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When the other moms in my mommy group start talking about their kids going to sleep at 7 o’clock, my eyes glaze over. What that must be like. To be able to get laundry done without a tiny terrorist pulling everything out of the basket for you, do dishes without someone screaming at your feet, to vacuum without a 17-month old insisting he push the vacuum instead. While I’m a little jealous that some of them have their kids trained to stay in bed with an alarm clock that tells them when it’s okay to get out of bed, only in my wildest dreams would that ever happen. Even though it might make cleaning way easier and give me some “me time,” I have a few reasons to keep my son’s bedtime right where it is – somewhere around 10 PM every night.
Late Bedtime for Toddlers
Our little one gets his two naps during the day and is still going strong most nights when we decide it’s finally time to go to sleep.
I’ve heard everything from well-meant criticisms about our choice to getting looks that just scream “you’re an irresponsible parent.”
The thing is, my husband works varying hours every week.
Sometimes he’s home at 4:30 in the afternoon and we can cook dinner together, run errands, and actually spend time together. Other nights, especially in the summer when it gets dark out later, we might not see him until 7 pm or a little later.
If my son were on a “traditional” bedtime schedule, he could very well be asleep before my husband even sets foot in the door.
This isn’t okay with either of us.
Should You Sacrifice Family Time?
For me, it’s more important to have dinner together as a family and get to spend a few hours together in the evening as a couple – parenting our child. We get to read bedtime stories together as a family.
I think it’s really important for him to see his mom and dad interacting, even though it makes my daytime schedule a little more hectic.
At the cost of having some time in the evening to myself, I instead regularly get 3 or 4 hours with my husband and son together when we get the chance to act like a family. We sit down to dinner together, we clean up together, run errands together, and even (gasp! hiss!) watch TV together.
Plus, we bed-share (and yes, we still have sex! That’s the number one question we get asked), so our son comes to bed with us when we’re ready to settle in for the night too.
That’s actually my favorite time. Snuggling up to both of my favorite men and watching them both drift off to sleep. Why pass that up just so my son can have an earlier bedtime?
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely see the perks in having a baby that goes to sleep at 6:30 or 7 o’clock at night. I fantasize about the things I could get done.
Housework with Toddlers
The problem is we wouldn’t have any family time until the weekends, and even then, that can get iffy.
My husband regularly works on Saturdays too. So now we’re down to literally one day a week together as a family. Nothing about that feels right to me.
Okay, so the vacuum runs for a solid half hour while I try to get just one room vacuumed with my son “helping.” The dishes might sit in the sink a little longer than I’d like if I didn’t get to them during his nap.
Related: How to Overcome Parenting Overwhelm
That’s the price we pay so that our “Nugget” gets to see his mommy and daddy working together as a team to put dinner on the table. We bathe him together. He falls asleep between us after playing his little heart out with both of his parents – every.single.night.
I really don’t think there’s any question about how beneficial that is for our son to see.
The Perks of a Late Bedtime for Toddlers
I completely understand that what works for us won’t work for everyone.
There are some families without two parents and some that can’t be together because one parent is busy fighting for our freedom overseas. Do I fault these families for not spending quality time together every night?
We’re just in the position as a family that by having a really late bedtime for our son, we’re able to spend a lot of quality time together every night and we have decided that’s best for our little ones.
At the end of the day, I’m fine making the unpopular choice, and I think you should be too – whatever that is for your family.
We’ve been criticized for bed-sharing and I’ve heard that it will hurt our marriage, the bedtime routine only compounds that.
We were put down as though we weren’t happy with our son when we announced we were trying to get pregnant again when he was less than a year old (we conceived Dumplin’ when our Nugget was just 9 months).
2018 update: We’ve now added ANOTHER baby to our family – bringing our running total to THREE aged 3 and under!
We were even put down for blogging.
My point is, these choices are, without a doubt, the right ones for us.
Popular? Nope. But we’re happy. I encourage you to sometimes make the “unpopular” choice.
As soon as you have kids, you have opinions coming from all directions about how to raise them and critics come out of the woodwork to critique your parenting.
I say to hell with all of them.
You find a rhythm that works for your family and everything just falls into place.
So go ahead and make the choice that makes people look sideways at each other…and then be loud and proud about it because if you’re doing what’s right for your own family, you’re doing nothing wrong.
2018 Update: Our Winning Bedtime Routine!
The secret to getting 3 small kids to bed at the same time, even when they get to sleep with mommy and daddy, is to make the bedtime chores FUN.
For us, this means potty training, bathtime, teeth brushing, and our talks about what we’re grateful about.
By far and away, the simplest thing to add to your bedtime routine is an essential oil diffuser.
Wait! Before you run for the hills thinking I’m one of those bloggers that tries to push a specific brand of oils on people, let me assure you that I’m not.
Hear me out.
If you light the same candle every night or diffuse the same oil at bedtime, your kids (and even you and your spouse!) will start to associate that scent with relaxation time and sleeping.
I can’t say enough about what this has done for getting the kids down easily at bedtime. It’s made such a huge impact that I even use it sometimes when they’re being stubborn at naptime.
Every night, I fill our diffuser with a few drops of oil, then we start the bathtime routine.
To make nightime bathtime as fun as possible, we put a few drops of that same oil into the bath and sometimes add either natural food coloring (just a drop or two so you don’t stain your tub!) and some glow sticks!
It’s a great excuse to turn down the lights in the bathroom and the kids don’t complain because it’s FUN!
Have you ever been criticized for a parenting decision you made? How did you handle it? Did other’s criticisms make you change your mind? Let me know in the comments!