To be fair, I’ve always been fairly pro-routines. In my single days, I meticulously created routines and then systematically rebelled from them, only to recreate them once again – over time perfecting various routines that I felt ready to commit to, that number ever increasing each year. I was steadily making My Way in adulthood.
When I met the Wife she unapologetically enthusiastic about routines. From her gym rat ways, to routines around garbage day and the daily needs of the diabetic cat, this woman loves her a pattern that keeps life working smoothly and efficiently.
So we began forging routines together, with all due push and pull.
But when Baby O was born we both quickly and surely embraced routines with new fervor. And it’s become a kind of parenting religion for us. We quickly saw how routines created security for Baby O and sanity for us.
Which is why this recent piece from Motherlode jumped out for me:
“A day that follows an established pattern is usually a day without meltdowns (theirs or mine). It’s a day when things aren’t forgotten or overlooked. Needs are met…
..I’ve laughed at many a parent who said no to something fun because of nap time or a preference for an evening at home. But while I won’t turn down the fantastic, I have started to turn down the kind of fun that I know will turn a pleasant, routine afternoon into the family equivalent of a manic episode.”
I too had some judgment about overly strict parents with seemingly no flexibility. And maybe some would now say that about me. But as it turns out, routines for us are liberating:
Because of our bedtime routine, Baby O knows when it’s time to go to bed and gets tired on schedule each day and goes down with relative ease. We can *mostly* predict when he will be asleep and make plans accordingly – a date night, for instance, or plan to cook a complex dinner around his sleep schedule (eg – get the marinade done before bedtime, let the chicken soak while we do bath time, and cook once he’s down and while we drink wine).
Because we finally figured out a daytime nap routine, we are much more willing to take a walk outside or go on an outing.
Because of our routine, we can be intentional about when we disrupt the norm – like a later night out with Baby O – and have some idea of what he will need as a consequence.
Because of routine I have a good sense when breastfeeding will incite a fussy, irritable baby and when I can have a calm, connected and productive nursing session.
Because of routine, by the end of my first week back at work, Baby O had reached relative acceptance about the new normal and felt confident that while I left in the morning, I would return to him again.
For us, routine has created security, predictability, yes, freedom, and meaning. Because routines give way to rituals – and rituals mark time, celebrate moments of life (in the case of Baby O – bedtime and waking up in the morning) and signify value. And for us, what I have discovered, the ultimate value is the investment in our shared experiences that we can carve out the time and head space for because we have the routines to support it.