There are so many ideas, methods, and variations of methods that can apply to setting up daily or weekly routines. Some families function with a whole lot of structure, others thrive on more of a “go with the flow” approach. However, I often talk to women—especially young moms—who feel like they could or should improve in their routines in some way, shape or form.
I get it. When you have a growing family, and especially when you have babies or toddlers that wake up frequently or are fighting whatever structure seemed to be working for a while, it can be really tough. However, over the years my husband and I have discovered some principles that have helped us significantly with establishing some life-giving rhythm in our days. And because I’m asked about this topic fairly often I thought I’d share a few of those principles with you.
Now, before I go any further I want to state plainly that I don’t expect everyone to adopt all the ideas below or assume that they will work for every family in every situation. Everyone has different circumstances, ages, work schedules, mealtimes, and so on, making it absurd to claim that there is a “one size fits all” method. However, these principles I’ll be sharing can be adapted to fit different methods. Meaning: these can be applied to various families and situations, able to be tweaked as your family grows and changes.
So, if you’re in a place of feeling the need for fresh inspiration in the area of routine I hope these will be an encouragement to you.
1. First Discipline, Then Flexibility
For the first 2 or three years of our marriage my husband and I realized we were functioning more out of flexibility than discipline, and that that was causing problems. We were always making space for the unexpected, which meant that many of the necessary, daily life tasks (like doing laundry or budgeting) would get pushed to the side all the time. This really came to a head once we started having kids, because we both felt like important tasks were continually on the back burner with no space to catch up on them later. This is when we realized that we needed to start functioning first with the default of discipline (or structure) rather than flexibility.
This was a complete game-changer. Not only did we have time to accomplish the important and necessary tasks, but we also could see more clearly where we could be flexible. It did mean saying no more often to outside opportunities (especially for me), but the level of order it brought to our home and to my mental state was so worth it.
We started by establishing a simple roadmap for our week. We plugged in the non-negotiable tasks first, which helped us see which time slots were available for things like getting together with people or other outside-the-home activities. This means that when it’s necessary to be flexible, we have the ability to switch things around while also having a framework to return to.
We’ve had to modify this weekly roadmap over the years as life circumstances change and we’ve added things like homeschooling to the mix. However, establishing this pattern has been invaluable in maintaining healthy structure in our days.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of mothering it’s that there is no magic potion that helps you skip the step of consistency in establishing a routine or rhythm. It takes a commitment to day after day, week after week of establishing a pattern for your children to follow. This seems to be especially hard when your oldest is a toddler, and has no older siblings to follow. You as a mom also have no previous experience to go off of, making it easy to second-guess yourself. Don’t be discouraged or assume you’re necessarily doing something wrong if it takes time. It is going to take time. Our kiddos will fight boundaries until they realize we are serious about keeping them. And some kids may push for a long time (speaking from experience). But don’t throw in the towel. Keep pressing on, and eventually you will begin to see progress.
This doesn’t mean a method can’t be tweaked to stay consistent. For example, when our oldest was two he started pushing back hard against naps. We knew he still needed one to function until bedtime, but telling him he needed to go to sleep seemed to make it worse. So, we changed our tactics a bit. We started calling his nap time “rest time” and told him he didn’t need to sleep, just quietly read books and play with animals on his bed until I said he could get up. This ended up doing the trick. As soon as we told him he didn’t have to nap, we found him fast asleep 20 minutes later. We changed our approach, but kept the consistency.
To this day we still have a regular rest time (our oldest is going on 8), and each new kiddo we’ve added to our family has fallen into the established pattern we put in place. It just took a commitment to long-term consistency and some willingness to tweak things as needed along the way. We’ve seen this work with bedtime, snack time, play time, family worship time, and all other “times” we’ve applied this to.
3. Use Time Blocks
This one has been particularly helpful for days when it’s necessary to change up our normal schedule, like Sundays when we have church and community group, or if we have out-of-town visitors. If our normal time for something like lunchtime or rest time is thrown off, we just shift it later or earlier and call it the same thing (we literally refer to pretty much everything with “time” at the end, haha). So even though we usually have lunch at noon and rest time at 1, it doesn’t throw us into a tailspin if we have to change it for a day or two. Our kids have gotten used to this, and generally handle it really well.
It also helps with areas like homeschooling, because if I’m running behind or have some kind of appointment I can just shift the time a bit for what fits best for that day.
As much as we want our kids to know the value of structure, we also want them to understand that life is not rigid, and there are legitimate times to change a routine. It has helped our kiddos learn to be adaptable as well as appreciate normal daily rhythms.
4. Ask God for Wisdom
This one is last, but it’s certainly not least. God uniquely put together each family with various needs and callings, so although there are helpful examples we can follow we will still require wisdom from the Lord for the circumstances we face that aren’t found in books.
One of my favorite and most applied verses is James 1:5:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
As Christians we aren’t simply dependent upon our own understanding or the wisdom this world offers us. We have an invaluable and infinite source of wisdom available to us that enables us to live every moment of our lives for God’s glory. He has called us to function differently, which requires His wisdom down to the smallest of details, including daily routines. It’s not silly to invite God into our planning: it is the wisest thing we can do as we seek the best way to structure our days.
So when it’s time to figure out how to fit in regular chores or music lessons, ask God for wisdom. When you feel like your bedtimes are hectic and no effort on your part is changing that, ask God for wisdom. When it’s time to potty train your child, but you’re not sure how to handle that with all your other tasks, ask God for wisdom (this one may or may not be a personal reminder). God promises to give it when we ask in faith and trust He will provide it.
Remember, friend, you’re not alone as you wrestle through establishing structure for your days. Every mom faces the struggles of feeling behind or overwhelmed or unsure of how to create order in some area (or many). But God will give you what you need for today. He has called you to the season you are in now, and He will not leave or forsake you. Rest in His love for you, and continue to press forward in faith as you pursue grace-empowered excellence for His glory.
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