is this important? Neuroscientists have proven that meditation actually rewires the brain and its structures (a Google search will provide you with lots to read on this but here’s a Forbes article for now).
So these are ten habits of highly successful people but success is relative. To me success means being happy in everything you do, every single day whether you’re five years old or fifty five; whether you’re a high powered career exec or a play-at-home mum.
These ten habits spell out happiness for me. Starting today, I choose to inculcate them into my own life so that as Aanavi grows, she grows up with this being normal; where, age appropriately, she fits into this bedtime routine effortlessly and organically. Today we start with a walk in the garden before bedtime, while my phone takes a break from my incessant tapping and I chat to her about her day and mine… until she can chat enough for the two of us. 🙂