I know there is a sort of “routine” camp and “go with the flow” camp when it comes to mothers. I am most definitely in the routine camp, however, I believe the reason that so many people seem against routine is that they believe us Type A-ers value the routine in and of itself.
Perhaps they believe we’re slaves to the routine, as opposed to the routine serving us. I read a quote somewhere, maybe on the Busy Mom blog, saying something to the effect of “you don’t live for the routine, it’s what helps you get through the day.” That’s how I view routine. A mechanism for helping me survive the day with some semblance of order.
Sort of like traffic lights. If you run a red light, you get a ticket. Not because the police just really love red lights. How dare you offend one? No. But since the practice of running red lights is dangerous, there is a rule in place to prevent you from endangering yourself and others. It isn’t that we have a schedule for the sake of the schedule. We have a schedule because – for our family – it is dangerous to do without. By dangerous I mean I get moody, impatient, irritable and so do the kids.
Here’s how a routine brings sanity:
(1) You can schedule in what needs to happen.
When you are home with children there is always a lot to be done. Eating, cleaning up, diapers, potty breaks, activities, cleaning, chores, not to mention fun things. While there is no way to get everything done all the time, having a schedule means that you plot in your necessary activities in an achievable and feasible way so that you aren’t left with 1,356 things to do when you’ve finally – finally – gotten them into bed.
I’ve recently created printable signs (similar to these but with activities that fit our own home) to hang in almost every room of the house. My husband is able and kind enough to help with their breakfast routine (more on how to encourage your husband to effectively help here) so making life easier for him (and anyone else who might be babysitting, etc.) means that even if I’m not the one doing it, things still get done.
(2) Kids can get so used to it they go on autopilot…sort of.
This summer we’ve been having the time of our lives in Florida so I’ve let our previous routine go. We’ve adopted a new and different one, which is totally fine. When we return to our “normal” lives in a few weeks things will change again. However, no matter where we are, when we are in a routine the kids just pretty much do what comes next. Even when they may not like it. In fact, particularly when they may not like it.
If your child isn’t terribly fond of nap time, but they know that they’re going to have it anyway, they are able to sort of prepare themselves since they know it’s coming. For almost every activity we do in our normal routine the kids just follow my lead easily. Now, this doesn’t mean they’re always happy about it, of course, they are children. But, I’ve found it is much easier to fit everything in and transition from activity to activity when they know what is next.
(3) When you are at the end of your creativity and spunk, you can still follow directions.
Some days by 9:00am I am already read to be relieved of duty. And we don’t even get up until 7:30am. On those days when I think I may not survive, the routine is actually what helps me survive. I don’t have to “think” of something fun to do. I don’t have to shove them in front of the TV for 5 hours just to pass the time.
I can decide to scrap the routine and take a field trip if I want just to liven things up, but if I am not up to it, then I can just float through the day on the routine while still accomplishing things. Also, children pick up on our moods. Having a routine helps to keep things in order when various circumstances and situations can try to bring chaos.
(4) You know when to do what and when not to do what.
I love knowing what times of day are best for appointments, outings and activities. Because we follow a routine I can normally say between 12:30 and 4:30 we are out of commission. The older kids are both sleeping, I’m resting or working and my youngest is either feeding or sleeping himself. If we absolutely had to skip a nap we could, but I know that my children are used to sleep and can tend to get cranky if they skip it.
Now, if they skipped it to go to Disney World, they’d cope. If they skipped it to go to a play date, they just wouldn’t have fun. I can make appointments in time slots that are convenient for me, and I know that just because we take a 30 minute car ride, it doesn’t mean that is their nap for the day and that’s all she wrote. They have regular naps so they don’t fall asleep every time we’re in the car unless we’re in the car during naptime. Listen ladies, I do not relinquish a 3 hour nap slot to a 30 minute car ride. You shouldn’t either!
(5) Kids respond well to consistency and order.
Last but not least and surely very important, children actually thrive on routine. From my experience, a little bit of fun spontaneity is a good thing, but day after day of unending spontaneity (aka, lack of planning) creates an atmosphere that lacks stability. Now, that could be that I am the one who perceives the lack of stability and order. That is probably true. However, I’m the mom and if I feel our house isn’t in working order then it all goes downhill. My children are generally well-behaved, compliant and happy, and I believe this is due in large part to our routine.
If we never deviated from our routine we’d be stifled. If we deviated so much we never had one we’d be overwhelmed. Again, balance is key. Our routine doesn’t stop us from having fun and going places and seeing the world. Our routine simply helps us survive 90% of our days which are at home. It helps us get things done and have a house that isn’t imploding or exploding. It helps us feel still – even just a little bit – connected to the old us that was able to get things done just because they were on a list. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I miss that!
Here are some links to various routine/schedule printables for your perusal.
Morning Routine chart
Bright + Fun Daily Routine Chart
Morning and Bedtime Routine
Tons of printables: Morning, Bedtime, Schedule, Weekly Peek
Morning and After School routine
My Daily Routine that you can fill in
Housekeeping routine you can fill in