Over the past few weeks, life across the nation has been turned upside down. As many of us find ourselves faced with shelter-in-place, working from home, and homeschooling, even the tried and true daily routines have gone out the window.
How do you set a new routine? How do you make a routine that can adjust when life throws you a curveball? I’ve gone back to the basics with my family to establish a new daily routine that works for everyone.
The most important aspect of choosing a daily routine that works for your family is communication. You know what you have to get done in a day, but, as a mama, you don’t exist in isolation.
Communicate with your partner.
Start with your partner and allow the communication to be two-sided. Try thinking of communication with regards to the daily routine as a collaboration session between you and your partner.
Each of you should have the opportunity to share what you hope to accomplish, when you need to be working, and when you will be available to help with the kids and other household tasks.
Avoid the mama tendency to simply gather information and figure out how to do it all yourself. Give yourself permission to ask your partner for help and communicate the big picture so you both are on the same page.
Communicate with your kids.
Kids are major factors in the daily routine! Regardless of your kids’ ages, their needs and activities play a role in what the family routine looks like.
Start by making sure your kids are aware of the daily routine and expectations. If you have young children, consider creating a magnet chart with the daily tasks in order.
For older children, consider this time of communication a collaboration session. Get some input on what your kids see as important pieces of the daily routine and share your thoughts on what the day should look like. Together, formulate a plan that includes the desires of the kids and the needs of the parents.
Communication is key not only in planning the routine but also in implementing a routine. Try not to focus only on what may not have gone according to plan, but seek out those tiny pieces that did work. Be gracious with yourself, your partner, and your kids as everyone settles into something new.
Plan and Delegate
Another key component of creating a functional routine is to plan and delegate. Don’t worry, you don’t have to have a color-coded calendar or even a weekly menu, but it is important to know what is supposed to happen and who is responsible for getting it done.
I recommend planning either daily or by the week. For my family, we do a little bit of both. On Sunday evenings, my husband and I chat about what activities the kids have during the week and who will play taxi driver on which day. Throughout the week, we recap the details of each day the morning of, adjusting the plan, as needed.
Obviously, the specifics of when you plan and how far in advance will look different in every family. The important piece here is again communication – communicating what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and who is doing it.
And, mama, you don’t have to do it all. Divide and conquer! Rotate who takes the kids to their activities, who goes to the grocery store, or who cooks dinner. If your kids are old enough, start encouraging them to be responsible for managing aspects of the daily routine. After all, it is a family routine, so get the family involved!
Know the plan. Share the plan – the details and the responsibility.
Include the Essentials
“A day in the life” looks different for everyone. And everyone’s lives are looking very different now than they did a month ago.
So, as you consider communicating, planning, and delegating, here are some essential things to include in your daily routine:
If a set mealtime isn’t realistic for your busy life, consider what you can do to reduce stress around meals. Weekly menus and meal prepping are excellent ways to make dinner time cooking faster and less stressful.
Consider designating different nights for different family members to cook – you, your partner, and your kids (if age-appropriate). Give yourself permission to allow one or two nights a week where everyone is simply on their own. We call these forage nights at our house and cereal is an acceptable dinner!
When school is in session, ensure there is a plan for how the kids get to school and how the kids get home, as well as when they do their homework.
With shelter-in-place and schools closing across the country, set aside at least two hours for academics during the week. Utilize age-appropriate academic websites so lesson planning is not added to your list of mama duties.
Screen time is a hot topic and reducing screen time is even harder when kids are home all day and regular activities are canceled.
Regardless, try to establish at least 30 minutes a day that is designated as “no-screen quiet time.” Encourage the kids to find a self-contained activity, such as drawing, reading, or building. Communicate the need for quiet and centering to your kids and use the time yourself to ground and re-center for the rest of the day.
Self-care is an essential part of any mama’s routine. Whether it’s exercise, reading, a hot bath, meditating, or a coffee date, put self-care into your routine as a non-negotiable. Communicate when it is happening so your kids and your partner are aware that mama is taking her time!
Bedtime is another essential component of a daily routine, regardless of your age. Ensure every member of the house has a set bedtime and a set wake-up time and stick to it as much as possible. Consider creating a family wind-down routine that starts at least an hour before bed to optimize everyone’s sleep.
Flex when necessary
As we all know, even the best plans don’t always pan out. Life throws us curve balls even in normal life, such as illness, canceled practices, car problems, and a million other things. And, now, as many of us establish a ‘new normal,’ it can feel like there is no real normal and no daily routine anymore.
So, what do you do? First, give yourself grace! Take a deep breath, step back, and be flexible. Realize the twist doesn’t mean the plan – or you – is a failure. Life just happens sometimes.
Let the plan be changed when needed and, if possible, pick up with the routine the next day. Or, go back to the basics. Communicate, plan, and delegate so the essentials are taken care of even in the midst of the unexpected.
Across the country, daily routines have been halted as families adjust to the “new normal” for the time being. Take this time to unite your family, communicate, collaborate, and plan a new routine that works for you during this time.
Be patient. Plans don’t make perfect, but routines can help reduce stress. And, take heart! If your family can find a daily routine that works in the midst of social distancing, you can find a daily routine that works once life gets back to normal.