I have to admit I've always been the kind of person who likes a routine. I realize that probably makes me dull (and if this admission is the first time you've thought I was dull, then I'm shocked), but it is who I am. I love getting away and doing new things, but on a regular basis I like a fairly predictable life.
As a single person, this probably meant I was "not adventurous enough" and "too rigid." As the single mother of a toddler, this is freaking AWESOME and the best thing ever and I WIN.
Show me a parent who says their toddler doesn't do well with a routine and I'll show you a parent who's probably not really paying attention to their child. I am guessing there's an age where routine becomes less critical, but it's certainly not when they're very young.
(I do not consider myself a parenting expert, and I generally don't want to say "this is how you should do things!" But this particular case is a big whomping exception to that.)
I'm not saying you can't/shouldn't be spontaneous-- that's nuts. Elle gets a late bedtime or an on-the-go meal every so often. (Note that I do not mess with The Nap. Never mess with The Nap, man. Never. Unless you are CRAZY and have a DEATH WISH.) But I strongly believe that young children, with their limited capacity to understand their world and even more limited capacity to control it, respond best to a home life that is structured and predictable. They may not want a bath, but the fact that a bath is part of their evening routine (most nights, anyway-- ahem. Don't judge me!) is comforting, understandable, and helps them feel safe.
Most moms I know, and parents I've known, embrace this. After all, having your child(ren) on a routine means your own life is easier to manage; if you know they go to bed at 8, you know that by 8:15 (hopefully) you can pay your bills or wash your kitchen floor or relax and watch some TV. But I know at least one family that has never had their daughter on a routine, and while she's a sweet, bright little girl, she is also a holy friggin' terror. Elle can have some truly monumental meltdowns, but this girl's put Elle's to shame.
I understand the need to continue living as you lived pre-baby, but that's not always possible. Or wise.
And I think what it's important to remember is that it is not always going to be like this. Routine will not always rule the world. You will not always be a slave to The Nap. You will not always have to worry about getting home in time to do a quickie version of the bedtime routine, in hopes that you are able to do this before your child becomes so overtired that sleep is only a mirage. You will not always have to have a baggie of Cheerios in your bag or a sippy of water in your tote, because eventually your child will be old enough to say they're hungry or thirsty (not demonstrate it with a meltdown) and you can grab them a bottle of water and let them know you'll eat when you get home.
The challenges associated with a small child are, fortunately, temporary. I know they give way to new challenges, of course.
But for now, in my house I suck it up and get Elle by her regular bedtime as much as I can. In the long run, it's best for everyone.