My wife and I have a 10 month old son who still struggles with sleeping through the night. On his best nights, which are few and far between, he can go about 8 straight hours. A typical good night looks like a 1 AM wake up to eat, back to sleep, and a 4 AM wake up to eat again followed by back to sleep for another hour or two. And then there are nights like last night, where he wakes up in the middle of the night and it seems like nothing will get him back to sleep.
So how do we handle these varying situations? We’ve basically come up with a four-tier system: 1. The Hope; 2. The Plan; 3. The Backup Plan; and 4. The Backup to the Backup Plan.
We start every night with the hope that it will be one of his best nights. He goes to bed, we go to bed, and everyone wakes up nice and refreshed at a reasonable hour. Sounds great, and we’re taking steps to hopefully get here more regularly, but right now it pretty much never happens like this.
We expect our son to wake up a couple of times in the middle of the night, so we have a plan to handle it. First my wife gets up and nurses him. She tries to put him right back down, but if he doesn’t go immediately it usually becomes my responsibility to help at that point. Typically, with a small amount of coaxing, he’ll go back down pretty quickly.
The Backup Plan
When The Plan doesn’t work and he isn’t going down easily, we move to The Backup Plan. This involves letting him cry for a few minutes at a time, followed by one of us going in and patting his back and trying to calm him down so he can fall back to sleep. We repeat this process for 30-40 minutes and most of the time he will fall asleep in this period.
The Backup to the Backup Plan
When all else fails, we resort to letting him sleep with my wife, which is his favorite place in the world. This is not a desirable outcome for us, but sometimes it’s just the solution we’re left with. This solves the problem almost 100% of the time.
So how does this relate to our financial issues? Honestly, this system looks a lot like a strong financial system.
In a financial system, The Hope might be that you or your spouse gets that big promotion that makes your financial issues much easier to deal with. This is something you can work towards but not bank on. So you have The Plan, which consists of your budget and your regular spending and savings habits. Things always go wrong so you have to have The Backup Plan, with regular savings accounts for things like car repair and home maintenance so you’re not blindsided when they come up. And finally, you have The Backup Plan to the Backup Plan, which includes things like your emergency fund, disability insurance and life insurance. Ideally you never have to use any of these things, but they’re indispensable when you’re out of other options.
Whether you’re dealing with children, money, a job or whatever, a good plan has you prepared for almost anything. You have a strong system to handle the normal day-to-day activities with relative ease. But you’re also prepared for life to throw you curve balls and you have backup plans in place to deal with them.