Figuring out a routine that works best for your family starts with establishing anchors in your day. Anchors are your priorities. The stuff you need to function daily. Things like, food, sleep, clothes, time together, and for our family, we need time with Jesus. When the speed of life increases, these anchors are the handle bars that keep us balanced.
What do your daily anchors look like?
“A place for everything, and everything in its place.”
It’s proof Benjamin Franklin had kids when he coined the phrase, ‘A place for everything, and everything in its place’. There is nothing more frustrating than your child releasing the flood gates of tears, theatrically throwing themselves to the floor in the rush out the door, and declaring despondently, “Someone stole my shoes!!”
No one stole her shoes.
The child just didn’t put them away. Where is ‘away’ for your kids?
We need to ‘grab and go’ so often, that easy access to the front or back door became our logical spot for a basket for shoes, coat hangers, backpacks, purse, and keys. Establishing a ‘grab and go’ spot recaptures moments of your day, prevents stress, and reserves energy that helps you make it to the end of your day without the two finger salute and premature mic drop to your husband and kids, saying “mom out.”
A successful day starts the night before.
There are many a night I’m giving Hugh Jackman a run for his money with my ‘Greatest Show’. Seriously. We’re one tent away from being a full blown circus. While my three teenagers are gearing up for their golden hours, my seven and five year old are crossing the threshold of their daily emotional capacity and I find myself asking, “what is happening?!” My husband and I have come to terms with the fact that age plays a critical part in ‘killing it like the cool parents’. Our golden hours are earlier in the day than they used to be, and our threshold for emotional capacity reflects similarly to the 7 and 5 year olds’ when bedtime rolls around. But, with age comes wisdom because, well, experience is the best teacher, right?! Why succumb to the chaos? Where sheer energy and youthful vigor is lacking, thoughtful strategy comes into play.
So let’s talk strategy.
My best evening routines begin with a meal plan. When I go to the grocery store, I determine five dinners, lunch options, and easy breakfasts that we could prepare over the course of seven days. It’s simple meals including dump it all in crockpot kind of meals, salad prepared one night and eaten throughout the week, cereal, yogurt, and eggs for breakfast. It’s meals that minimize my time in the kitchen. The key is keeping it simple, thinking about it ahead of time, and knowing what’s for dinner at the beginning of the day. That way, you can head off some of the crazy before it begins and avoid your 5 year sobbing and saying, “PIZZA, again?!” At the end of the school year.
Protect your table.
Having a meal plan also helps you protect your table. Table time means together time, sitting face to face, and connecting with your people. Connection time recharges relationships and gives opportunities for parents to check spiritual, mental, emotional, and social vital signs. Sometimes it’s a 25 minute breakfast with someone sharing take-aways from their morning devotional, a short Bible reading, or a scripture with conversation and questions led by dad. It’s hard, I know, with large families, teenagers with thriving social lives, sports…but we have to be intentional, or those face to face moments just don’t happen. With a 17, 15, 13, 7, and 5 year old, we’re fortunate to have one meal a day where we see the whites of every offspring’s eyes. It’s our aim, though, and those anchors we talked about? Well, it kills two birds with one stone.
Prepare for tomorrow today.
Immediately after dinner commences preparations for our tomorrow. It’s all hands on deck cleaning up the kitchen, clearing the table, making lunches for the next day, prepping backpacks, and for the littles, initiating bedtime routines such as laying out uniforms, baths, hygiene, etc. This is the time we’ve allotted for 30-60 minutes of chore time a day: changing sheets, sweeping, cleaning up from supper, helping siblings, taking out trash. This is where everyone works together for each other to contribute to something greater than themselves. This is the cornerstone of team work while keeping a unit moving forward and consistently successful.
Instead of putting leftovers in one big container, we bag them up for possible lunches throughout the week. I’ve found making lunches is easiest while the kitchen is still active, but I know what you’re thinking: “Leftovers? I wish. My kids will not eat leftovers in their lunches.” Yeah, I get it. Mine, too, but…use the leftovers. Bag them up. One meal is not going to kill them, and you’re simplifying for the greater good, and Hey! Just think. Here’s an opportunity to teach gratitude or better yet, the value of a dollar. If they don’t like it, send them outside with their lemonade stand and sign saying, “Proceeds benefitting my Chick-fi-la hot lunch.”
Preparing uniforms for tomorrow today means dedicating ample time for your teens to throw their uniforms and athletic gear in the wash so that what they need is ready for their bags the night before…because you know how vital clean air supply is to you and every precious life that rides with that athletic bag in your car.
Take it from the mother of the kid who shows up to church with a left and right shoe from two different pairs… Lay out the uniform, with socks and shoes the night before. Make sure they’re clean, lest you find yourself too tired and time crunched to wash it the morning of. Don’t be that mom who sprays their uniform with wrinkles release hoping people assume the obvious stains gracing the front of their uniform are remnants from that morning’s breakfast… (I’ve totally heard some moms do that). Avoid the pre-sunrise nuclear melt down.
Once all the preparations for tomorrow subside,
budget wind down time and SLEEP.
Littles need cuddles, teens need to talk, and momma needs her alone time. Every night is different with more pressing needs than others, but mom is wise to budget time for bringing the day to a close. Studies have shown children sleep better with a few minutes of comfort and security accompanying bedtime. This may look like chatting, snuggles, prayers, songs, Bible stories. To each his own, but nonetheless, time allotted is important enough to prioritize establishing those anchors in your day.
Budget wind up time.
When setting the alarm clocks, budget enough time for winding up. Know thyself. How much time do you need to get going? Do you have teenagers that remind you of a zombie apocalypse in the wee hours of the day? Give them grace. Help them go to bed. Get them up earlier. Give them coffee. Give a cushion of time for the unpredictable, so budget extra time before school.
Have a weekly pow-wow.
After a full week of strenuous schedules, designate time during your weekend for a family pow-wow. This very well might be the time where you need to pass a peace pipe or a talking stick. Working out conflict in the home is important, but make this time lighthearted. We call it Family Night in our house: the one night a week where we lock the front door and focus on each other. It’s the night we play games, watch a movie, embarrass our kids by showing them how we’ve learned the trendy new dance move, or introduce them to the most ridiculous aspects of our childhood pop culture on YouTube.
We also take a few minutes to sync calendars and talk through the week. For those of you with teens, this is a wonderful venue for teaching them structure, time management, important skills like how to set priorities, meet deadlines, become more independent, and develop habits of self-care. Take a few minutes during a time of non-conflict to help your kids think through realistic routines for themselves that would help them become most productive with their time. They’ll thank you, and you’ll thank yourself.
This is the NO Judgment Zone.
I had a friend once who said she practiced her back to school routine by throwing one kid’s shoe on top of the refrigerator, dropping a phone in the toilet, emptying bowls of cereal all over the breakfast table, and placing her keys in the freezer. ‘Back to school’ can issue quite the shock factor, for even if you start out strong at the beginning of the year, the thought of the avalanche of end of school year events seem daunting.
Identify the anchors where you need routine. Keep it simple. Maybe it means starting with one. Whatever you decide to do, know you’re in good company! This is the NO JUDGMENT ZONE.
Some of this is trial and error where your most successful routines will be conceived out of your biggest failures.
It’s a new year with new blessings.
So…git it, y’all.
It’s a race to the finish line. Make the most of the time you’ve been given.
By Becky Collier: Wife. KPA mother of 5. Domestic Engineer. Christ follower. Seeker of beauty and truth. Lover of coffee, laughter, and good conversation.