Ask your Dad
A Busy Mom’s Guide to
Doing Her Best
By Stacy Hamilton
As I write this my almost 3-year-old has been screaming at me for an hour, refusing to go to bed—so remember any advice I give you (really, anyone gives you) about parenting, must include caveats galore; “… some of the time it works”; “… but every kid is different”; “… it used to work but they grew out of it.”
But then there is advice about routines. I love routines. In my humble opinion, routines are about the closest thing I’ve found that can be universally good for kids. It’s no secret routines provide stability and security … and I’m terrible at them. My husband is terrible about them. And so, the kids are terrible about them. Maybe we’re not as bad as that, but it feels like we are. Because we’re good at setting routines, and our path to disorganized hell is paved in gold-plated good intentions of following the routine, but we never seem to get it just right.
And that’s OK.
I have to remind myself (I’m doing it right now as my littlest is peacefully, finally, asleep) that the routine itself is not the end goal. That would mean we all strive to be robots. I like to think of my routines as guidelines for our lives—they are our “best practices” for how to run our family. We stray often but we always have the routine to return to for a dose of sanity.
With our oldest beginning kindergarten this month, we’ve been fine-tuning our new morning routine over the summer. The goal is to get out of the house, on time, with all the accessories, and everyone reasonably happy with each other. We find our chances of success are greatly improved when the kids are dressed before anything else happens. If the adults get all ready first and then turn our attention to the kids, well by then they have become far too comfortable with not getting ready and that’s a big ship to try and turn around with not a lot of time to do it. Rip the Band-Aid off quick. Do the clothes and shoes first.
Side note: My husband has an arbitrary rule that the definition of “fully dressed” includes socks and shoes—but that’s only because the lost shoe phenomenon can costs us an additional 20 minutes every morning. On a few occasions he has been known to drop a kid off at daycare with no shoes.
In order to keep my days on track, I find it incredibly helpful to wake up at least an hour before the rest of the house. I fill that time with walking the dog, yoga or getting ahead on work lists. It’s a treasured, peaceful time alone with my first good cup of coffee and my thoughts, and I don’t think I could survive mentally without it.
In addition to the near impossible task of raising two kids, my husband and I balance our full-time jobs, his law school at night, running a tiny hotel (The Baker), and trying to be good kids to our own parents. We fail sometimes. Our kids’ daycare has “Lunchbox Fridays”—one day a week. That’s it. Just one day a week they ask you to remember to make your kids a lunch. You don’t know shame until your sad 5-year-old looks you in the eye at pick-up time and says, “You forgot my lunch.”
With so many different schedules it’s critical for us to have defined daily responsibilities. My husband does school drop off and all the grocery shopping. I do laundry and dishes. We’ve found those are the biggies. Of course, we have to have help. We know that yard work can be done quicker and more efficiently by hiring someone else, and it’s worth it to us to spend that money and keep our limited time with the kids.
Finally, we’re learning every day. The routines change. We get better. We hit obstacles. We overcome them. It’s important to be flexible and just concentrate on the guidelines. Every now and then take some time to reflect and see what routines you want to get back to and which ones (the bad habits) need to be changed. Routines are only as good as the purpose behind them. Time spent on figuring that out is not time wasted.
Stacy Hamilton and her husband, Nathan, recently opened The Baker, a new boutique luxury inn in downtown North Little Rock (stayatthebaker.com). Stacy also works as a full time residential Realtor with Desselle Real Estate, specializing in historic houses in Little Rock and North Little Rock. The Hamiltons have two precious kiddos: Calvin, starting kindergarten this fall, and Ellis, 2½ .