Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Routine Post

Today I discovered something about routines: I love them. As a mom of 5 kids under 7, my life depends on them. This is only a slight exaggeration.

Here's what has happened: my husband has changed from an early morning shift to an evening shift at work. This means not only more sleep for him, but also a complete do-over of the familiar familial routines. Here's a snapshot of my brain:

Here's a rough translation of a two second spurt of thought static from the morning:
Instead of having Daddy home for lunch and supper, he is home for breakfast and lunch. We'll make breakfast smaller and lunch bigger, call it dinner and have a lighter meal in the evening. That's better for summer anyway. Who wants to eat in the heat of the day? Oh and since he's home during the morning, we'll have to adjust the school schedule so that we don't interfere with family time. All our cuddly Daddy times of readings and prayers will have to take place upon waking up instead of upon settling down. Things I do that depend on two adults being available will have to be shifted from the afternoons to the mornings. Yes, and let's not even think about what is going to happen to my errands. I don't want to cry. I'm really happy about this change. Let's just not think about that for now.
Because every single family routine was affected by the change, I found myself having to think about everything through the entire morning. It was mentally exhausting! So much of my attention was absorbed with trying to be sure I remembered to do this or that vitally important but relatively mindless family function (like diapering, tossing in a few loads of laundry, getting those kids who are potty-training to the potty) that I had no time to think clearly about anything else. The only thing I didn't have to think about was coffee. My husband kept me well plied.

Did I ever tell you I was married to a smart man? He's a very, very smart man.

Having the morning disrupted today has shown me how much I grind out in my daily grind. Putting tasks into routines helps me get them out of the way. All of the time and mental effort of a routine is spent establishing that routine in the first place. By applying my thought and effort up front (it takes about two weeks to get a routine rolling) I never need to apply effort again: it's automatic. The real glory is that by using routines for routine things I'm free to apply planning and effort to more important tasks.

I hope I'm getting smarter as I get older. In this instance, I just may have. When I was a young woman I hated routines and avoided them thinking they would squelch my spirit and make of me a slave. Instead, with experience I've found routines do the exact opposite. They set me free.

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