When I first became a parent, I thought that every hour of the day should be scheduled for my child. Now, of course, I wasn’t the one at home with her. I simply put the expectation on my husband with something along the lines of the following schedule (because, you see, I had more experience with children from jobs and babysitting and clearly knew more than him . . .):
8:00 Tummy Time
10:00 Gross Motor Activity
12:00 Fine Motor Activity
And of course I would provide ideas for what those times could look like for the two of them. It was basically Lily and Daddy school time . . . for a baby.
I was clearly a very realistic first-time mom.
I know many others have said something similar about their first child. They have all these crazy expectations and then realize they’re totally whacked out and need to take a chill pill. Don’t worry, I got there. My poor husband. Bless his sweet soul.
Now? I am about to have my 4th child and am homeschooling my 5 year old for Kindergarten just this year. We started the school year out by having a pretty set schedule, thinking that would really help to make sure we got through what we needed to. I had it set for certain hours to tackle certain subjects. And let me just say that I got BORED. I’m not even the student. She was flying through the material and then I felt like I had to force her to do more until the time was up. I can be really Type A and super organized and structured at times. I like to have order and minimal chaos. And I often think that having a routine is the way to make that happen. Of course, sometimes that is definitely the case. We have instilled, from the start, a very clear eating and sleeping routine for our children. Because of that, both we and the kids have benefited greatly. They sleep great for others when we aren’t here, they know when they need to eat so they’re not constantly asking, they know not to expect dessert unless it’s a weekend or a special event, and we can form our days around this pattern.
However, what I am learning about myself, due to my own personality (and, as what Gretchen Rubin in Better than Before calls the tendency toward either Familiarity or Novelty . . . I’m Novelty), is that I can’t have too much routine or I bust at the seams. I cannot have every day look the same. I will never take a 9-5 job where I do the same thing all the time unless it’s life or death. I cannot stand knowing that today is going to be the same as tomorrow. I like to have different places to go, explore, learn something new, and talk to people who are not my children. If every day is the same and there’s no room for that? Then please let me meet Jesus now.
I may not like routine BUT I do like order. Solution? I’m highly organized, I have my systems for maintaining that organization, and those parts of my life are like second-nature; they just happen. For example, everything in my house has a place. We have a sliver of a junk drawer and that’s it (and it really isn’t junk–it has some pens, sticky notes, and extra keys and that’s pretty much it). My kids follow this as well so we don’t have random toys in random spots, nor do we have shoes and clothes scattered throughout the house. We also have set times that we tend to clean up (before nap and before we start our bedtime routine). I make sure the dishes are done/in the dishwasher and I know what tomorrow looks like before I relax for the evening because it makes for a peaceful environment when I wake up. I wake up at least 1-1.5 hours before the kids so I can prepare for my day, read, and be ready for them at 7:00 when they come down. These are just natural things that I do that I don’t even take time to think about.
But as for how each day looks? I need variety. Novelty.
So the other day, my kids kept asking what we were going to do and I had a list of things that needed done but not necessarily in a particular order. My 5 year old is a future event organizer and so, for her sake, I wrote a numbered list on the fridge in an order that seemed reasonable for the day. It included when we would eat, read, play, do schoolwork, take turns on the iPad, make muffins, etc. This was brilliant on my part. It satisfied my daughter’s need for knowing what to expect, it stopped questions of “when is that happening” from my son, it gave me a sense of accomplishment because I love crossing things off list, and it held me accountable to make sure I followed through on what I promised them they could do that day (like letting them help me bake even though it’s easier not to with a 5 year old, 4 year old, and 20 month old all at the small counter).
This was a way for me to have enough of a routine for the day that we got what we needed accomplished and yet it didn’t have to look the same for the whole week. No more charts that I create that I use for, oh, a week, and then pitch because it’s too mundane. Just my cup of tea.
I am finding my happy medium. Routine that comes in the form of habit (aka I’m not thinking about it because it’s happening naturally) that creates a sense of order and peace in my life is good. Any other kind of routine can find another person to snuggle up with and they’ll be great partners.
How about you?
What are you learning about yourself in this area? Do you tend to like routine and structure down to the hour/minute because it creates a sense of calm for you? Do you like knowing exactly what’s happening each moment of your day and look forward to your planner telling you what to do? Or do you tend to be one who doesn’t like any routine at all and fly by the seat of your pants for pretty much anything but that excites you? Are you somewhere in the middle like me? Once you’ve figured it out for yourself, if you haven’t already, how can that help you to be intentional in your every day life so that you’re really feeling a sense of thriving and not just surviving? The more we understand our natural tendencies, the better we can function in the every day.