Parenting on a Schedule Can Be Hard

Any links to Amazon are affiliate links.

Parenting on a Schedule Can Be Hard. There can be rules to follow. You don’t go anywhere you just feel like it. Even so, the difficulty is worth the benefits of a schedule.

Parenting on a Schedule Can Be Hard. There can be rules to follow. You don't go anywhere you just feel like it. Even so, the difficulty is worth the benefits of a schedule.

Do you ever feel like the fact that your baby is on a schedule makes your social life more difficult? I feel that way sometimes. Our kids have naptimes and bedtimes. Because of that, we don’t stay out as long as other moms/families.

Once a week, we have a park day with a large group of moms. We are usually the first ones to leave so we can go home and take naps. It has been that way since Brayden was a baby. At night, if the fun isn’t happening at our house, we miss out on it early because our kids need to go to bed.

That is the way life is with a schedule. We all know the many benefits of the schedule (read here for some Benefits of Structure and Routine ), and we believe in the schedule. We are willing to sacrifice our social lives in order to give our children the best. That is part of being a parent. However, that doesn’t mean we are always happy about it or that it isn’t hard at times.

The schedule doesn’t mean we never tweak it. Sometimes we stay at the park later that day than usual even though that doesn’t fit the schedule. Some nights, we are out later than bedtime. The kids are flexible. But we know we can’t do that every night.

Let me assure you, non-schedules are also hard, but for different reasons. What has spurred my thoughts today? Well, this past weekend we went and camped at a lake with six other couples. Two of the couples don’t have any children yet. Four do.

While there, Kaitlyn (15 months old) went to bed a little later than usual, but not by much. She also took her two normal naps. Everyone was shocked that she sleeps so well. They were all impressed. She was a happy little girl the whole time, as usual. Brayden (3 years old) went to bed a couple of hours late and didn’t take a nap at all, but he is old enough to have that much flexibility every so often. By the end of the day, he wasn’t as happy as usual, but not bad. He just wanted to relax (very unlike him) and go to sleep (also unlike him). Honestly, everyone there felt the same way :).

So what about the families without schedules? Two families had older children (teenager and pre-teen)–they were fine. Two families had toddlers. The younger toddler cried and was clingy all day. The mom couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. She wouldn’t sleep at all. The older toddler (he is older than Brayden) did okay. He is accustomed to no schedule. But he also got meaner as the day went on.

This family has a son 6 months older than Brayden and a daughter 7 months younger than Kaitlyn. As I was talking to the mom about schedule/non-schedule lives, I came to see that her non-schedule life is hard too. Hard for different reasons. Her social life is in full swing. But there is no predictability in it. There is no routine. They have their challenges because of it. For them, that is what works and what they prefer. For my family, that wouldn’t work. That is just not the way my husband and I are.

My point is, as you lament your limitations because of the schedule, keep in mind the benefits that come because of a schedule. My husband and I enjoyed ourselves on this trip. Kaitlyn was perfectly happy the whole time. She slept well. Brayden slept well (at sleeping times) and was good and obedient. People who live without schedules have their own, unique difficulties. You just have to know yourself and know which difficulties you want to deal with. As a parent, you will always have them.

Also, be aware of the things you can do to alleviate some of those difficulties associated with a schedule. One is you can get a babysitter. This is especially easy for scheduled kids. Your kids go to bed by, say, 8 PM. So you hire a sitter to come over at 7:30. You help get the kids to bed. The sitter is there so the kids know there is someone different in case they wake up for any reason. Then you leave and go have fun for the night. You come back home at your appointed hour. You have worried little about your kids because you know they are just sleeping. The sitter had an easy time and is very willing to come back again.

Another thing we often do is host at our house. That way we can put the kids to bed and still do stuff afterward.

Life is always different with kids, for good and bad. You can come up with ways to still have fun and enjoy your position in life, with and without your children. Yes, schedules can be hard and limiting, but so can non-schedules. For me, parenting on a schedule can be hard, but it is absolutely worth it.

Read more on schedules here:


Parenting on a Schedule Can Be Hard. There can be rules to follow. You don't go anywhere you just feel like it. Even so, the difficulty is worth the benefits of a schedule.


How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it 1-5!

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!


Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her book, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook


  1. Kindra
    July 14, 2008 / 6:07 PM

    I definitely love my schedule and my happy baby because of it. Whenever my baby misses a nap because we are out doing something fun, we usually pay for it later in the day when she is super cranky. But that’s only if we are at the park or the pool and there is no place for her to nap. If we are at friends houses I still put her down for her naps at her regular times. She sleeps perfectly, I get to socialize and everyone is happy. My husband and I are really social in the evenings too and love to go over to our friends houses for dinner, BBQ’s or games and because we have been doing this since my baby was born, she is really used to sleeping at other people’s places in the playpen. She still goes down just as easy for her naps or bedtime. Also because she is used to it, we can put her to bed at a friends place and when we are coming home at midnight we just wake her up, take her home and put her right back to bed. She’s so tired that there’s no fuss involved. So my point is, you can have your schedule and eat your cake too 🙂

  2. Jaclyn
    July 14, 2008 / 6:09 PM

    It’s nice to know that we’re not the only ones who feel that way. I have a question kind of related, tho. You were talking about your friend’s baby who was 7 months younger than Kaitlyn. That makes her about 8 months, right? Well, I was just wondering, because my daughter is the same age and has been on a schedule since 3months. It was a little messed up from traveling a couple weeks ago, but just in the last two days has become very clingy, and screams when I put her down for naps or at bed time, which she NEVER used to do. It’s a very fearful, desperate cry, and it seems as if it may be some separation anxiety. I don’t recall the BabyWise books mentioning anything about separation anxiety. Do you know anything about this or have any advice? It is heart breaking to watch her scream and cling to me like that. Are we doing something wrong? Could we be doing something better? Or is this just a normal part of growing up? I was particularly curious because I read about it in the attachment parenting sources, but didn’t find anything about it in BabyWise. Anyway, thanks for your blog. It is such a blessing and encouragement!Jaclyn

  3. Emily
    July 14, 2008 / 6:15 PM

    I honestly find that having my kids on a schedule at a young age makes them MORE able to be flexible….as silly as that sounds! They are so well rested that they can handle an occasional night of staying up for a special occasion, without being crabby or being totally ruined the next day. Also, I have made a point of having my baby sleep in her carseat and her crib for different naps, so that she’s used to falling asleep on her own in her carseat….that way when the older kids require us to be somewhere during naptime, baby can still take her nap! I certainly feel like a slave to the schedule sometimes, but it is SOO worth it in the long run :)jaclyn, I had to say, I found that my kids had HORRIBLE separation anxiety anytime we went on trips…not sure if it was the sleep deprivation from travel or the disruption of their routine or what…but they always eventually got back on track. Probably the way kids who have NO schedule act all the time 😉

  4. Kindra
    July 14, 2008 / 6:24 PM

    Jaclyn, My baby is 11 months old and a couple weeks ago started to do the same thing. I never realized it was separation anxiety until I talked to some other parents. She normally went down for her naps without any fuss, but she began to do these awful bloody murder cries and would cry up to 45 minutes before going to sleep. It was heartbreaking. It felt like starting back at square one with BW except with louder, more disturbing cries. She also became really clingy and would cry when I was dropping her off in the nursery at church (which she had never done before). It was a hard couple of weeks, but from all the info I’ve read on separation anxiety it’s completely and totally normal for their age and the stage of development. You pretty much just have to ride it out. Most info I’ve read says it takes a couple of months, but my baby is starting to grow out of it already I think. In the last couple days she hasn’t cried for her naps and she went into the nursery much easier this week (however I did make my husband take her there, so that she wouldn’t cry and cling to me). Just wanted to let you know you and your baby are normal and it’s nothing you’ve done wrong!

  5. Emily
    July 14, 2008 / 7:37 PM

    I really like having a schedule in the sense that I am a person of routine and just about went crazy with a newborn b/c there was no schedule at all! My problem is that my 5 1/2 month old daughter does not do good when the schedule is off. Sunday is a perfect example b/c we have church from 1-4(and have to leave at 12:30) so she completely misses her 2nd nap and misses a lot of her 3rd nap.She also needs to lay down earlier if she woke early but won’t sleep extra to make up so the day continues to be off. She gets really fussy in the evenings if her day is thrown off.Will this get better with age or is that just my daughter’s personality?Thanks!

  6. MyUtopia
    July 14, 2008 / 11:24 PM

    I am a big one for scheduling, but mostly because schedules also comfort me. I tend to plan EVERYTHING. My son thankfully is like me and thrives on a routine and schedule. He does two naps (9-11am and 1-3pm) and goes to bed at 8-:830 every night. He is generally a VERY happy baby and people are always amazed by this. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that he gets sleep. A friend of mine is anti-schedule and her son is always crying and fussing. He seems overly tired all the time, but it seems to work okay for them.

  7. Jaclyn
    July 15, 2008 / 12:34 AM

    Emily, It will get better. We’ve been dealing with the same thing. We really struggled with what was best when it came to church because we believed it to be very important for her to learn early that church is an important part of life. But we ended up deciding for a while to just go for the children’s class, while she was only up for two or so hours. That was she still got to experience some of church, and yet still got her nap. And as far as adjusting up, we dealt with that too, but the consistency came, and most of the time it’s very predictable. So hang in there. Thank you for your encouragement, by the way, and thanks to you too Kindra!

  8. Charlotte's Momma
    July 15, 2008 / 2:14 AM

    As much as I’m a total BW believer, some of these posts that talk about how wonderful BW babies are to travel with leave me feeling disappointed and frustrated that my LO is not at all like that. She’s great at home but the occasional times we’ve traveled, she hasn’t done well. We adapt, everything works out ok, and she bounces back when we get back but I would never say oh, she sleeps like an angel when we’re away and we never have any problems. Basically, I want other people out there to know that it is possible to have a great BW baby at home and still have some fairly major issues when you travel. In other words, you’re not guaranteed to have an easy time traveling just because you have a BW baby. Just a word to the wise…

  9. Anonymous
    July 15, 2008 / 3:06 AM

    I like how you said that both scheduled babies and non scheduled ones have their difficulties, you just have to chose which set of difficulties you want. Thanks for pointing that out! As babywise parents sometimes we can think of ourselves as superior and I think it’s important to remember that our method IS superior for our family, but not necessarily for others. There are a lot of great parents and kids out there, both babywise and nonbabywise. And I TOTALLY agree with Charlotte’s momma. I really don’t know that parents can take so much credit for easy temperaments, or so much blame for more challenging children. I have 3 and they all came out with very different personalities. I think the goal is more about helping your child to reach their specific potential by keeping them well rested then to have a perfect baby when you travel or go to friend’s houses.

  10. Melissa
    July 15, 2008 / 6:31 AM

    Our Little Guy is on a schedule, but not so rigid that we must be home at a certain time to sleep or anything. In fact, I want him to learn flexibility to sleep other places. With the amount of traveling & a move we have coming up, it is important for all of us.

  11. Kirsten
    July 15, 2008 / 9:56 AM

    I can really relate to this post. With my first, Hannah, I was always leaving mums groups early because we had to get home for a nap or bedtime. I never took her out past 7pm, I was really firm with the schedule. I missed some things but I benefited with a good sleeper and a happy baby. With my second, I am more relaxed and Sarah is a more flexible baby. Also life is different and we have do things outside her schedule. I make sure most of her sleeps are at the right time in her own bed, but I’m more relaxed and things seem to go fine.

  12. Julia
    July 15, 2008 / 1:25 PM

    To Charlotte’s Momma…I completely agree… and I’m sure EVERY BW kid has their struggles. My daughter is a wonderful sleeper. never cries when put in her crib and never wakes up crying. A few months ago we traveled to visit family. she slept in the play yard. When i would go to lay her down, she would cry for about 5-10 minutes. probably b/c she didn’t know where she was… it was all different. So, yes, sometimes there are issues. And I think having a schedule can minimize the issues in the long run. i’m glad we are on schedule. i can know when she is getting tired or hungry. and with my husband being a SAHD, i know it keeps his sanity too!!

  13. Plowmanators
    July 15, 2008 / 4:56 PM

    Kindra,I agree, I love schedules. I like your idea of putting her down and then waking her to go home. I don’t think that would have really worked with Brayden, but I can easily see that working with Kaitlyn. Thanks for bringing that idea in.

  14. Plowmanators
    July 15, 2008 / 5:02 PM

    Jaclyn, It is totally normal to have disruption after returning home from a vacation. The flexibility of your child’s personality will affect how much disruption and how long it takes to bounce back.I don’t personally have experience with SA. My son never had it. My daughter never had it hard core; she did get really clingly to mommy for a while. BUT, SA isn’t abnormal. Some get it for long periods, some for a few minutes (according to what I have read). I have a good friend who does BW and is very good at it. She gets the principles. Very smart and good mother. Her son suddenly got SA at about 19ish months old. It lasted for a couple of months, and only in certain circumstances. She had done everything right, and he still got it. So SA isn’t an indication that you are doing anything wrong at all. Just be sure you continue with independent play for an appropriate length for her. I think that really helps with SA because they gain some independence. Also, be sure she isn’t teething or anything like that. My daughter is more clingy to me if she doesn’t feel well. Once she gets more secure about her schedule and things are back to normal, hopefully things will cool a bit, but I don’t think you should try to push her out of it if it is true SA. Good luck!

  15. Plowmanators
    July 15, 2008 / 5:05 PM

    Emily,I agree, many kids are more flexible, possibly even most or all, with a schedule. My son, however, just has never been one who was able to miss out on sleep. We just couldn’t be out much past his bedtime or he would lose it. My daughter is far more flexible in that way; it is just the way they are. I do think, though, that my son was more flexible than he would have been without a schedule. I think he would have been hard to deal with because he would have been cranky without his regular sleep.That is a good idea to train them to fall asleep in their carseats…neither of mine have been carseat sleepers.

  16. Plowmanators
    July 15, 2008 / 5:09 PM

    Kindra,Thanks for your thoughts for Jaclyn. It has triggered another thought for me. If your child becomes really clingy to one parent, evaluate the participation level of the other parent. My son was never clingy to me, but my daughter was. Basically my husband and I had split the kids up once he got home to him caring for Brayden and me for Kaitlyn. Once we realized that and started having him regularly doing things with her and for her, it made a dramatic improvement. See this post:

  17. Plowmanators
    July 15, 2008 / 5:12 PM

    Emily,It is something that will get better with age, but also something that is her personality. My son was the same way. It wasn’t until he was 2.5 years old that he could really be more flexible. My daughter has pretty much been more flexible than him her whole life. Once he turned 3, he got a lot more flexible, but probably mostly because he is nearing the age where they don’t need a nap anymore, so he can more easily afford to skip it if needed. That is him. She will get more flexible as she gets older, but it might take some time 🙂

  18. Plowmanators
    July 15, 2008 / 5:15 PM

    MyUtopia,Yes, I think all babies and children thrive on a schedule. I really do. I think the natural flexibility of the child will determine just how important a schedule is to him.My friend’s girl I talked about in this post is a very happy baby. She has her fussy times that I think would be alleviated if there were regular naptimes and bedtimes, but she is no more fussy than your average baby. I think Kaitlyn would have been the same way. But my friend’s son I think would be much easier for her if he had a regular schedule. My sister-in-law does no schedule, and while that is in line with her personality, it also has created a 6 year old and a 3 year old who don’t sleep through the night. It works for her in some ways, but makes life hard for her in others.

  19. Christie
    July 15, 2008 / 5:18 PM

    I loved this post b/c this is an issue we have been dealing with lately. We have a married group that is held at our home every other Monday, and with twenty people in the house, things tend to get loud, and a few times our 1 year old has woken up and could not go back to sleep (I lay her down 7pm and she does not cry and sleeps until that time the next morning) As the BW books point out, the schedule should serve you and others, and I do not want her crying while we are trying to do a lesson, so I have had to get her up and let her join the other children on those nights. Other women seem to give me a hard time, but it seems best for every one. Any suggestions? I lay her down before others arrive, but sometimes they are so loud…Also, Charolotte’s momma, I can emphasize, my little girl is not the best traveler either, but sleeps awesome at home and my parents’ house. We took her camping a few weeks ago and she cried for a while before going to sleep and did not nap at all the next day 🙁

  20. Plowmanators
    July 15, 2008 / 5:19 PM

    Charloette’s Momma,Good point. My friend I mentioned earlier who is a BW mom and really good at it has a son who just isn’t flexible. He has always been a perfect BW baby at home, but can be a reallly difficult traveler. She just knows he isn’t going to sleep well at all.While my kids sleep well while traveling, I still find it to be hard. We give ourselves time between trips to get back on track and get all rested up. Traveling with kids is exhausting no matter what!

  21. Plowmanators
    July 15, 2008 / 5:25 PM

    Ashley,So true, there is no one right way to raise all children. The great majority of parents out there are doing what they think is right for their family and for their kids. Our friends I mentioned in this post without a schedule highly value playing and having a good time. I know one reason they don’t do a schedule is because it would interfere with the playing and traveling, and they want their kids to experience the fun. They are doing things according to their values.There is a certain amount of nature that comes with children. They come with their own personalities. My two are basically complete opposites. But I do think there is a lot of nurture involved also. I know Brayden would not be such the easy child he is without my hard work. One reason I know that is because I spent 9 weeks with him before starting the hard work. He was two different babies. I suspect Kaitlyn would have been quite easy either way, though not as easy as she is.

  22. Plowmanators
    July 15, 2008 / 5:26 PM

    Kirsten,We do seem to relax more with number two! I am the same way.

  23. Plowmanators
    July 15, 2008 / 5:30 PM

    Julia,Thanks for your thoughts. Brayden was not the easiest traveling baby. It took him until about 7 months to sleep as usual when we traveled. When Kaitlyn was 3 months, we took a trip and she woke in the night at a time that was unual for her. After that, though, she has slept as usual when we travel. I agree, the schedule can minimize issues in the long run. I also think the more you travel, the more your baby will get used to traveling and be more flexible about it. But you have to find the balance between the right amount of travel and too much.

  24. Plowmanators
    July 15, 2008 / 5:34 PM

    Christie,Have you ever tried any sort of white noise on those nights? Maybe a humidifier, fan, or white noise machine? That might help. Otherwise, I think you are doing the right thing. If she can’t sleep because of the noise and knows there is fun happening without her, she isn’t likely to want to sleep. At least the sleep she gets before everyone gets there can give her something to keep her happier. You might need to do longer naps on Tuesday and/or an earlier bedtime.

  25. Anonymous
    July 18, 2008 / 2:41 AM

    Christie, I have used a “white noise” machine since my son was a week old. He is now 8 months old and we still use it because it is such an excellent sound barrier. I have Monday night Bible study and his room is right next to our living room, he has never woken up! It is a must for me:-)Megan

  26. AppelTree
    December 15, 2009 / 5:15 PM

    I need some help. I applied BW to my first, loosely. He didn't need to be on a set schedule and was very flexible. Very happy baby, so content and a great sleeper. My daughter is 6.5 weeks old now. I have been trying to get her on a schedule but it isn't working. She wakes up at a different time every morning and then during the day her feedings are erratic. Going 4 hours between a feeding and then only 2.5 hours, and then maybe 3 hours. (She is bottle-fed). I have been trying to feed her at the same time in the mornings and throughout the day. For example if she normally eats at 1:30pm and she wakes at 12:00pm, I'll feed her at 12:00pm and then again at 2:00pm. After having to do this consistently for 2 weeks with no change, I have given up. I felt like she was falling into a norm of eating and noon and then again at 2pm…and so on with the other feedings throughout the day. I tried to keep her on a 3 hour schedule but was having to wake her for every feeding some days. So now I let her sleep until she wakes up, but this does not fit with my lifestyle at all. It is so unpredictable. What should I do? If I make sure she is eating at the same time everyday, shouldn't she fall somewhat into a schedule without waking up at different times every morning and for naps??

  27. Plowmanators
    January 4, 2010 / 10:28 PM

    AppelTree,The first key is to start her day at the same time each day. You said she wakes at diffrent times each morning…this would be the time to start waking her up if she isn't awake. See the post "early morning feedings before waketime" if she sometimes eats in the early morning hours close to your desired waketime. See also "getting a consistent schedule" for help on this. She should get to a consistent schedule, but it does take time. 6.5 weeks is still young for a baby–I know it can seem like an eternity when you are on little sleep, but she is still young 🙂

Leave a Reply