Sometimes life seems too busy for lingering bedtime rituals ... but what are we sacrificing when we cut them short?
Bedtime used to be An Event at our house. I’m not talking about the tasks leading up to bedtime — the bathing/dressing/toothbrushing part was a well-oiled machine that took 30 minutes, start to finish. I’m talking about from the time the kids climbed in bed until I left the room to let them fall asleep.
We always started with a story, which could spark endless questions and discussions. Then came prayers, which could lead to more discussion. Then I would sing each child their bedtime song, kiss them on the head, and say goodnight. And always, every single night, they had one more thing to say.
Sometimes it was innocuous stalling with requests for water or to use the bathroom. But more often than not, this was the time when my kids would show me what lay closest to their hearts — things that were troubling them, hurts they had suffered, or fears that plagued them. It was a precious time of connection and vulnerability for all of us.
As they’ve gotten older, our family life has gotten busier and I’ve started working more. Usually I still have a list of time-sensitive tasks to complete after I put the kids to bed, and unfortunately, I’m hyper-aware of it. My phone feels like a ball and chain, constantly reminding me of all the messages I have to respond to or coordinate. As a result, bedtime has become shorter and more efficient. I kept telling myself it was necessary for now, just for this season of life until things calm down. But recently, I’ve accepted that this isn’t just a season; it is life. It is our new normal.
There are things I miss about being a stay-at-home mom that feel like luxuries — like having the time to bake homemade bread once a week or cook long, complicated recipes. But those bedtime conversations weren’t a luxury. They were a vital part of our family life and they helped keep me grounded in my relationships with my children. I’ve been missing those conversations more and more the last few months until it finally hit me: what I’m actually missing is that connection with my kids. I’m missing the relationships I used to have with them. In a real way, I’m missing my children — even though I see them all the time, every day. And I know they’re missing me, because they tell me. Every day.
So yes, my work/life balance has gone off the rails and trying to get it back on track seems overwhelming, but you know what doesn’t seem overwhelming? Making bedtime a priority again. Establishing it as a sacred hour, no matter what — no phone, no work, nothing but me and my kids and freedom to talk about anything and everything that’s going on in their lives.
Y’all, I know myself. No matter how sincere my intentions, there will come a night when I’m overwhelmed by the tasks still awaiting me and I’ll resort to cutting bedtime short again. From there, it’ll be a slippery slope. But guess what? There’s an app for that. No kidding, there are literally apps that will lock you out of all the apps on your phone at a certain time. Ditto for your computer.
You might not need to resort to such drastic measures to prioritize quality time with your family — hopefully you don’t. But if you do, don’t feel bad about it. Don’t hesitate for one second to take any measures necessary to preserve your relationships with your family. Heck, I have friends who have locked their TVs in the closet before!
Parenting is hard. It’s full of distractions, obligations, and commitments. There’s homework to check, lunches to make, playdates to negotiate, chores to do, formation prep to complete … the list goes on and on. But we rarely put our relationship with our kids on that list, and that should be at the very top. We need that quality time of connection just as much as our kids do. We need to know what’s going on with them, to have time to pour love into their little souls, and to let them pour love right back into us. It’s literally what God created us for. It’s our primary task, our sacred duty, and our ultimate purpose.