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Kids bedtimes ruining our marriage; please help.

(35 Posts)
cdtaylor3 Thu 17-Dec-15 10:43:21

Hi all,

So, first I need to explain a bit about the background to the problem and why I'm posting here. I'm Dad, married for 9 years, with my wife for 15. I work 8 hours a day and travel 4, I get up at 6am, leave at 6:45 and return at 7:05pm as there is no real work for me locally. My wife is disabled, she needs two replacement kneecaps but can get around a reasonable amount.

At the time of writing we have 2 girls; a 2 year old and a five year old. Let me be clear, I love them all, dearly, repeat; I love them all. So over the last few years, I've had a battle with DW about routine and getting the kids to bed at a sensible time; 7pm (it tends to vary between 8-10pm by the time they settle down) so that a number of good things can come of it;

1. I can do all the housework in the morning; its not a problem, I don't mind. If the kids are up early, I'm happy to play with them, do the housework and get breakfast. They get me

2. We can work on our marriage, We need to spend intimate and loving time together (please don't take that to mean sex, while it includes that, for me it, also means, playing board games and simply talking over coffee, the stuff that 'builds' a relationship).

3. We can save to move to a larger house; currently we live on a lot of takeaway and I have to buy a lot of food during the day because I'm too exhausted by our problem to prepare food for us.

4. Its making me ill, because I don't get enough rest to manage the travelling and working, because they go to bed so late, now, I don't mean they have to sleep, but to quieten down, and play together. We're losing money because I'm becoming too tired to go to work on certain days.

So, to cut a long story short, I pleaded for many years - it gone on for 4 years now - about this but couldn't get her to appreciate what it was doing to us. I went through moodswings, depression, irritability and for me, the relationship ebbed away over time. I got bitter that she was ruining this wonderful, beautiful marriage was going to finish over something so trivial. I gave the emotional, financial and loving support all the way. I would end up pottering about on my own from when I arrived home until bedtime, while DW stayed upstairs. Friends tried to tell her, as did our neighbour, her response would be "its not a problem for other cultures and people we know", my response was "The people I know don't live like this, but regardless its a problem to US and that is what matters". I got up earlier this week and realised I wasn't in love with her anymore and felt the need for a permanent seperation, I'd been pushed to far and not quite didn't want to fix it, but inside there was no real relationship to fix anymore.

So we talked, and I agreed to give it one more go. I don't want an opionion on me, or DW, bad or good; that doesn't help anyone. I want to try and put that uglyness behind us, rebuild the relationship as if from day 1; we work can work on that, but only if we have time together to do so. How, can we get the kids in bed and settling earlier? Please can you guys suggest anything? What works for you? The older one, now just annoys the little one to wake up, while if the little one is awake, she upsets the old one. This post is the most heartfelt plea I've made.

CocktailQueen Thu 17-Dec-15 21:30:16

Well, you both need to be consistent and together on this. Consistency is the key. A bedtime routine is essential.

Say tea at 5.
Bath at 6.
Stories after bath, plus milk for the 2yo.
In bed by 7.

If they get up, return to bed, no chatting, don't engage them, just return. Try stickers/rewards for staying in bed and going to sleep.

cdtaylor3 Sat 19-Dec-15 21:14:56

Thank you, we're trying your suggestion. I guess its something thats going to take time, they've allowed to do it for so long that its not going to be an over night fix. I definitely agree with what you said about us both being together on it. Thankfully after things being easy yesterday followed by a positively crap day today, my wife appreciates the benefit that we do this and get it right. We just need to be really on guard for backsliding...


megandmogatthezoo Sat 19-Dec-15 21:28:36

I second the advice above. It took us 3 nights of a similar routine to get my 2.5 year old to self settle.

VoldysGoneMouldy Sat 19-Dec-15 21:43:19

I think you need to be realistic here. They won't always be in bed at 7. Yes you can try to make sure this is more consistent, but some days it will be 8. And kids change the relationship dynamic - always. If there are long term issues here, whether they go to bed at 4pm or 4am, it really won't make a difference.

With regard to changing their routine, a sudden change, they will be more likely to rebel against. Gradually altering things will work better.

offside Sat 19-Dec-15 21:43:47

I third the advice.

We had a difficult sleeper, although our DD was much younger when we decided to do something about it, but like a PP, it only took three nights for the routine to take effect.

It is all about routine and supporting one another. You both have the same aim here. Could you maybe take a week off work and you can both start this together, and you be there at tea time and for the new bedtime routine? My DP did this as we felt the only way we were going to achieve what we wanted, was for us both to be in it together, supporting each other and for you, your DDs knowing that both parents are on the same page and can't be played against one another.

I hope you manage to work through it.

offside Sat 19-Dec-15 21:49:42

I disagree Voldys, I do think that once a routine is established that, yes, they will be in bed for 7 every night, but only if that's what each parent wants and works towards. My DD is in bed for 6 every night, my nieces are in bed for 730 every night, and this is because this is the routine we have all established and now, my DD actually wants to go to bed at 6, she walks to the bottom of the stair gate every night when she knows it's bedtime. My nieces are much the same way, albeit older.

And timing of the DCs going to bed will make a difference. When our DD goes to bed, it is OUR time to be a couple, to be us and talk about our days and what we're going to do at weekend, or discuss long term plans. If your DCs are there all the time, you lose the connection. I know this from experience, and this was exactly why we had to establish our DDs routine when we did.

redexpat Sat 19-Dec-15 22:03:37

If you have a look on youtube for supernanny bedtime technique you'll very quickly get an idea of rapid return. The first time can be quite tough, but they soon learn.

Would it help to make a chart or pictogram with bedtime routine on it so they know what's coming next? It's important to give them fair warning of the new routine, so tell them about it at breakfast and dinner. Tonight we're going to do something new! Look when you've had your tea, you're going to (point to picture and get hem to say what's coming next) and then after that we're going to (repeat). When they have finished their tea tell them how long they've got until bathtime, tell them that you're going upstairs to run the bath now. It's good to give them notice about what's coming.

molyholy Sat 19-Dec-15 22:06:36

You both definitely need to be on the same page. And consistency is the key. Even if you feel beat because the kids won't settle,you really need to stick to your guns and back each other up. It may be hard, but as pp's have said, once the children know you mean business, they will get into the routine. Good luck OP.

FATEdestiny Sat 19-Dec-15 22:09:51

What happens at bedtime at the moment cdtaylor3?

annandale Sat 19-Dec-15 22:17:41

I completely see what you are aiming for, and I agree with you, as I found not having an evening really terrible. But it's not me who has to do it. If your DW isn't really on board with this, you will be knocking your head against a brick wall.

I'm assuming you have reached a point where you know that she genuinely wants to change things - I sure hope so.

The silver lining to this is that it will get better. You are in a very tough stage of family life and you're right, it can kill relationships, you see it a lot. But I guarantee you that some time, it will change. It may be quite a few years away though.

Do you have any parents who could help out? I think taking a few days off work is a good call. Maybe stocking up the freezer with batch cooked stuff so that you have one less worry for the next month would help too. (or just sticking to really basic food only - pasta with cheese and peas, scrambled eggs, that sort of thing).

LucySnow12 Sun 20-Dec-15 09:03:23

I have two boys, three year age gap. They have always shared a room and gone to bed at the same time. The advice given is perfect. Decide a routine and stick with it. Bedtimes are usually hard work but you just have to get on with it. A 5 and 2 year old should be in bed, I think, by 7:30. Why does your wife let them stay up so late? Does she have surgery for her knee scheduled?

Orangeanddemons Sun 20-Dec-15 10:28:06

Hmmm, I'm a real stickler for early bedtimes, but then I had dd.

She's n owl, goes to bed late and gets up late. Bedtimes have always been an issue whatever we did.

At 5 she was usually asleep by 8 on a good day. Now at 9 she's asleep by about 9.45. At the weekends, she's usually asleep after me. I fought against her for years, but jis is how she is. We never have an evening or downtime, much as I'd love one. What are you going to do when your dc are older?

annandale Sun 20-Dec-15 10:30:25

Thing is Orange, when the kids are older, there's at least a chance they will entertain themselves for a bit. 5 and 2 downstairs for the evening is a different proposition from 9 and 12 downstairs.

Also the majority of kids will fit into an earlier bedtime - some won't, but at the moment the OP doesn't know that because it's never been consistently done.

lazymoz Sun 20-Dec-15 11:53:25

I agree with everything everyone else said but just wanted to add that you could prepare dinner in a slow cooker so it's ready for when you return home and you don't need to start cooking

HPsauciness Sun 20-Dec-15 12:07:20

I think to be honest, you are collapsing a marriage over something not that bad! The children are quite little now, and 7pm reasonable, but once they get older then they will start to go to bed later, my 6/7 year old hasn't slept before 9/10 at night as she's a late owl for years.

Is the issue that your wife is in their rooms til very late? That they won't sleep without her lying next to them? You need to be more specific to make the changes you need to get them into bed by 7.

If this is the case, then the rapid return to bed that Jo Frost uses was great for my children. First time they get out of bed, you say 'bedtime now X name' and put them back, second time 'bedtime' and third time you just place them back. If you have to return them 100 times the first night, you keep going til they fall asleep by themselves. You do this every night for a week til you have cracked it.

I would put them in separate rooms to start with, so little one can fall asleep in your bed and then move her once big one is asleep. I wouldn't attempt to do the above with both in the same room yet, although you will get there eventually.

I still think to get to separation over this smacks of a power struggle to me, about your wife's way and your way and you may find that even if you have those hours together, there's not quite so much of the loving feeling as you imagine you would have got, especially on her part.

HPsauciness Sun 20-Dec-15 12:10:03

Older children do inhibit couple time, obviously! Unless you send them to their bedrooms for the entire evening, but they are still milling about, eating downstairs, and their need for chats/time with parents doesn't diminish, especially if they get in later from school and their only time with you is 6/7pm onwards.

I do think the OP and his wife need to find a way of maintaining intimacy and feeling on the same team, even if the bedtimes are going a bit wrong, there is a danger here that one or two bad nights will have the OP threatening separation again which is so destructive to a marriage. If my husband said he was leaving me over this, I'd probably start thinking things were on the collapse anyway.

starry0ne Sun 20-Dec-15 12:21:14

I don't think it sounds it is the actual bedtime sounds like hours of settling..

I agree story in bed.. rapid return.. It will be tough for a few nights.. I had a really bad sleeper...It is really tough but it is short term loss long term gain..

I also second the slow cooker idea..I cook alsorts..Spage bol, curry ,sausage casserole, Sweet and sour chicken,

VeryPunny Sun 20-Dec-15 12:29:26

Who's doing bedtime? If your DW doesn't seem to care that bedtime takes hours then you are on a hiding for nothing.

AdjustableWench Sun 20-Dec-15 13:00:00

I'm wondering if your wife's disability makes her so tired that she just doesn't have the energy for bedtime by the end of the day and tends to wait until you get home from work so that you can help. Knee pain is excruciating very tiring. I agree that you need a plan, but you might need to compromise a bit on bedtime so that you can help when you get back from work.

If you and your wife are both exhausted it's not surprising that you're finding little time for bonding and intimacy. But it really will get easier as the kids get older. And the advice re slow cookers is spot on too.

Cabrinha Sun 20-Dec-15 13:10:11

Well I'm coming at it from a different angle.
I think as much of an issue here is your tiredness. Tiredness makes everything impossible to deal with.
If there is no work for you less than two hours away, move.
You are missing work because you are tired, buying takeaway because you are tired - bit because your kids are still up.

My 6yo had a 9pm bedtime even at 5. She sleeps 9pm-6.30am. That's it. When other parents started putting the kids to bed earlier because school wore them out, I could only groan. Of course, it's lovely that our evenings aren't rushed. So don't think that you can definitely have 7pm! But the 2yo you should be able uk settle faster.

Separate the kids. Put the 2yo in your room for bedtime, and when you go up to bed, carry her into the shared child room.

I would tackle the youngest first - it'll be easiest and it'll give the 5yo a heads up. The methods described above are good, but the absolute key is consistency - between you and your wife, as well as with the kids.

Don't get hung up on forcing sleep - they only have to stay quietly in their room(s).

But you have to remind yourself that no batter how hard it is, you chose to have two young children close together. It is hard. You don't check out of a marriage over it.

BeyonceRiRiMadonnna Sun 20-Dec-15 13:39:32

Hi OP, I'm a contractor and I basically go where the work is. I've just finished a contract that was an 8 hour day, and at first it was a 2 hour commute in each direction and it IS exhausting, so I feel your pain.

Are you not able to negotiate a working from home on Fridays/Mondays to give you 3 solid days of not commuting? It makes a difference.

Bedtime, as others have said, consistency is key. I've been a single mother for 14 years and I have a 14 year old and a 21 year old. At age 6 my little one was going to bed for 7, lights out at 7.30.

I've only just moved my 14 year old's bed time from 9 to 10.30pm. I've had to run my home like a military operation because there was only one of me but it was my saving grace.

Children need love, care, routine, consistency and need to know who's boss. (I'm by no means implying you don't love them or care for them).

summerainbow Sun 20-Dec-15 13:42:43

I think you forgetting that relationship change . You have 2 kids that don't like sleeping . Kids need to tired out what do they do all day . Are walked to school. Do they spend at least a hour running around outside .
You have used takeaway you can batch cook if your wife can't. If you wide need help get move near parents get a cleaner housekeeper in. Don't do it all. But make it so you can cope .

Ragwort Sun 20-Dec-15 13:46:55

If your DW isn't really on board with this, you will be knocking your head against a brick wall.

I agree with that statement, from what you have written it sounds as though your DW isn't that bothered about staying upstairs with the children? Is that correct? Is having an 'adult evening' as important to her as it is for you?

I had/have a friend like your DW - she honestly doesn't see anything wrong with taking ages to put her children to bed, she loves being 'needed' by them and spends most of her evenings just upstairs with the children.

Indantherene Sun 20-Dec-15 13:47:30

I can't see how you can expect the dc to be in bed by 7pm when you come home after that.

I always found the very worst part of the day with more than one child is the bit between school and bed. You are expecting your Dw to do that alone and introduce a new routine.

Far more realistic to aim for 7.30 so they get to see you and you can each deal with one child.

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