Daily Routines to Beat the Chaos: recognizing the importance of the mundane in parenting

Change is good. I love change. Sometimes I think I like it too much – I’m always pushing forward to the next thing, reaching for more personal growth, bigger and better ways to do things, changes of scenery… It’s a quality in me I embrace and enjoy and I think it helps me find my place in the world.

 

I remember my parents continually reminding me to “slow down!” even while I was just carrying out basic tasks! In my pursuit of my wildest dreams, I do everything a little too quickly. I wash dishes too quickly, I pick things up too quickly, I drink water too quickly… I mean goodness gracious. Until recently I haven’t realized how I have let this become a bit more of a problem in my life.

 

Clearly always looking for new things to do and ways to make those new things better, you can imagine I over-commit. Oh yes. And I set unrealistic expectations. Consistently. Both for myself and for others.

 

I starting noticing daily patterns taking a negative turn in my life – I started waking up grumpy, struggling through the day to remain patient and be the Mom I knew I wanted to be on a daily basis. I was just plain tired. I had begun all these new things in life but felt void of direction.

 

I’d put tired kids to bed, (hardly without a fight!) and walk back out to a cluttered living room, a sink of dirty dishes, a floor begging to be swept, piles of laundry to be folded and put away, and a sky-high stack of tasks I wanted to and needed to accomplish for work. How motivating, right? Looking at all that chaos made me want to quit before I even started.

 

I knew the problem – I didn’t have any routines in place throughout the day that included allowing time for the basic completion of tasks. Simple, right? I was forgetting to allow time for coaching my children through basic routines in self-care; making sure they were mastering the skills of teeth brushing without assistance, zipping up outerwear, learning how to button a shirt without help, or teaching them responsibility within the family unit such as helping to set the table or clear it after a meal… these basic tasks that I wasn’t slowing down long enough to walk and talk through were causing enormous chaos in our day to day life. I was trying to do it all myself, and I just couldn’t! No one knew what was going on when. Beginning new tasks or mandating a clean-up time for the kids was a huge fight because it wasn’t built in, so it was continually coming as a surprise. 

 

I knew the answer was re-establishing routines – but I was caught up in how much there was to do, I wasn’t allowing the time to simply do it! Sounds totally ridiculous as I type this out right now. But it’s true! Even the most basic of tasks weren’t happening when they should be happening. We felt as though we were always being rushed about and even worse, constantly behind and out of control.

 

This new phase of life we were finding ourselves in was coming with a lot of really great changes! But nothing felt familiar anymore. I knew I had to take steps to recreate some structure so we could enjoy this new phase of life and not waste it.

 

My Action Steps

 

I was tired of feeling like a big fat failure at the end of each day. It was perpetuating the cycles of other negative emotions and actions in my own personal life. So I took action, and here are the basic action steps I took to create some structural change.

 

  • I sat down to write down everything I was currently committed to and sorted them by priority. I must admit, as I started to do this, I started thinking I should purge from my life even my part time job, make drastic changes and it would all work out, clean everything out to make space for parenting alone. Because that is a job enough in itself! (true!!) But something inside me said, “Give it all one last valiant effort, Susan.” So with a sigh, and the knowledge that I’d have to brace and make some big changes, I started out making amendments with my work, my relationships, etc.
  • I cut back drastically on the volume of tasks within my commitments. Not necessarily what I was committed to, but the scale to which I was committed to that thing. I worked through what the perfect amount of workload would look like within each commitment, an amount with which I could thrive instead of just survive, and took action to make sure that was put into place. Wow, what an amazing difference! I readjusted my workload, committing to a fewer number of the tasks that killed my joy without getting rid of them altogether (because they are still important) and I allotted more time to do the things that would continue to bring me greater joy. I wanted to be able to do these tasks even better and more thoroughly. Well, it’s working, for the record! I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my overall feeling of direction and motivation to tackle my workload with gusto!
  • My next action step was to write down what my ideal day with the kids would look like. I included even the most menial of tasks to be sure that the day was structured out perfectly. I imagined us (as I imagine all “perfect parenthood days”) complete with the kids and me riding on the back of a unicorn through a field of thorn-less roses, laughing, hair blowing in the breeze. No sibling rivalry or impatient fluster. And definitely no whining! Realizing that level of euphoric parenting was unrealistic, I embraced the knowledge that challenges in parenting happen and that they are productive and necessary for growth. But I wrote out that ideal schedule and decided to give it a try. In my mind, at the end of each day, the house would be a lot cleaner, we would all be happier, and I’d be more motivated to move on to new tasks efficient because the menial tasks had a place – built into a structured daily routine. Taking a “coaching” approach to parenting is a BIG priority to me. Taking the time to teach through the menial and the mundane gives my children confidence and character – successful tools that will help them be responsible adults, vital contributors to culture.
  • So I typed it up. This idyllic schedule, painfully basic. And that was just the way it needed to be. And something amazing started happening as I began to follow it. Each time I glanced at it I was reminded to slow down! I mean physically slow down! To breathe and work through life’s basic daily tasks. To talk through them with my kids. At the bottom of the routine I wrote “Slow down, mama, and teach as you go.” There’s something innately spiritual in doing simple things with intention. Our children will benefit from it as we will.

 

This routine is nothing fancy or mind-blowingly awesome, but it’s basic and I think it helps bring all of us chaos-crazed parents back to where we need to be. Allowing time for basic tasks, for intentional parenting in the moment, and so much more. And honestly, it’s essential to raising healthy kids. We know that. It’s been studied before! These are not new thoughts by any means! But I hope you’ll bear with me as I share my experience here, and glean inspiration where you would!

 

Settling into daily routines during the day with my kids also helps me also be much more effective as a work-at-home mom. I feel significantly less behind at the end of the day and give myself a whole lot more credit for what I am able to accomplish each day. When the kids go to bed, the mess isn’t as crippling, and my focus is more tuned in as I sit down to work. I’m more productive.

 

So basic routines – essential to family wellness? Yes, I definitely think so. I hope I never underestimate the value of basic and menial routines ever again. They’re essential to success.

 

Need to re-discover some structure in own life as a parent? My printable daily routine is available for you to download! Adjust as needed, every family will be different! But I hope it’s a helpful catalyst for productive change!

 

 

 

 

 

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Slow & Grateful Living (part two): the one lesson I wasn’t expecting

Happy Friday Friends!

If you made goals for this week and are following through with them, let me know, I’d love to cheer you on. Those of you who have told me what your week’s goals have been, how amazing are YOU! You have inspired me beyond belief.

Throughout the week I have been eating the cleanest of clean. My eyesight is brighter, my mind is even clearer, and my energy is quite impressive, especially since sleep is rather an illusion right now with my babes in tow. My intentionality to reach for my Bible first in the morning and shut my mind down a little earlier in the evening have been beautiful aids in regaining some of my brain space and helping me better collect myself each day. All of these benefits from the week have been amazing enough to stand alone, but combining them with my interactions with others, I was reminded of my vision and was able to refocus my mind on my role in community.

This week I had a conversation with at least one person each day going through some kind of difficult situation, some of them even significant traumas. My own personal experiences flooding back. Additionally, My husband experienced a re-injury, my daughter has been teething and sleepless… my heart is heavy for many people right now. But my perspective from the week has been beautifully shaped by this Slow & Grateful Living Challenge. I’ve been seeing day after day the importance of being able to love deeply at a moments notice and what it takes to be prepared for that. Really, to be ready for anything. To be at a place, as far as it depends on me, where I am centered, in Christ, my body and mind in great health, where I am able and eager to respond to the needs of others as genuinely as possible.

I am a very goal driven person, and I’ve come to appreciate that about myself. It helps me get stuff done, and keeps me powered up and motivated. One weakness of mine however is becoming so goal focused that I can sometimes forget to look for growth opportunities moment to moment.

Through all of the conversations, all of the upsets, the daily chaos, my goals for the week kept me well centered on what was important, and I am delighted by that. But I also have realized a new level of community and my significant valuable role.

 

I am one person, insignificant to some, but to the people close to me, my family, my friends I am valued and I am needed. I need to have the emotional and physical energy to live this life with all of these people I love. I want them to experience community with me the same way I desire it with them. I want to be joyful and present, there to care for them and allowing them to care for me too.

I want to be ready to love in a moments notice. I want to be inviting and safe to be around. I want to feel my best so that I can live my best and be ready for anything.

Be open to learning whatever it is that is in front of you today. It might not be what you’re expecting!

What would it take in your life to create that space and take care of yourself and your well-being so that you can be ready to live out your unique role today? Maybe you need to create space to live more slowly and more thoughtfully. What does that look like practically for you today?

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Back Breaking Stress & Practical Ways to Rest

Earlier this year when my daughter was born, I was healing great, better and faster than I had experienced with my son. I felt spry and ready to hit the road running. Literally! I was ready to pull out my running shoes and whip my body back into shape. I felt like supermom. But at my six week mark, postpartum, I was having one of these “I feel like supermom” days and decided to try carrying both my fussing children at once, on an icy sidewalk… it did not end well for me. Thankfully, my children were just fine and unphased by the trauma! I, however, suffered a compression fracture from falling, all my body weight plus the weight of my two children in my arms – my arms too busy holding them in safety to even think about catching my own fall – and that was that. A spinal compression fracture. Ouch. I felt out of commission for a few weeks, but that was the thing –  I couldn’t be! I had littles to care for, and I could barely lift my infant, let alone stand to make a meal! Let me be quick to say that I have a wonderful husband who was very helpful at this time, except that he was simultaneously recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL. We were hardly a good team at this point.

I didn’t rush to the emergency room, or anything, even though I probably should have. I did not know I had suffered a compression fracture until six months later when we finally got an x-ray taken. My advice to you would be, if something hurts in your body so badly that you’re nauseous and unable to lift more than a couple of pounds, among other symptoms…. please see your doctor. Let me just say that. But I was so intent on keeping going with life, I was certain I just had some bad bruising. Well, I was wrong. So after the initial couple weeks of heafty pain, intense nausea, I just kept going, trying to put it off. I guess I just stopped thinking about it! Crazy right? I don’t know, maybe it was still all those post birth hormones. Survival mode, mamas! I started training for my half marathon again, living life normally… again, do NOT do this if you have a broken bone. Rest is important. Get the help you need. But I’m telling you this to make a point today! Anyways, six months later, we confirmed it had been a back fracture. Wow, how glad I was it hadn’t been WORSE! I said many prayers of thanks!

Hindsight, I can laugh about it, but at the time I was an emotional mess. I didn’t know what to do and I needed to be able to function to take care of my children AND my husband. Oh why oh why did this have to happen? Why did I have to think I was amazing enough, six weeks postpartum, to carry my infant plus my nearly 40 lb son!? Don’t judge me. It’s a thing we moms do. We do ridiculous things because we love our children so much, sometimes we don’t think straight. That’s what I’m going with anyways. I was blinded by bliss when my son also requested that I carry him. What can I say!? Well, now let me tell you that since then I’ve learned to remind him that he is much too heavy for mama to carry. He has two very capable feet. I will hold his sweet little hand.

I think about this accident nearly every day still. Not only because I can still feel where it happened. Although nearly completely healed, I still need to use caution when lifting, there are some workouts I still shouldn’t do, but over all, I feel normal again.

When I think about this incident, it serves as a great learning tool for me actually. I need rest. I do believe there is a time to push through things that are very hard and difficult. Definitely. But I also believe that sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to rest, to repair. Especially if we have experienced a trauma. Maybe you feel like life doesn’t slow down, so you’d better not miss a moment! Work as hard as you can! Who knows what tomorrow will bring! Nobody has time to sit down and heal! Well, let me remind you that tomorrow has enough worries and cares of its own. (Matthew 6:34) If you’re feeling absolutely run down, burned out, in pain, or worse yet, numb to things in life… take a rest, my friend. Let your trusted friends know that you’re going to take a day or a week and lay a little lower than normal, whatever that looks like for you. Maybe you can’t take a whole week’s vacation from work. In fact, if you’re a parent, you’re lucky if you get 20 minutes to yourself! You know what I mean! But what does rest look like for you right now, today? Is it unplugging from your phone for an hour or two? Is it sitting down to meditate for an hour? Is it heading out for a run first thing in the morning, or right away after work?

Looking back, I wish I would have taken that time healing from my injury to just re-strengthen my yoga practice with workouts that were gentler on my body, instead of training for my half. When I finally realized this, I tapered down my runs to just maintaining my cardio, and started attending yoga twice a week again, my back improved immensely! (I will for sure write on the healing effects of yoga in a future post, and my personal experience! Stay tuned.) I had to learn to readjust my own expectations I had placed upon myself, and give myself some space and grace. And it has ended up turning into an incredibly sweet time for me. An experience about growing in stillness… and appreciating the pain and the recovery that follows it and how that has grown my soul.

Are you feeling like you need some rest lately? Or maybe some fresh inspiration? I feel you. Don’t forget to download my free journal page PDF from yesterday’s post! And let me know if you’d like more tips on practical ways to rest on a day to day basis, and how you’ve found your own ways to rest from life’s chaos.

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