The Power of Routine

By far, one of the most frequent questions I get when people find out we have six children age 10 and under is this: How do you have time to run?

The answer is: I don’t. With everything most of us have to juggle in a day’s time, none of us really have time to go out for a ‘quick’ five miles. We have to make the time for the things that are a priority to us.

I live the really fantastic life of being married to a self-employed entrepreneur. When Austin and I started dabbling in the freelance world early on, we soon realized that the number one asset we gained from self-employment was management of our own schedules. It was like adulting on steroids. Now we were responsible for scheduling our entire day – all 24 hours – and we loved it.

When we started adding foster kids to our household, everything went into chaos. But from the hecticness that ensued, we pulled together routines that helped our new family get moving in the right direction. Many of the routines were set in place to help our eldest child manage his behavior. Knowing what to expect each day gave him a sense of control to take the edge off, and gave us a small dose of sanity, which we desperately needed during the many transitions of the case.

We have a basic routine over the entire course of the day, and it is divided into numerous micro-routines. Here’s a look at our morning routine:

I generally view the beginning of the day as the most productive time in our routine. Perhaps this is because I am naturally a morning person. Everything is new, the kids are (hopefully) well-slept, all the behaviors of the previous day have (again, hopefully) reset. It’s time to start over and reconnect. I have a favorite verse for sunrise each day:

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him. Lamentations 3:22-24 (HCSB)

I have always done my endurance training in the morning because I like to have my workout off my list. I don’t want to schedule meals and showers around it. Additionally, now that we have kids in our lives, I like to begin the day with some quiet time away from the house. I have attached listening to my audio Bible to this routine so while I am strengthening my body, I am strengthening my spirit as well. Running is a great time for meditation and prayer. I love beginning my workout before the sun is up so that I can watch the sky change colors.

Austin and I constantly tag-team tasks. I often get back to the house from my workout as he is making our family breakfast smoothie. I shower (which is another great time to pray, by the way) and then take over so that he can go out for his run.

As the kids wake up they:

  1. Go potty
  2. Make their beds
  3. Sit at the table for a worksheet, puzzle, or coloring activity, which serves the dual purpose of entertaining them while we get breakfast on the table, and adds to their educational input.
  4. Eat
  5. Get ready for the day (brush teeth, hair, change clothes, put on shoes)

Our children get up at different times, so our entire breakfast takes 90 – 120 minutes. However, this time is not wasted. While the early birds eat, I start the dishes. As they finish, Austin returns from his run and shuffles them upstairs to brush teeth, change clothes, and, fold laundry. There is always laundry to fold with a family of eight. He manages this all in between bites to eat and grabbing a shower.

As the late risers make their way downstairs, I begin the supper prep. Yes, I make supper while we are eating breakfast. And, any child who is already done with their laundry, or, who is pestering a sibling and needs some redirection, gets put on supper duty. In between, I may have someone unload last night’s dishes, empty the cat liter, take care of the garbage cans, vacuum a mess someone made, or, fold laundry. Did I mention – there is always laundry to fold with a family of eight.

The final goal of each morning is that by the time we are leaving the house for school, doctor appointments, or a playdate, the sink is clean, the dry laundry is done and away, and the main supper dish is ready to bake. We do our best to begin the day with the house in a basic state of order so we can hit the ground running. Having supper mostly prepped clears my mental space tremendously, as the end of the day is usually crammed with homework, showers, and extracurricular activities. Getting everyone on board to manage the house work keeps things organized and gives the kids a sense of belonging. They are a part of our family team, and together, we can get the work done now so we can play later.