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!