Here is my situation:
My husband is now gone two nights a week, leaving dinner/bath/bed for me to do solo with kids. I have a four year old, two year old and an almost 4 month old. The two oldest share a bed.
We have a pretty set routine when Daddy is around, bath time, jammies, brush teeth, warm milk in bed, read books (Daddy usually takes over the two oldest at this point because I am generally in the other room nursing/rocking baby to sleep), Daddy rocks two year old while four year old falls asleep by himself in bed, and then Daddy puts two year old into bed with four year old. Generally bedtime is an exhausting, but semi-peaceful situation when we are both working together.
Now I am at a complete lost. The last three weeks of doing it alone has been MISERABLE. I can not get into a swing of doing this by myself and it usually ends with one (or more) of us in tears and me resorting to parenting techniques that I don't usually employ or wish to use (threats, raising my voice, shaming etc). I have tried nursing the baby in bed while we read books and then just singing to the other two hoping they will fall asleep but they act super restless (especially the two year old who is used to being rocked to sleep) and I end up getting over the top frustrated, plus my two year old is so wiggly and silly I end up feeling like I have to physically restrain her body in bed to get her to calm down. Tonight I tried leaving them in their room to look at books while I put the baby to sleep, but they were completely wild and loud and it ended up prolonging the time I had to take to get baby to sleep. The baby kept waking up and every time I left their room to go nurse her back to sleep, they were wrestling, screaming, laughing etc.
I'm wondering if anyone has two younger children sharing a sibling bed and if you have any tips/advice or could share your routine of how you get them to sleep without the wrestling/giggling/pillow fight madness that is happening for us right now. Also, any moms who do bedtime solo - how do you stay sane and respectful to your children?
Would you mind if the computer read them their bed time stories while you put the baby down? I use an i-pad as a bed time story reader sometimes and my kiddos love it. They snuggle in bed (they share a bed) and listen to the stories being read. If you do not own an ipad but have a laptop or a computer, you could use http://http://www.storylineonline.net/ It is a bunch of actors reading books to children. My kiddos love this website too. Not sure if this sort of technology usage is appropriate for your family but thought I would share anyway, just in case :)
Well, I generally only have the 2 (and when I have 3, it is a much older kid!), so I'm sorry if this is not too helpful!
I do bedtime alone most of the time and even when dp is here, we stick to pretty much the exact same routine with me doing by far the bulk of the bedtime routine just to keep life simple. The kids now sleep in a bunk bed, but until a few months ago we did pretty much the same routine in the big bed in my room. I would start by making sure two older kids were seperated, either with you in the middle or maybe the oldest child sitting on the floor coloring or looking at books if you think the 2-year-odl will tolerate this :) Alternatively, can you put the baby down in a bouncy seat, pack'n'play etc? This never worked for me, but I'm sure it works for some and that allows you to give most of your attention to the older ones for a while.
When ds was born, dd was used to falling asleep on my lap every night and had only recently given up nursing, so it was tough at first (and I did bedtime alone almost right from the get go too). We have a pretty set routine now-we brush teeth, cuddle in bed and read 2-3 stories. Ds (2) sometimes plays with his toys on the floor while dd (5) and I read books just because he doesn't always feel like sitting. Then after stories, ds nurses to sleep while dd uses a small book light to look at books and then settles herself down to sleep. Keep in mind, up until just a few months ago, dd required a belly rub, humming, etc., to fall asleep, so this is a big leap for us that she falls alseep on her own! When we were all in one bed, I would often rub her belly with one hand while nursing ds, so you could try this with your baby and 2-year-old maybe. I would lay on, say, my left side with ds nursing and then use my free right hand to reach over and rub dd's belly. Then maybe your 4-year-old could be cuddled up to your back so as not to feel left out.
I think the biggest part is just finding a routine, any routine, and sticking to it. It takes a while to get everyone used to it, but have faith that you will all figure it out together.
I say this and now I know that bedtime tomorrow will be some sort of disaster ;)