I have a love/hate relationship with structure. On the one hand, it gives me a sense of security to know what to expect. On the other hand, I feel imprisoned and all I want to do is break out!
This conflicted relationship with structure may seem minute, but it has led to some of the most traumatic and difficult experiences in my life, specifically in the area of dating.
My relationship with structure and schedules is coming up for me again now since I am getting my 3-month-old daughter on a sleep/wake schedule to help her sleep better at night (longer sleep stretches for her at night make for a well-rested baby AND mommy!)
Today my friend was coming to visit the baby—once in the morning and once in the afternoon, with my baby receiving her second daily nap in between. We planned for the morning visit to be at 10 am. An hour later, my friend had still not arrived. I had told my friend about my baby’s sleep/wake schedule ahead of time: baby was due for her second nap at 12 pm. The thing with nap time is that a baby doesn’t just magically fall asleep!—tada! Rather a 12 pm nap means starting to cool down (to use a fitness instructor term ;)) around 11:40 am. I texted my friend that she should come in the afternoon only since my baby was beginning to get sleepy. But my friend had already left her location, which was 5 minutes away, and only received my text upon arriving at my apartment complex gate.
She called to get into the apartment gate but I was unable to let her in, since baby had just fallen asleep on my breast. I was going to call my friend shortly after to confirm the plan for her to visit in the afternoon only. Then I heard a knock at the door. I couldn’t get up, and I didn’t want to open the door anyway, since baby likely would have been roused from her much-needed nap. Another knock at the door. “Oh boy, I hope baby doesn’t get woken up!” I thought.
By the time I was able to open the door my friend had left. She texted me that she would come back in the afternoon, as per the plan.
This experience triggered my memories of my own lack of schedule growing up. I didn’t have a bedtime growing up, or a set dinner time either. In this way, I didn’t learn the positive impacts of having a schedule AND honoring one’s schedule. That set the stage for me dating a guy who would regularly stay up ‘til 3 am and expected me to do the same. Whether that meant answering his phone calls or joining him on a road trip—we did a lot in the wee hours of the night! Now, that in and of itself isn’t necessarily traumatic, but it served as a foundation for what was: losing my inner compass, giving up parts of my personality of which my boyfriend did not approve, and losing my virginity in a scenario in which I was ambivalent, confused, and emotionally overwhelmed and misguided.
Having a schedule AND honoring it is an essential component of self-care. For a child, it keeps them well-rested and healthy, and throughout all of one’s life, it keeps a person grounded and rooted in themselves—the key to having a healthy sense of self.