Routine. Just one little word. Routine. Since becoming a mother for the first time three years ago, this word has easily become what defines nearly my entire existence. Sure, we all have our daily routines, but there’s a certain level of variance and spontinaity I had never appreciated before kids. I’d get up every day and go to work, take my lunch break, work some more, then head home. If I wanted to go see a movie? Sure! Hop on over to the theater. If I wanted to go to a friend’s birthday party, take a long bath, go on a date with my husband, binge watch a TV show, or do a whole laundry list of other things in my free time, I could do them with little to no thought.
But, while being a parent is amazing, it’s a 24/7 job. Children rightly need a lot of love and attention: naps, food, diapers, play dates, preschool, learning activities and outings, sunblock application, doctor appointments, bandaids, baths, booger suckers, nail trimming, rhyming songs, anal thermometers, tear wiping, hair cuts, nightmares, and more. And, they have their own routines every single day with little change in timing.
Let’s stop there for a second to say I’m not trying to complain or create negativity. I have two beautiful, amazing boys and I wouldn’t change that for anything. But there are some hard truths about my reality as a stay at home mom that can be difficult. I’m very lucky to be home with my kids. I’m not for one second regretting not being a working parent (in a lot of ways I think that could be more challenging, just in different ways). But I’m fairly certain any stay at home mom has struggled with the monotony of this amazing thing that we do every single day.
Kids thrive on consistency. Living in a predictable environment on a daily basis provides stability and certainty while their minds and emotions grow. I’ve found that messing with a routine leads to missed naps and cranky kids, hungry (“hangry”) kids, and more tantrums in general as he/she tries to understand why things aren’t the way they should be. Yes you can change what they eat (sometimes), where you have an outing (determined by weather at times), and maybe push a nap by 30 minutes to make a “quick” trip to the store. But every day has a fairly consistent cadence. In its simplest form it’s wake, eat, play, snack, nap, eat, play, eat, sleep. If you have kids you also know that as soon as you get used to one routine it will change – your child drops to one nap instead of two, preschool starts, and so on. While I’m grateful for the changes, they can also be challenging because you have to figure out a whole new system that works.
And then there’s childcare. Want to go see a movie? Well, who is going to watch your child(ren)? Family? Friends? Hired help (can you afford to pay for a movie AND a babysitter?)? My family and in-laws live 3 hours away and most of my friends also have kids and live at least 30 minutes away in good traffic (though I’m trying to make friends in our new city). Even if I wanted a break from the daily in and out, there’s little to no chance of finding someone to watch my kids, especially one I could trust (I’ve tried using sitters I’ve found online…one scared me so bad I don’t know if I could do it again!).
I’ve read many articles on the need for self care and puting yourself first. Parenthood is by far the most demanding (and rewarding) challenge of my life. It’s very hard to keep the boredom and depression at bay when one day blends into the next so easily. I begin to forget there are activities and lives outside of this mom world. While my kids are young, I have tried to embrace that this is a short time in my life where I just can’t come first most of the time. It’s all worth it. It truly is. But that can be hard to remember on your fourth day alone at home with the kids doing the same routine you did the last 3 days. Cooking, cleaning, wiping, hugging. Repeat. Over and over and over again.
But then you watch your beautiful child(ren) sleep or give you the most wondrous grin and you lose yourself in the joy of this thing we do. We get to see tiny human beings take shape, learn new skills, make friends, and see the world in a way we have forgotten as adults. In a way, parents are able to embrace a little of the child we have inside of ourselves and forget about the endless routines of our lives.
One day (sooner than I think), I know I will get time back for me. Yes I will look back and miss my boys being little. I mean, everyone (both parents and non-parents) will tell you to “enjoy it while you can.” While this makes me want to laugh sometimes, there is truth in it. But, I can also look forward to the freedom to define my own routine (or lack there of) and rediscover that crazy thing called “free time.”
Struggling to get things done on your to do list? I know I get so frustrated when my grand plans for the day with 10 things to do on my list, and I only get to 3 of them…So, I’ve create a REAL to do list for busy moms. If you subscribe to the Hive Newsletter (a weekly email with updates from me), you will get access to ALL free printables and resources available in the Hive Library, including the REAL To Do List. Subscribe now for access!