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A home routine was a concept that I used to struggle with as a young mother. I didn’t just dislike the concept of a routine, I also struggled with implementation.
I swung from one extreme to the other. In the beginning, I was hopelessly paranoid about how a home routine might dampen the creativity of the day, and I didn’t want to be a robot mom.
Once I realized that routines give structure without being stifling, I ended up building a routine that looked too much like a schedule and ended up trying to function just like that robot mom I was avoiding.
I’m not sure if it was my young age (my journey into motherhood started at age 21), or if it’s just my personality in general. But I usually end up swinging to both extreme sides of an issue before finding a comfortable spot in the middle.
Are you struggling to find a happy medium for routines in your own home? Let me share with you a few tips for developing a flexible routine that gets the job done without taking the heart out of motherhood.
HOME SCHEDULE VS. HOME ROUTINE
Like I said earlier, when I first got into the idea of having a more structured day, instead of implementing a gentle home routine, I created a ridiculous schedule.
The difference between a schedule and a routine is that a schedule is made up of time slots. It tells you when something begins and when it ends. A routine, on the other hand, tells you in what order things occur, but not necessarily start times, and definitely not ending times.
My first schedule was created in thirty-minute increments and began at 4 am. Four in the morning! I’m not certain why I thought that I was SO busy as a stay at home mother (with no vehicle) of three children (whom I homeschooled, meaning, I didn’t have to get them ready to be at the bus stop at a certain time), that I needed to get up at 4am.
But I did think that, and I wrote it on my schedule (in pen), and I think that I actually did get up at 4 am twice.
But do you know what happens to your schedule if you don’t start it on time? Nothing really goes right, so I was setting myself up for failure from the very beginning.
Instead of drafting an overly ambitious schedule, I would have done much better as a young mother to figure out a flexible routine that would maximize my time for the most important parts of my day.
Those parts include:
- a Bible study time in the morning
- some personal care time to get myself presentable
- schooling time
- time for cleaning and chores
- time to relax
A routine is more about how you flow through your day, hitting the priorities, and less about the time to start/time to finish.
ANCHOR YOUR DAILY HOME ROUTINE WITH CORNERSTONE EVENTS
A cornerstone event is just a fancy way of saying “something that happens every day”. I use these daily occurrences to ensure that my routine has enough structure that I am not letting time wander away from me.
Some of the cornerstone events in my day are:
- Wake-up time for me, and a separate wake-up time for the children
- The time when I go get ready for the day
- Morning nap time for babies
- Afternoon nap time/quiet time
- Martial Arts class
- Clean-up time before Dad gets home
These times are flexible (except for outside activities and appointments like martial arts). If I start them a little early or a little late, it’s not a big deal. However, more often than not, they occur at the same time each day.
And these events do occur every day, with the exception of martial arts, or with the exception that we have an out of the home activity planned, like going to the zoo. These daily events anchor the day.
I know that I want the children to be at least half way done with their math by breakfast time. Daily chores occur around different meal times, with one time set aside each day to pull the house back together.
Afternoon naps/quiet time is when I get to recharge my batteries and either get some work, rest, or exercise in. Some days, this is what gets me through a tough morning…knowing that if I can just make it until 1:30, I will get a break!
The children know and understand the flow of the day, which is important, especially for the younger children. Giving young children structure is one of the best ways to be a proactive parent, instead of reactive. This heads off bad behaviors before they have a chance to get started.
Did you ever watch that show, SuperNanny with Jo Frost, back about 10 years ago? I believe it may still be on, but I’m not sure.
Jo would transform a family full of bratty children, and reactive parents, into much calmer children with proactive parents. One of the first things that Jo did, after watching the family in action, was to hang up a family routine. She gave the house structure and order so that the children knew what to expect, approximately when.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THE HOME ROUTINE GETS INTERRUPTED
So, what do you do when the routine gets off track? Do you just throw in the towel for the day? No, not at all. You adjust it.
If you had a really restless night and didn’t sleep much, allow yourself to sleep in a bit. You can make up time by shortening your personal care time, or by serving cereal instead of a hot breakfast.
If you need to run morning errands because you are out of toilet paper, the baby may miss his nap. Accommodate that by moving lunchtime and afternoon nap time forward just 30 minutes to an hour, so that the baby isn’t too crabby to deal with.
What if you and the kids are engrossed in an afternoon activity and lose track of time and before you know it, Dad is walking in the door. The afternoon chores aren’t done, and neither is dinner.
So pull out a frozen pizza and fruit, and either get the house pulled together while it bakes, or push bedtime back a bit, and tidy up after dinner.
All is not lost just because your routine gets interrupted, even if it happens first thing in the morning. This has honestly been a difficult concept for me to fully embrace because of my perfectionist personality.
MAKE HOME ROUTINES WORK FOR YOU…
When you have an all or nothing mentality, it makes you want to just give up if you can’t have your perfect day. Don’t give into that temptation. Remember, your family is watching you. Teach your children, through your own example, that flexibility in life, and in routines is important.
Getting less done with a good attitude is way more important than getting everything done each day, and being a short-fused grump about it all.
Have you struggled with finding the balance between a routine that allows you to accomplish your priorities, and still have breathing room?