Scheduling & routine are dirty words in some circles. How does the clock know when your baby is tired or sleepy? So you starve them if it isn’t “time” to eat? I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty debate of attachment parenting vs. parent-directed feeding. Here I want to lay out some reasons that – no matter your personality type or parenting preference – routine benefits both your children and you.
1) Kids gain security from knowing what is next. Your children will behave better having some idea of the order of things. This is why a bedtime routine is so important because it gives the kids time to realize what is happening and to adjust their mood and disposition accordingly. If you let your kids play wildly in the evening and then – bham – pj’s and off to bed, you may have kids in bed but awake for a few hours. Smaller children particularly benefit from routine because they are not crying and fussing wondering if they are in charge of telling you when their next meal is. With both my children I found they are/were rarely fussy (except the occasional evening and during teething) because they know what happens. I’ve never forgotten to feed them and I feed them well and, because they are not the boss of life, they can and do trust me. On a mission trip in South Africa they had an interesting concept of time. They told us the clock didn’t rule them but, instead, they went by a “one thing must happen before the other thing does” mentality. So, even if something was technically 3 hours late, you didn’t jump schedule. Granted, that would kill me, but even if you hide the clocks, you can at least have a certain order to your day that brings familiarity to your kids.
2) You gain sanity and can carve out guaranteed rest. Part of what is exhilarating/exhausting about parenthood is the constant changes and surprises each day brings. If you are anything like me (and I am sure you hope you aren’t) then you have a few things in mind each day you want to accomplish. If all order was thrown out the window and those things didn’t get done, plus new things were added, instead of feeling excited for my kids’ bedtime so I could relax, I’d feel even more stressed because now I’m doing household management (cleaning, paying bills, tidying up, catching up on emails, etc.) until late. That leaves no time for reading, movies, or relaxing. Instead, I plan our day to include “me time.” Each morning we rise, eat breakfast, and actively play for around an hour. By actively play, I mean that I am on the floor with them shaking the rattle or helping color or reading books or whatever else they appear to like doing. It is quality time and gets the day started off on the right foot. Then, I put the baby down for a nap and put my toddler in her room for “independent play time.” She occupies herself (I return frequently and covertly to supervise, of course) for about an hour while I work (I work remotely from home), read or simply rest. Afterwards, we play some more and then have lunch. After lunch, at the same time so as to maximize my free time, they both go down for a nap and I work again. Then up, play, dinner, bath and bed. The time may vary slightly (although not by much because my kids are metabolised to our schedule) and the activities may change but the routine stays the same. And….by bedtime I actually have time to sew, do some project, write or read.
3) It helps you maintain a healthy sense of control over your own life and your household. I often hear mothers who don’t do routines or schedules complain that they spend half their day trying to do this or the whole afternoon trying to do that or they never know when she’ll sleep or who knows when dinner is or sometimes bedtime is at 7 or sometimes 9. While this may seem “free”, I have to admit, none of them seem particularly pleased with the situation. They sound almost as if they are waiting on their kids to fall into a routine on their own. As mothers, particularly if you are a stay at home mom, there are a few things you may have lost (temporarily or otherwise) in recent years including but not limited to: your figure, significant adult interaction, a classy wardrobe, your job, and your social life. Having control over what you do during a day will at least help you to feel in control of this season of life. You may not wear heels or makeup all day, but dadgummit, you can read a magazine if you desire. If you went from a highly structured week to one of the ebbs and flows of diapers, bottles, potty training, and kid videos, you may feel totally out of control. By establishing a routine and including time for yourself, you can keep some time for things that make you you.
4) When kids know when they have your undivided attention and when they don’t, they are far more cooperative. I find that starting our day with quality time sets us up to succeed. They aren’t wondering if I forgot them or when we’ll play because I’ve already assured them of both. Then, when I take my hour, my little toddler even smiles and says “buh bye” on my way out her door. That is because she is feeling loved and nourished, both emotionally and physically. Also, it’s easy to sit for half an hour and sing the itsy bitsy spider 37 times when you know it will eventually come to an end. Because they are used to time with me and time without, when I have a phone call or a visitor, kids are used to me needing a few uninterrupted moments because for them, it happens everyday.
So, no matter where you are on the personality scale or where you stand on scheduling, both you and your children will benefit greatly from routine. Give it a try. Use my trusty Weigh Test + Measure method and see if it doesn’t improve everyone’s mood.
PS – Visit the archives for more articles on routine, schedules and life as a mom!