Our family is coming out of an especially busy 2020. In a short 8 weeks, we moved house twice (yes, twice!), started a new life in a small town, and welcomed the arrival of our baby girl. Somewhere along the road to our new life, routine fell out the window and we kept on driving; too much to do to stop!
Baby Esther was around 8 weeks old, and Reuben had started mastering the toilet, when I found myself feeling constantly agitated. Between managing reflux and colic symptoms in Esther, meltdowns and naptime battles with Reuben, there was nothing left. I was a shell, forgetting any and all things left right and centre. I struggled to remember when, or even if, I had taken my medication and vitamins, when my newborn should be due for another feed, and when the last time Reuben used the toilet was (wet pants being an all-too-late reminder). With these day to day tasks a chore to remember, my brain was at capacity; working overtime to keep our heads above water. I was getting through each day, but also wondering what had happened to the day; how did it all go downhill and how do I prevent it tomorrow?
Arranging playdates seemed particularly difficult because when I was asked “What’s a good time for you and the kids?” I simply had no idea. I didn’t know when my children would be asleep, or having their snacks, or when we would be ready for the day. No idea. Something needed to be done. We needed routine. I needed a visual reminder of how our day flows.
I did what many mothers of young children do for inspiration (but probably shouldn’t); I went to Pinterest. I searched “toddler routine boards”; “family routine display”; “daily routine”; and felt utterly, hopelessly overwhelmed. How am I, struggling to find the mental space in a normal day to make sure my toddler (and I) brushes his teeth, going to find time to build a Pinterest and Instagram worthy routine board? I wasn’t. It would sit in the spare room with my craft and sewing projects, nagging at my self confidence. But it needed to be done, so I just started.
As a minimum, I needed to know what things were essential to my day. I jotted them down on a scrap piece of paper and stuck it to the fridge. I thought this piece of paper was so insignificant that I eventually threw it away. I should have kept it to remind me how to just get on with it!
After a few days, I could say with confidence that I took my medication and vitamins and we both brushed our teeth twice each day! Over these days I made use of the extra time I spent with Reuben drawing little cartoons to represent our essential activities. I drew these onto cardboard I found in the craft box and used Blu-Tak to arrange them on the wall. They’re certainly nothing to be Pinterest or Instagram proud of, but three weeks in, and my little boy can tell you what we do after breakfast, when we brush our teeth, and even gets excited about (some) toilet time.
Just one week into this routine and I can breathe a little lighter; we are back to regularly baking bread in the mornings, the garden is being watered everyday, and we all have fresh minty breath. Three weeks into the routine, and I can tell you that we are generally ready to leave the house at 9am, but if we push it for 8:30am, Esther will sleep in the car and probably get a good nap in. If we try later we’ll have to wake her up to go anywhere before 10am. When a day feels derailed, a quick glance at the routine tells me what’s next on our agenda, and what the absolute essentials are. Is Reuben cranky after naptime? Well we’ll just go feed the chooks and check their water now, and we have time for an impromptu walk, trip to the pool or whatever else might get us back on track!
I’m excited to add to my routine and expand the idea in the coming weeks; on Monday mornings we walk, on Wednesdays we go to KinderGym, and every afternoon we start getting dinner ready. I may even get fancy by making cards to swap out for specific activities like bread baking, walks, and car trips.
It’s so simple; a few cards on the wall have made my everyday just that little bit lighter. I have more time, and mental and emotional space to play! To enjoy tea parties, newborn laughs, and pushing babies on the swing set. What a true blessing it is to enjoy motherhood, if not all of the time, at least a lot of it. No matter how rough around the edges, if you have an idea to simplify your life, just get on with it. Your time is too precious to spend flailing about like a headless chook!