“You can’t go outside to ride bikes with Olivia until you do your homework!”
“Guys, the dance party is over, you have to get ready for bed, there’s school tomorrow!”
These are just some of the charming phrases uttered this weekend by Buzzkill Mommy (that would be me). The latter was directed at both my husband and kids, who were twirling around the living room at 8:55 p.m. on a Sunday night. I’d gone upstairs a half hour earlier to clean up and prepare for bath time, waiting for him to bring them upstairs. Never happened. I arrived downstairs as they were doing the Call Me Maybe dance. Cute? Oh, yes. Exasperating? Oh, yes: Once again, Buzzkill Mommy had to swoop in and ruin everyone’s fun.
My husband is an exceptionally loving, hands-on, devoted dad. He and I are typically equal partners in parenting, with one exception: Keeping track of schedules. This means I’m usually the timekeeper for everything from making sure we get out the door promptly for birthday parties, sports games, activities and anything with a dedicated start time to making sure the kids eat and sleep when they need to. I’m not exceptionally rigid; if we’re hanging with friends and everyone’s enjoying themselves, for example, I’m OK with the kids staying up later than usual. It’s just that I’m always the one to say “Time to go home!”
My husband and I do have very different personalities: He is laid back, a lot more so than I am, hence his nickname Marshmallow Daddy. It makes sense that of the two of us I’d be the one who 1) cares about schedules and 2) stays on top of them. We’ve had talks about this and inevitably, there I am saying “Honey, we have to leave now!” Yet most of the other moms I know, including ones who aren’t as Type-A as I am, are also the schedule-keepers in their relationships. It seems to be a mom thing.
Being the voice of reason in a situation where everyone’s enjoying themselves gets old, and makes me feel old. Who wants to be a nonstop nag? While I don’t feel the need to be my kids’ BFFs, part of me does want them to think I’m cool. I sure wouldn’t want my tombstone to read “Here lies Ellen, she kept her family on schedule.” Thing is, kids thrive on them. Children who regularly get a good night’s sleep are better able to focus at school, research shows. They also have healthier weights: One renowned study found that kids who slept fewer than 10 and a half hours a night at age 3 had a 45 percent higher risk of being obese by age 7, versus kids who slept more than 12 hours a night. And then, there’s the grouch factor: Extensive research conducted at my home shows that kids are more likely to experience über-meltdowns at bedtime and be utterly and completely irrational when they are overly tired.
My latest tactic, controversial though it may be, is compromising. At the Sunday dance party, my daughter pleaded “One more song, Mommy!” And I said, “OK, but in your bedroom!” so we’d be that much closer to their actual beds. Upstairs we went. We played “Firework” on her boombox and we bopped around, and when the song finished and the kids tried the “Just one more” thing again. I gave my husband a pointed look and said “Nope, time for baths!” and we whisked them in there.
I didn’t feel like a whiner or get irritated with my husband. The kids had their fun. It was buzzkill lite and that, I can live with.