Caregivers, do you feel overwhelmed sometimes? Maybe all the time? Do you feel like you are ruled by chaos? That’s a feeling I know too well. I thrive with an established routine, and becoming a parent threw a wrench into my routine as I’d known it. Read more to see how I rediscovered a daily routine with kiddos in the mix.
A Parent’s Need for Routine
When I became a full-time Stay-at-Home-Mom, it was a shock to my system. I love to work; I always have. And of course being a SAHM is TONS of work, but it’s a completely different kind. I felt isolated, I felt lonely, I felt a devastating lack of control, I felt overwhelmed, and I felt as though I never accomplished anything—something entirely different from what I had experienced as a teacher prior to my first child being born.
I quickly realized that one big component of my life that had changed—beyond the obvious giving birth and being responsible for another life thing—was my routine. I, a fairly spontaneous person, still THRIVE on routine. I like knowing when I’m going to exercise, I like knowing when I’m going to have down time, I like knowing when I’m going to do chores, I like knowing when I’m going to run errands. A newborn definitely throws a wrench into this kind of routine and planning, but I knew that if I could figure out some semblance of structure, even if it were far looser than it ever had been previously, I would be happier. That, in turn, would make my child happier, right?
Without too much intention, I had been trying my best to keep my new baby on a “routine” since she came home from the hospital. I had been told “Wake, Eat, Play, Sleep” by a few fellow moms, and I tried to keep that rhythm the best I could according to that 3(ish) hour feeding cycle. So—all I needed to do was plan the rest of my tasks around that schedule. Easy, right? NO. But, still, I wanted SEMBLANCE of structure, so I knew flexibility was my new best friend.
We got into a system. I knew when she was more likely to nap longer. I knew when she would most likely need the most attention. I knew when she seemed to enjoy floor activities the most. I synced my life with hers and created a daily agenda for myself. Suddenly, I felt more like myself. It really didn’t take much—just a little, tiny bit of that (somewhat still false) control back into my day so that I wasn’t drowning in unfinished chores.
A Child’s Need for Routine
Now my oldest is three with a younger sibling and another on the way. As we’ve added new kids to the mix, I’ve continued to prioritize routine. My sanity depends on it. Yes, flexibility is NEEDED almost daily as my kids grow and shift interests, but a glimpse of a structure is nearly always present regardless. And you know what I’ve realized most of all? This structure, this routine, doesn’t just make my children happier because I’m happier. It makes them happy all on its own. It helps them THRIVE. Sounds familiar, right? Just like me, my kids enjoy knowing when they are going to get to complete things. They like knowing when they get outside time. They like knowing when it’s time for chores. They like knowing that naps follow playing in their bedrooms.
My kids, even being very young, get to have expectations for their day. Their brains may be forming at incredible rates while still having SO much developing yet to do, but our kids are so much more like us than I knew could be true prior to being a mom. They want their emotions validated. They want to feel secure. They want to make others happy (which is difficult to remember sometimes). They want to feel like they have some control.
Child’s Choice in Routine
An established routine for children helps offer them a sense of calm. They get to feel like they, too, have a little control over their day. And now that my daughter is three, I’ve offered her even more control. I decided that she could start helping to establish her own routine. I started by asking her, “What activity makes you happy after breakfast?” I was unsurprised when she replied with, “Stories.” We have read stories after meals for basically her entire life because that’s when she seems to enjoy close-contact bonding the most. This question adapted to incorporate more of her day. Soon, she had chosen the timing of nearly all of her typical daily activities and ordered them according to what she enjoys and when. Here is a typical day at home for our family, now:
|8:00 AM||Morning Routine|
|9:00 AM||Story Time|
|9:30 AM||Learning Activity|
|11:30 AM||Walk Dogs|
|1:30 PM||Nap Time|
|3:00 PM||Miss Humblebee’s Academy|
Craft or Errands
|5:00 PM||Cook Dinner|
|5:30 PM||Family Dinner|
|6:00 PM||Family Movie Time|
|6:30 PM||Bath Time|
|6:45 PM||Family Play Time|
|7:15 PM||Bedtime Routine|
One of the best parts about this Mom & Daughter established routine is that suddenly she feels even less upset about doing her not-so-favorite activities. When it’s time for us to shift into a new task, I show her our agenda and remind her that certain things need to happen in our day, and that she liked doing tasks in this order. It may not thrill her to get ready for nap time, but she fusses less because she not only expects when it will happen, but now she also has some control over when it happens.Obviously, not every day is the same, and sometimes we have other important things to add into our schedule like school, a birthday party, or a trip to the library. I wanted to come up with a visual way to chat with my daughter about our shift in the schedule while still offering her some control over the time that wasn’t occupied by that shift. So I created the following cutouts, including some blank ones for the unpredictable:
Create Your Own Routine
Print the cutouts here:
I bought a sheet of magnet stickies to put to the back of each item cutout as well as the time cutouts, and once we are up and ready for the day, we establish what our new schedule will be together. I use the fridge for the magnets, and I show her the times we have open in the day for some of our normal activities. I explain that there will be an interruption or a change, and I ask what she wants to make sure to do with the time remaining in our day. Of course, I enforce certain things as needed when I know a nap is crucial or something along those lines, but she still gets a lot of choice, and that makes her happy. And let’s be honest, a happy toddler is a happy life.