I guess most of us in the North of Europe know that life down south has a different schedule in terms of work, eating and bed times, going out etc. It is pretty well known that Spaniards for example have dinner quite late (in Dutch standard the “quite” can be replaced by “very”) but I had never realised what this means when you have kids.
Soon after arriving in Spain I noticed that when going out for dinner it was not weird at all to see kids (and not just older kids, definitely also babies and toddlers) until really late in restaurants and tapas bars. Children running around until midnight when the parents are having a drink and a bite is the most normal thing in the world. I was always thinking that for my Dutch standards it was a tad bit late for those kids but now that I have a baby myself it gets even more challenging to keep up some sort of a social life without turning our bichin into a night owl.
From the moment Lucas had some kind of sleep rhythm we put him to bed quite early (20ish) and after taking out his night feedings he even went to sleep earlier. Right now he is in bed most nights around 19 / 19.15h and will sleep (unfortunately most nights still with some breaks where he needs his dummy to be put back in, if we´re lucky those breaks are before midnight, if we´re unlucky…well let´s not get into that fun) until 7 / 8 the next day.
This very Northern European schedule is sometimes difficult to maintain in Spain where kids don´t go to bed before 21 / 22 (or even 23) and meeting with friends or family is based on those standards. I honestly quite like it to still have my nights for myself because if Lucas would go to bed Spanish times, when the hell do you have your me-time or couple-time? To read a book, watch Grey´s Anatomy, have a real talk with your partner, catch-up some work, take a long bath…. I can go on and on here. And more importantly, besides that I don´t mind some peace & quiet at night, I think that little kids need a good (full) night of sleep as well.
I think traditionally due to the heat in Spain there was a long break after lunch and then the streets would get lively again after 20 / 21 or so. With Spanish office hours working-parents often get home very late so this might be another reason because if you still want to see your kid it´s already later than in the north of Europe. Also since dinner is so much later in Spain if the family wants to have dinner together then automatically kids go to bed much later. Restaurants often don´t open before 20.30h so yeah, good luck going out with the whole family and maintaining a normal bed time.
Therefore, this insanely foreign bed-hour that we´re working with in our home seems to surprise many friends and colleagues around us. I don´t know how many times a colleague asked me if I was looking forward to get home after a day in the office to see my bichin and then got completely shocked when I answered that I wouldn´t see him anymore because he would be long in bed. Often times the reactions were why we wouldn´t keep him awake until I was back. Of course after a day away I would love to see our bichin and play with him but seriously, isn´t this the world upside down? Keeping my baby awake until I am back so I can still see and enjoy him?
Meeting with friends (with kids) in the weekend gets sometimes a bit challenging. If it´s for dinner, then you´re meeting very late (21 / 22ish) and although their kids are usually around we either take the bichin with us but put him to sleep there or arrange for a baby sitter. Therefore, afternoon meetings are more convenient for us but due to also late and very long family lunches on Sunday for example an “afternoon” meetup here would be more of an evening or even night meetup in Dutch standards. (From 17.30/18ish onwards) It also took a while before family here understood that stopping by around 18.30h was not very appreciated: right when we were in wind downtime giving the bichin his bath and dinner to get him completely excited with visitors who didn´t really get the concept of winding down.
I am quite happy with our Northern European schedule (and with the fact that we have our nights usually for ourselves) and we´re lucky that we can always count on my parents-in-law for babysitting in the evenings. They love to spend time with their grandson and are literally always available for him, but sometimes I feel a bit bad asking them again to stay with the bichin at night if we want to go out. Because obviously by the time we go out for dinner, he is sound asleep for a couple of hours already so no real fun for them in that kind of babysitting…..