For four years now, I've been trying to figure out what the perfect schedule is. I've googled it, asked friends, doctors, experts and I've never been given a straight answer.
I know children are like freakin' snowflakes, yadda, yadda, yadda. But I have two polar opposite children in terms of temperament. I constantly made the excuse that Lucy was just different, that she just didn't sleep.
I also pretended I was really laissez-faire about the whole thing. We're a couple of artists -- we don't need no stinkin' schedules! I quickly lost control of my days and the kids were often a mess. And my lack of ability in getting everyone organized was a source of great stress.
Then we did the sleep training (after the doctor told us there were no health issues and we were good to go) and I see now that my children both needed similar structure for their day from the time they gave up that third nap (around 9 months old). So I'm putting it out there in case someone is flaky like me when it comes to organizing their day.
6-7 am: Lucy wakes up. We say good morning, praise her for staying in her bed all night and then change her diaper. We tend to keep her in her jammies since she's still having a 9 am nap.
7:30: breakfast (keep it easy on yourself -- especially pre-caffeine), followed by playtime to 8:30-ish
By 8:45 we are upstairs reading books. I am always sure to say, "This is the last book and then naptime." We have a few other sleep associations like turning on the white noise CD, closing the blinds and some Fisher Price light thing that plays lullabies for a few minutes. Then I close the door, smile and say, "See you in a bit." (Then I play on the computer!)
9:30 or 10 am: Lucy is up. I change her and give her a snack by 10. Then it's free time until 11:30 (can go out for a walk if I've had the forethought to prepare lunch, otherwise playtime at home works too)
11:30: lunch, milk, followed by free play until 12:30.
12:45 pm: Naptime -- following the same routine as the morning nap. That 15-minute window gives us room to read, get organized and allows Lucy time to fall asleep before she's exhausted. (Then I put the laundry on, start dinner, and play on the computer!)
2-3 pm: She wakes up. Feed a snack. This is a good time to run any errands or schedule playdates. If you didn't get dinner together at naptime, you may have to come back early to get it going. Here's a good cheater recipe, courtesy of yours truly.)
5 or 5:30 pm: dinner
Bedtime routine begins at 6 pm in this order: Milk, bath, change, story, song, I love you, Goodnight.
6:30-7 pm: She's in bed and we have an evening to ourselves. (Now I have to learn how to get Nate to bed before 8:30pm.)
She really shows us when she's ready for bed now. If we keep her up too long, she gets upset and cries. She understands herself better now that her day has a loose structure. It does hem us in a bit as per what we can do in a day, but soon she'll drop that morning nap and her afternoon nap will bump up to noon-ish, making room for longer periods of wakefulness and therefore, time to go out and do stuff. There are days she sleeps in the stroller or in the car, while we're out, but we try to schedule those naps too.
For the first time since becoming a mother, I feel like I have some control over it. I feel like I have freedom (within the boundaries of motherhood) because now MY day has structure too and I can plan and organize around the things we must do. I am not perfect -- there are loads of days where I fuck it up. I get too relaxed and then I'm like, "Oh shit! It's noon and I didn't feed anyone yet." But I'm learning to roll with the punches and be easier on myself.
Hope that's helpful to anyone who's feeling a bit puzzled at the whole schedule thing and wondering how and when they can get out. Let me know what you think!