As the traveling, parties, and general carefree days of summer start to come to a close, I think we’re all starting to crave the normalcy and stability that those “boring” back to school times bring! Last week, Bectoria shared a little sample of the routines she used to get her through her busy life as a working mom. This week, as a sort of echo to her post, I thought I’d take a few moments to discuss the value of routine in the life of the stay-at-home mom.
To me, it feels like a lot’s been written on having routines in place for children. It creates stability, independence, emotional security, better eating and sleeping habits, and a myriad of emotional and physical benefits to go with each one of those! (As a homeschooled, only-child with my parents working somewhat unpredictable shifts, I can, in some ways, understand the negatives of lack of structure.)
Most of us carry on fairly structured lives by necessity. We’ve got to get places and do things and meet people and make dates… But how does that play out in the life of us SAHMs with young children? With no one in school, no outside employer, and often, only the kiddos as an alarm clock, some of us SAHMs really enjoy the luxury of life at our own pace. It’s tempting to proclaim random pajama days, do snacks for supper, and stay up all night on Facebook, just because I CAN!
And, I’m not saying there’s necessarily ANYTHING wrong with that sort of lifestyle, OCCASIONALLY. But, if structure, or lack thereof, has such a startling impact on young, easily adaptable children, how much greater its effect on us in adulthood?! Frankly, the structure I try to create in my home is much less for the benefit of my two year old, and much more for my own physical and psychological health!
So, here’s how I do it:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a million zillion times: I love the FlyLady! She recommends starting your routines with just one or two rituals before bed, then adding to them gradually. However, I think she offers a great structure already, so I recommend signing up for her emails and just jumping right in with her “Daily Flight Plan”. She’ll give you a special housecleaning mission each day, which personally, I ignore. (I’m just not too worried about making sure the underside of the couch cushions gets vacuumed on a regular basis.) I just take her basic repetitive flight plan and adapt it into my three daily routines.
Morning Routine (Ideally BEFORE I let myself succumb to the lure of the internet!)
- Make the Bed – This will either be the last or first on my list of things to do in the morning, depending on whether my husband wakes up first. The trick is keeping it simple. I don’t pull all the covers and sheets and pillows off the bed to make it every morning. I usually just spend less than a minute straightening the top comforter and putting my single accent pillow at the headboard. A made bed can seem pointless in light of our long list of daily duties, but it does wonders for motivating me to keep the rest of the bedroom fairly tidy. For more insights on this clutter magnet of the house, read my post “Organization Starts in the Bedroom“.
- Get Dressed to “Lace Up Shoes” Including hair/face – This is a FlyLady classic. It’s very tempting as a stay-at-home parent to spend the day in clothes you wouldn’t be caught DEAD in outside of the house! Yeah, maybe you’re not planning on going out, and yeah, maybe you can bum around today, no problem. But something about being well dressed with shoes on sends a subconscious message that it’s time to make things happen! When I’m dressed “to shoes”, I feel much more like a mover and a shaker than if I look like crap! Often, dressed to shoes means cute, unembarrasing work-out clothes for me, because…
- 15 Minutes of Exercise – This is really the most important part of my morning routine, although it usually doesn’t happen until after breakfast. Fifteen minutes seems like NOTHING, but right now I’m pregnant and it just makes a DRASTIC difference in my state of mind and energy level. I wear a heart rate monitor and just go nuts dancing around with my kid, OR I do some simple strength training. (Not to be a commercial, but I’ve fallen in love with the No Excuses Workout System and the way it’s personalized and easily adapted so that ANYONE can use it, whether working out looks like a trip to the gym, or it’s just marching up the stairs while your kiddos nap. I’ve just not seen anything quite as versatile and equipment free for those of us with the youngins under foot!)
- Empty Dishwasher – I race through this!
- Start a load of laundry
- Swish and Swipe – FlyLady talks extensively about this part of the routine, but I just put away our morning bathroom clutter and wipe up anything that happens to be glaringly offensive!
- Check the calendar. – If I don’t check it every day, how will I know what’s on there?
- Check the Control Journal – This is just a notebook where I keep household information, to-dos, and of course, this list of routines!
- Eat Breakfast – Usually, before I work out, for energy!
Afternoon Routine (This happens as soon as lunch is over, or as soon as I return from whatever morning or mid day outing I have. I usually put my son down for nap before I start this list.)
- Declutter for 15 minutes – For me, this just looks like a general tidy up, but usually, the house isn’t messy enough to take a full 15 minutes tidying. (We always think things will take longer than they do!) If I have any time left over, I’ll work on reorganizing a shelf or a corner of a closet, or whatever. If the house is more than 15 minutes worth of messiness, no big deal, I still stop. Life doesn’t quit just because the house is a wreck! 15 minutes a day will get things all tidied up eventually! Either way, I get the satisfaction of a house that’s cleaner even if it’s not plain clean.
- What’s for dinner? – Do I need to thaw something or make an alternate plan? It’s good to have an idea in mind before the 5:45 hunger strike!
- Fold and put away laundry – Or, just make sure you put your morning wash in the dryer! You don’t want a soured load!
Before Bed Routine (THE MOST IMPORTANT ROUTINE!!! But, luckily, also the fastest. Happens as soon as we’re done eating supper or as soon as we return home from an evening outing. I do not include any of my son’s evening routine in this, because he’s pretty good about enforcing those things himself!)
- Check your Calendar
- Lay out clothes for tomorrow – I always dress sharper when I pick things out ahead of time!
- Put anything you’ll need tomorrow by the front door.
- Where are your keys and cell phone? – This question has saved me UNTOLD morning headaches!
- Spend two minutes clearing off the kitchen table – This is where everything tends to land in my home. I just set the timer for two minutes. Sometimes that’s enough to clean it and something else, other times it’s just enough to clear HALF the table clutter. It ALWAYS makes the next morning feel fresher, though!
- Load and start the dishwasher. (And take care of any food spills or nastiness!)
These simple routines are the benchmarks of my day, usually oriented around meal times. I keep them simple and try not to spend more than a few minutes on each item. (Though I’ll admit it may take a few weeks to get really fast!) My house runs smoothly, my family feels better, but it’s not so much structure that we can’t enjoy the last minute get-togethers and opportunities that make life interesting! Often, having these routines in place has saved us from having to miss such unstructured gems we’re offered in life!
So, if you’re a fellow SAHM, tell me how you do it! When structure and routines can be optional, what balance do you find most comfortable?