Routine is Key to Surviving the Lonely Seas of Motherhood
“Is it time to go to the gym?” my three year old asks me as I’m cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast.
“Almost,” I answer. “What do we have to do first?”
“Brush teeth!” She answers. My 16 month old looks up at me, opens her mouth and says “ahhhh.”
Being a stay at home parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world. You are always on. There are almost no breaks. Your children are entirely dependent on you in ways that you did not anticipate. There are days where you will hate being touched or just want to go back to bed but neither are options.
And yet, there are ways to survive.
My household thrives on routine. Every day is fairly similar: get up, get dressed, eat breakfast and then head out. Almost every morning, I drop the kids off at my gym’s daycare and workout for an hour or so. Then we run errands or have a playdate. Lunch is at 11:45. By 2 PM, both kids are napping and I get some time to myself. The girls are up by 4:30, dinner is at 5 and then they play or watch a movie until we go upstairs at 7 PM for bedtime.
Sure, the routine varies periodically. Maybe we skip the gym and spend a full day with the girls’ cousins or maybe we hit up storytime at Barnes and Noble or the library instead of having a playdate. On Fridays, we go to music class before the gym. Once my toddler starts preschool, the routine will be altered again, but I try to keep it as familiar as possible for both kids.
And for myself.
I became a stay at home mom in 2014. My daughter was born at the end of August and my husband and I had decided that I should stay home with her. She was an absolute blessing after three years of infertility treatments and I could not bear to leave her.
This September marks the start of my fourth year of being home. As a former teacher, I still think of the year as starting in September. You can take the girl out of the classroom…
My mother had stayed home with my siblings and I until I was in school full time. I knew that I wanted to do the same. I loved the time with my mom. She was always there to help out with homework and to cook dinner and tuck us into bed. I wanted to be that kind of mom too.
What I was not prepared for was the loneliness of being alone all day with two barely verbal people.
I did not realize I would feel overwhelmed and frustrated more often than not. I did not anticipate that I would survive all morning knowing that naps were just around the corner. I did not think that I would resent my husband for having all of the household work on my shoulders (never mind that he has all of the financial burden on his).
However, I was determined to make staying home work for everyone.
I am a very organized person who believes that children thrive on routine. I have always been a stickler for nap times and regular meals. I am also someone who yearns for quiet time for myself, whether than means vegging out in front of the TV or reading a book. I need this to be a functional person and therefore had to learn to structure my day around a routine in order to carve out that small period of time for myself.
I had to learn to put my needs ahead of the kids.
Eventually I figured out that the best way for me to start the day was to get up at 6, eat breakfast, exercise and shower before my late sleepers even woke up. It was hard to drag myself out of bed when the alarm went off, but it was the only time I had to exercise until we joined a gym a couple months ago so I just had to do it. Eating breakfast on my own also gives me a little time to breathe, think and scroll through Facebook. It is one of the few moments I have alone all day.
Our mornings do tend to be a lot of rushing around. I try to minimize this by picking out outfits the night before and preparing breakfasts before the girls wake up. I try to get us out the door by 9 AM every day so I can make it to whatever morning class I am taking at the gym.
I have built a lovely network of mom friends over the last couple years so I fill our weeks with playdates that start around 10:30 so we always have somewhere to be after the gym. Getting out of our house and socializing does wonders for both the girls and I. Adult contact has been easier as the kids have gotten older and can play more independently.
As for the household, I designated specific days for specific tasks. Laundry gets done every Tuesday and Friday. Garbages are dumped on Sundays and Wednesdays. Thursdays and Sundays laundry is folded and put away. The dishwasher is typically run every other day.
I have tried to figure out which tasks I can get away with doing while the kids are awake. My theory here is that I am encouraging them to develop stronger imaginations through independent play while I cook dinner or swiffer the floors.
I also make sure that I get outside at least once a day, whether that means taking a walk with the girls after dinner or strolling to the mailbox during naps.
My work as a freelance writer has been a blessing. Of course there are some weeks when deadlines are looming and the girls refuse to cooperate with napping at the same time. But most days, I relish that hour or so to myself every afternoon to be creative and bring in a little money for myself. Having an adult interest also helps break up the monotony of our days.
I cannot claim that being a stay at home mom was exactly what I thought it would be.
There are days when I long for a job outside of the home and for my kids to be at school every day. However, when my toddler is snuggling and reading books with me or my baby jumps up and down in her crib with excitement when I get her up, I know that I made the right choice. At some point, I will have to go back to work and learn a whole new way of parenting with a full time job, but for now, I am grateful for the sacrifices that my husband and I made in order for me to be home with them.