The Rhythm of Your Day: Routines

How many times have you heard a parenting expert suggest waking 15 minutes before everybody else to get a few moments to yourself? It’s great advice if you can implement it. My kids were early risers for years, though, and I couldn’t follow it. What I needed was to notice the points in my day when I could take short breaks. When the triplets were babies, for example, they were rarely all asleep at the same time; I trained myself to sit down and rest if they were. It could be days before it happened again.

Parents hold the schedule for the family. We don’t always get to plan the schedule in as much detail as we like. Appointments with doctors, therapists, teachers, etc. are often at inconvenient times. Extra-curricular activities often have their own schedules. Part of running a family is holding that framework, doing the planning to make sure things happen.¬†For some families, the schedule is more manageable than others.

Managing a schedule is not just an intellectual activity. Sure, we can sit down with our calendar and write down who needs to be where and when. We can plan meals based on the prep time we have available, who will be home to eat, what people like to eat, and what the budget will allow. And that is all good. But it isn’t necessarily enough.

Some kids need a lot of routine. Some parents do, too. And some folks need unstructured time in bigger chunks than our days allow. Every person has different body rhythms and living at somebody else’s rhythm puts stress on our bodies.

Three things happen with family schedules: 1) They are too rigid, without ever having time for spontaneity; 2) They are too loose and are constantly being negotiated; or 3) They flow reasonably and get adjusted when necessary.

For those of us who are feeling either trapped by our routines or frazzled by constantly having to make scheduling decisions, bringing awareness to what routines our bodies want can help us see where we can make changes that support us.

In addition, even if we can’t actively make changes, simply becoming aware of what our own bodies want validates our own experience. We may make sacrifices for our children, but we should not let ourselves become blind martyrs for them. Making choices is empowering. But without awareness, we cannot make choices. This week’s activities are designed to help you become aware of your needs.