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Talk Routine to Me, Baby!

On an early January evening, right after I'd finished putting the toddler to bed, my husband called me into what we call our cozy "hygge room." It was the epitome of ambience: gas stove roaring, lights dim, and a waiting glass of wine.

As I settled in, my husband turned to me and said, "I know it's late, but this is really important."

"We need to talk...about our daily routine."

Ohhh yeah. I love it when you talk routine to me.

I think I fell in love with him all over again. That night, my husband and I sketched out a daily and weekly routine to help us have a little bit more peace and calm--and yes, control--to start the new year. I am happy to report that nearly halfway through, we are still (mostly) sticking to this routine, and it has resulted in a much smoother home life.

I am a planner by nature and typically schedule by the week. This not only applies to where I need to be but also what I do around the house. There is a day for everything: Monday is floors, Wednesday is kitchen and bathrooms, and Friday is laundry and groceries.

calendar routine

Different seasons have altered this schedule of course, but I have planned this way for years and it helps me tremendously to know what to expect on any given day. Eliminating choices allows me to focus and get more accomplished...and not feel as guilty about what doesn't (which will forever be a work-in-progress for me).

But now my husband is on board, too, which means that our kids are also on Team Routine. And that buy-in is huge.

I confess that the night we discussed our "new" routine, I was definitely thinking, "Where have you been? I've been doing this the whole time!" But I quickly realized any satisfaction I derive from this predictability would increase tenfold if everyone participated.

Why did it take so long to get here? A combination of many factors, no doubt. But now my husband's work schedule has gotten more consistent, and our daughters are better at understanding time and days of the week. Everyone--minus the toddler--is willing and able to participate as well.

As humans, we thrive on routine. We know that kids crave it, which is why parents work so hard to create that perfect bedtime or morning routine. Any preschool or elementary school teacher--all wizards at order and routine--will tell you the same.

classroom boards showing daily routine

In fact, I once taught at a school that was sorely lacking in this department, and I am not exaggerating when I say it was one (of many) reasons I didn't return the following school year. This particular school served a population of students who generally did not have the most stable home lives, and we simply could not provide the consistency they needed. The schedule was constantly changing and countless activities and plans were cancelled at the last minute. It was so frustrating to me as a teacher to constantly have to tell my students that thing we'd been planning on was not going to happen.

In case it's not obvious by now, I am not a spontaneous person. I can adapt to any number of situations, but I do not do well with the quick pivot. I need time to adjust and alter my plan. I understand the need for flexibility, but that can happen within a routine.

When I was a brand-new mom, one of my frequent worries was why my baby didn't eat or sleep on a schedule. I read about the importance of this schedule and how it would set everyone up for success...which is why I felt like such a failure when I couldn't predict when or how long my baby would nap or eat. But then I came across the book Spirit-Led Parenting.

One thing this book stressed was the difference between routines and schedules. Whereas a schedule dictates specific times and durations for various activities, a routine is more of a general order of how things should go. Shifting my mindset from "naptime must be from 12-2, no exceptions" to "naptime happens after lunch for 2-ish hours" was a game changer for me.

bassinet; babies need routine too

So, my family currently operates on a routine, not a schedule. Sure, there are certain times we must adhere to, like the school day or doctor's appointments or ballet class, but generally speaking we just do things in a regular order so that everyone knows what to expect. There is a lot of comfort in that.

It's not that we were flailing about in a land of chaos before, but now dinnertime and bedtime are more predictable. We have specific bath days and our weekends are divided into an adventure day and a home day. There is a designated time for tidying up and chores, and everyone gets excited for our bi-weekly game and movie nights.

Some of you have probably been here for a while already, your households running like well-oiled machines, but if you're not, don't fret. My oldest recently turned eight, and we are just now starting to settle into the routine I've been dreaming of since the beginning. And let me tell you, it's been worth the wait.

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