In today’s fast-paced, Industrialized world where you get confused about what you need to do today to what actually happened yesterday, having a routine can be a head-space saver. I couldn’t imagine waking up without some sort of a plan. As they say, if you don’t have a plan, you become a part of someone else’s plan (Terence Mckenna). I know spontaneity has its place but the fuller your hands are as a woman, daughter and especially a mom, the more crucial it is to have a routine that works.
The Collective Filipino Family and Routines
In a collective culture like the one in the Philippines, you might be able to get away with a more relaxed routine to almost-to-none at all. The more access you have to others’ free hands( a.k.a. neighbor, barkada, tita , lola ) to keep yours empty once in a while so you can grab a bite to eat or heaven forbid, to take a shower without the alarm clock ticking (in your head).
Once I traveled with my twin babies back in the Islands with my husband and because we had a ratio of 1:1 adult to baby, the only way we can eat is to have third person assist us. I purposely chose to travel using Philippine Airlines because I expected that this would not be a long-standing problem since my cultural expectation is that someone will come rescue us from our growling stomach.
It didn’t take long before a lola and another woman, we called Tita throughout our trip, swiftly took our children from our hands with the subtle permission of, “Akin na yan para makakain ka,” (let me take the baby so you can eat).
And, so we did.
Individualistic Culture and Routine
If you live in America, Europe, Australia and other parts of the world where the value of being independent stands in the core of societal measurement of success, you will find that parenting can keep your hands full- really full.
Consider yourself lucky if you have the type of social support that seems almost identical to what you had (or generations before you) back in the Philippines. This is not the norm.
For many, even if you have your mom live close by or you have a tight-knit barkada already established, the demands of work and life, and paying bills can take you off your gameplan of feeling good as a mama and giving much needed time for play with your children.
You don’t have to choose either.
Good enough mothering is staying in alignment to your idea of what you should be as a mother.
This should be your idea and not someone else’s. Sometimes our ideas have to change and evolve. You do this at your discretion and at your own pace.
If you love your work and you confidently believe that you are more joyful as a mother by doing the work you love, BE in alignment with this.
If you feel that part-time work can give you a balance of adult time and lots of creative ways to hang out with your kids, BE in alignment with this.
If you feel that staying home with your children fully or at a certain phase in their lives fuels your motherly instinct, stay in alignment with this.
How do you know if you’re in alignment with your ideals of being a good-enough mother?
If you find yourself overwhelmed on some days because life can be tough-this is normal.
But if you’re stressed out/burn-out as a mama, this is an indicator that you’re not in alignment and may need to re-calibrate your lifestyle to fit your good enough mothering definition or vice-versa.
Yup, you can change your idea about mothering. This is ok.
Here are some clues to look for if you’re in the right mama space:
If you feel nurtured as a mother and a woman- you are in alignment.
If you don’t hear yourself complaining about- “I don’t have enough time.” You are in alignment.
If you don’t give other moms a bad look for having to work part-time or not at all. You’re in alignment.
If you come home (most days) looking forward to seeing your children. If you’re a stay-at-home, you feel good watching your children’s smiles even though you’re secretly counting down the hours to nap time. You’re normal. You’re in alignment.
When you know deep inside that you are a positive role-model for your children with whatever mama lifestyle you choose. You are in alignment.
If you find yourself exhausted and running on an empty tank on most days. You may need time and space to re-think your mama lifestyle or reach out for support.
Assessing Your Family’s Style
I am a big fan of routine. When my husband was working graveyard shifts and I was left alone with babies back-to-back for 4 days, having a routine kept my head above water.
A routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed.
I remember when we needed to buy our family vehicle when my twin babies where 5 months old. I was able to tell the car dealership agent that my twins sleep from 12-2pm and that is the only window I can do my car-buying paperwork. It was heavenly. Paperwork was completed before 2pm and we were back home by the time the twins woke up from their nap.
In my case, I don’t have family around to help us to be an extra set of hands for my children. My husband and I are IT.
Therefore, my type of routine is more on the scheduled side. Maybe a bit more firm for some. But, I promise you, any kind of routine can work. It will work if you have a consistent schedule be it more rigid or flexible.
To have a routine just doesn’t work wonders for your mental health but allows your children the space to regulate their emotions because they know what’s happening next. This means less fussing and tantrums.
It also teaches them healthy boundary setting (watch for a future post specifically on this topic. Subscribe to get notified). Nap time is a time to rest and a time for you to catch your breath.
One concern that parents who don’t have a routine or is yet to set-up one is that the worry that kids will be “too robotic.” If you find a schedule that fits your family’s lifestyle, it should feel good and that you’re just in the “flow” after at least 1 week of consistently implementing it in your household.
Contrary to this worry, routine allows your children to feel freer because they are not imprisoned by their unregulated emotions. My current routine with my 4 year old twins, allow plenty of time for “Free Play.” One of my fav things in my day is playing with my kids. To be honest, if I don’t have a routine and kids are just wild, and playing without limits, I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy it as much.
Before you start a routine or change an existing one, it’s important to assess your family’s lifestyle and pacing.
Here are some questions/factors to consider-
How early do you start your day?
Ideal time for meals?
Do you want your children to nap or have quiet time? I’m impartial on this. I think children will benefit from either.
Support system available to you?
How creative are you as a parent?
Adult work schedule at home?
Ideal time for bed?
How much technology (IPAD, TV) is acceptable to you? I advised no more than 2 hours per day.
There are many other variables to consider depending on your family’s needs and schedule. Your routine will also vary greatly with your child’s age. For school-aged kids, your routine will be around before and after school. Younger kids in the home or in school part-time will benefit from a more consistent, time-block schedule.
Time blocking means there is a designated task/action taking place on a specific time range. For moms who prefer the more scheduled pace, this means an actual time slot for an activity. Here’s an example of mine:
How To Set-up a Routine
Start with the basics. The easiest to work with are meal times and nap/bedtimes. Consider a 30 minute range in the beginning. For example, if you decide that it’s best for your kiddos to have breakfast at 8:30 am.
Set it up like this-
BREAKFAST 8:30-9:30 (start time).
Meaning, you will start breakfast between this time. If you like a more firm schedule, lessen the time range to 15 minutes. Write this down on a piece of paper, stick it on your fridge, especially in the beginning phases of establishing your routine. Create a visual for your kids so they can follow along. This works wonders!
You could set up nap times/ quiet time or bedtime concurrently as you establish your mealtime schedule. If you decide that you want kids to be down for a nap at 1pm. Establish a precursor activity that will alarm your kids that nap time is coming to a near. It could be that you have them listen to an audio book while you’re cleaning the kitchen for 20 minutes or have them watch a video for 30 minutes. Start the precursor activity around 12:20pm so that you can give your kids enough time for a 5 minute and 10 minute warnings, and also so you’re not rushing them to dreamland.
Next point is to give enough allowance for your kids to get to dreamland (to fall asleep). Setting up their room to be darker and to have sleep time lullabies and other routine only done to establish sleep is most helpful. For my 4 year old twins, I let them read one short book.
For all my babies, I intentionally don’t use the crib for anything else other than for sleep. I also sing a song once I hit the stairs to get to our 2nd floor bedroom. All of my children have “stuff babies.” they’re not allowed to have unless its nap time.
Once you’ve established mealtimes and nap times, you can incorporate other activities in your schedule. If you’ve set up a routine from the getco, activities can all be established at the same time because your children don’t know any different.
Multiple Children in the Home and Routine-setting
If you have a baby, a toddler and a school-aged child, you might think that setting up a routine for each child can be crazy-making . As it is healthy to honor that each child is unique and follows a unique developmental phase path; it’s very possible to keep a routine that works with everyone on most days.
My 4 year old twins nap at 2pm and so when I had my baby boy, my goal is that I slowly transition him to nap as close as possible to 2pm. This didn’t happen overnight of course. I had to observe his sleep needs while slowly conditioning him to sleep-wake-play-eat and back again for a few months. At 6 months old, he was napping at 1:30 pm and at 9 months old at 2pm, the same time as my twin girls. This is when I do my boogie, happy dance!
I had the same goal with his bedtime. My twin girls’ bedtime is between 8:15-8:30 pm and Feliphe (my baby boy) between 8:00-8:15 pm.
Most babies go down before 8pm but if I put Feliphe down earlier than 7:45 pm, i know that he’ll be up by 5:30-6am. This is a busy time in my household for me to workout and get everything ready for the day, so he must stay down (if I can help it. It works on most days).
The trick to this is to schedule a power nap in between rather than extending the interval of his sleep until he reaches 8pm. I don’t recommend doing this. This will result to a bedtime-refusing baby whose highly irritated.
So, it will look like this- if Feliphe wakes up at 3:20 from his nap; he will be put down at 5:50pm for a quick 20 minute nap. The older your child, the longer sleep interval he/she can take. I know pretty soon, my baby boy will drop his power nap and be able to do 4-5 hours before his next sleep cycle.
Keeping It Real & Sustainable
The sooner you teach your children routine, the more manageable life gets on a daily basis. I’ve worked full-time, stayed-at-home and worked part-time. My hat goes off to stay at home moms especially with little people in the home because this stage is just pure work. You can’t even drink your coffee straight up-slowly. Ya know, someone’s butt always need to be wiped and someone’s tummy is always hungry (Costco help me!).
It’s magical. To have a routine will allow you to carve some time for hobbies you think you didn’t have time for. It gives you a designated time for your downtime and children are much happier with one.
Keep your routine as simple as possible and allow wiggle room for change. Routines are meant to make your life easier, not stressful.
Stay consistent and trust that with clear expectations and explanations will help your children thrive. Believe that as much as you want them to be happy, your children want to please you. But, it’s unfair to expect them to be consistent if you’re not doing the same in teaching them what is expected of them.
Use support system and incorporate them into your routine if possible. If grandma can pick up Junior from school on Fridays, accept and be gracious about it.
As your children get older, slowly allow them the independence to feel in control of their routine/schedule not necessarily by making it but by giving them the space to regulate their actions. For example, when my children were younger and watching a video before nap time, I give them a couple of warnings (at 10 & 5 minutes) and then count to 10 before I turn-off the TV. Now, we’ve transitioned to still giving them the 10 & 5 minute warning but trusting them to count to 10 while I leave the remote control with them so they turn off the TV without my assistance.
To create a sustainable routine, observe your children, your family’s lifestyle and be willing to stick to it or change it if it needs updating.
I hope this was helpful, friends. As always, I would love for you to share this post on facebook or liking it. I wrote this with you in mind.