As many people in the world learned in 2020, routines are important. Without the routine established by work, school, and social events, we struggle. It’s hard to be motivated. As a stay at home mom, the need for a routine is even greater than it is for other people. Routines set the rhythm of our days. Today, we’re talking about what routines are, why you need routines, why routines may not work for you, and how to figure out your own routines.
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What are Routines and What Routines Does A Stay At Home Mom Need?
As a SAHM, routines – or, as I prefer to call them, rhythms – dictate my day. During some times in my life, I get a little sloppy with them. It may be a challenge to get dressed before 10 am, or I simply didn’t have the energy while massively pregnant to clean up the living room for the third time that day. But when I let my rhythms go, my house – and I – suffer for it.
Rhythms in my life include how I work, how I clean my house, when needed chores get done. These might be things like getting laundry started, cleaning the kitchen, picking up toys.
Routines and rhythms dictate the flow of the day. When we allow our days to have a consistent flow, it’s better for us, because we can predict our own needs and support our own mental health, and it’s better for our kids, because they know what’s coming.
Why Do Stay At Home Moms Need Routines?
Sometimes, I let my toddler watch Disney Junior (okay, by “sometimes” I mean “daily”). One of the little things they have in between shows is a carousel, showing the days of the week, and a perky female voice says “Do you know what day it is? It’s (day of the week)!”
I’ve gotten the answer wrong more than once.
Sometimes, you may have a routine without even realizing it. It may not be one that works well for you – maybe your routine is that you fail to prepare for a morning school run, and as a result, you’re always feeling rushed and disordered while you make your kids find their shoes, inform them that shorts aren’t acceptable when snow is on the ground, pack a lunch, and try to drop them off at school before they have to check in with the office.
Maybe your routine is that you do all the grocery shopping on Tuesdays. That’s awesome! You’ve got something that works well for you. Good job!
Routines are also important because they help reduce decision fatigue. If your routine is Meatless Mondays for dinner, boom – you don’t need to worry about what your main course is. It’s not going to be chicken, fish, beef, or pork. That helps narrow things down.
Why Routines Don’t Work For You
Do you know what one of the most popular pieces of advice is for moms?
“Wake up before your kids do! Have quiet time in the morning!”
Look. I have a toddler who fights bedtime. I have a newborn. My sleep is so insanely valuable. I’m not about to give up a single wink. While I think the idea of getting up before my kids is valuable, and I would love to have quiet time in the morning to sit and relax, sip my tea, journal, and meditate – it’s not happening right now.
If I tried to make this a routine, it’s going to fail. I’m going to wind up exhausted. This is a great routine, but it doesn’t work in my life. It’s not what I need – and it’s totally okay to acknowledge that.
Routines fail for a lot of reasons – and I’ve got a whole post about why your routines don’t work – but most often, it’s for the following reasons:
- Your routine was for a lifestyle you don’t have. This may be great for your fantasy self, who keeps everything clean and has kids that behave and has never left her car keys in the fridge, but your real self – not so much.
- You tried to follow someone else’s routine. It’s something you found on a blog, that’s run by a mom with three teenagers who all seem to do their chores cheerfully. What works for her may not be what you need.
- You made it too complicated. You want to lose weight, so you decide you’re going to eat salads for lunch and work out for thirty minutes, every day! It’s a noble goal, but what happens to most people by day 3 or so? They’re struggling.
How to Create Routines That Work
When establishing your own routines, there are a few simple steps to keep in mind.
First, identify what’s already working for you. Everyone has some sort of routine. Maybe it’s something really simple, like brushing your teeth before bed. Maybe it’s sitting down to pay the bills every payday. Figure out what’s already working. You aren’t terrible with routines! You may just need to learn a better way of creating them!
Second, identify one thing that’s not working. Let me reiterate this – one thing. This is not the time to think about all the ways you can beat yourself up because you’re failing at x, y, and z. We aren’t going to magically fix everything in your life through the power of routines (that falls under “making it too complicated.”). We’re just picking the one thing to solve. In this example, we’re going to use the idea of laundry. I hate folding laundry. Laundry day was something I dreaded. So – my laundry routine was not working for me.
Third, solve the problem. You probably already have some idea for something that would fix this. If not, feel free to solicit help, think outside the box, look at what other people have done (don’t just use their routine, unless it would genuinely help you!). In my laundry example, I switched my giant laundry basket for a small one. I know, it doesn’t seem like it makes sense, but I realized I would be folding the same amount of clothing either way – would I rather do it all at once on one or two days a week, creating a monumental task I avoided, or would I rather do an easier task a few minutes at a time?
Fourth, create an association. When are you going to implement your routine? I check my laundry baskets in the morning as I go around the house. There are three baskets – the bedroom has clothing, the bathroom has towels, the laundry room has rags. I notice what needs to be done and I get it going fairly quickly in the morning. By the time lunch rolls around, the first load is dried. Then I can fold it in the afternoon while listening to a podcast.
Fifth, remember – progress over perfection. When you mess up – and you will! – don’t just throw the whole routine out as rubbish. Keep working on it. If it’s a consistent issue, figure out why your routine doesn’t work. Make tweaks. Do you need to set an alarm to remind you to do something? It’s okay to do that. Do you need to adjust it to a different part of the day? That’s fine too. Remember, routines are meant to serve you and benefit your life.
Don’t be afraid to use aids and tools to help you remember. If your goal is to reset your kitchen or living room to look a certain way at the end of the day, take some reference pictures so clutter blindness doesn’t make you miss that stack of books or piece of trash. Set alarms to prompt you. If you want to associate something with something else – for instance, you want to remember to wash your face when you brush your teeth – relocate a needed item as a prompt (so you might move your face wash next to your toothpaste). If you want to get into a habit of doing certain things on certain days, make a Trello board (I have one called “rhythms and routines”), create a list for each day, and put an alarm in your phone to prompt you to check it in the morning, or to write the next day’s items on your to-do list at night.
While I’m not advocating for your days to be as tightly regimented as a military boot camp, I definitely think anyone who is in charge of raising tiny humans could benefit from having routines in place. Routines can work for anyone – even people who think they’ve never successfully managed routines before. Just keep in mind that your routines don’t need to look the same as anyone else’s.