Jo Abi feels pretty good that this week the ‘experts’ backed up what she’s always known – sticking to a strict routine makes her kids happy.
It all started when I was little. Mum ran our house like clockwork. Each day we knew exactly what time we were getting up, when we were eating breakfast, we knew which day we did our chores and which days we should play outside as much as possible, so mum could give the house a proper cleaning. We knew what we were having for dinner depending on what the night of the week it was – pasta on Wednesdays and Sundays, steak on Mondays, chicken on Tuesdays and Thursdays…
We knew what was expected of us, when, where and how and it was comforting.
Now that I'm a mum of three myself, it still is a huge comfort to know exactly how each frantic day is going to pan out.
I haven't always been as organised as I am today but from the day I had my first child almost 10 years ago, I have slowly moved towards a strict daily routine that I rarely venture away from. Some friends compliment my organisational skills, others say I'm too regimented.
Now a new study has shown that children whose families stick to a routine are emotionally and socially more advanced.
I'm sure next month there will be a study that states just the opposite, but I did allow myself a moment of vindication.
The research shows that children who are in routines are happier and more secure. Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital, told Reuters, "When (children) are unhappy, insecure or unsure of their environment, energy goes into dealing with that, and not into learning."
"The routines in the study can help with what we call 'executive function': skills like problem-solving, negotiation, planning and delayed gratification. Having good executive function skills is absolutely important for school success."
Today, our schedule changes slightly depending on the week because my husband alternates between working day shift and night shift, but here are the basics:
4.30am: Wake up, do a bit of work, pack lunches which I normally prepare weekly, iron uniforms, exercise.
6.30: Shower and wake kids up by putting one in the shower and opening the blinds in the little kids room.
7am: Kids brush their teeth, use the toilet and we all get dressed.
7.20-7.30: I finish getting ready while the kids eat breakfast in front of the TV. They eat different foods so I pre-prepare them weekly.
7.30: Leave the house and drop Caterina off at preschool and the boys at school
8am: Catch the bus to work. Do uni work on the bus.
9.15-2pm: At the office
2pm: Head home in time to meet the boy's school bus at 3.15. Collect them and leave to pick up Caterina.
3-4pm: Home for a snack and homework for both the boys. Start cooking dinner so it is ready for later. Clean, tidy, hang up laundry.
4.30-6pm: Various activities most afternoons including swimming, art class, ballet and soccer training. We have different bags for different activities, all pre-packed weekly and hung on our bag nook in the kitchen.
6.30pm: Sit down for dinner together with no TV or gadgets of any kind. I eat quickly then start cleaning up as they eat and chat.
7.30pm: Philip finishes his homework while Giovanni and Caterina have showers, brush their teeth and go to bed.
8pm: Philip brushes his teeth and goes to bed.
8.15-10pm: Catch up on recorded TV shows, clean up, pack school bags, iron uniforms, lay out work clothes, do a bit of work if there is time.
Friday nights are normally our takeaway night or I make something we can eat in the lounge room. We set up a lounge room picnic complete with a movie and we've gotten so used to it that it's become the perfect way to transition into the weekend.
Soccer starts up on Saturdays again soon so that will take care of Saturday morning. Saturday afternoons we normally go to the shops or go somewhere as a family. Sundays are our day to relax, hang around the house and every now and then we'll attend a family function.
So, every day they know what to expect because every day, the routine is the same for each day of the week. It is all written down and stuck up on the side of our fridge so we can refer to it and I am constantly refining it. I sleep easy knowing exactly what I have to do each day, which day I do the food shopping, cook for the week, clean, pay bills and even our family time is scheduled, as is our windows of opportunity for spontaneity (Sunday afternoons only).
It's not too jam-packed but you can see why I need to follow a routine and stay organised. There's so much that goes into making sure every day works and it all leads to that time each night where we get the chance to sit down together for dinner. It's the time when we all come together properly and if our day wasn't so structured, there's no way I'd be able to get a decent dinner on the table and have time to sit down with them.
Are you a routine mum or do you prefer a less structured approach? What works for you?
An organised home leads to an organised mind. There's nothing that makes you feel better than a declutter, right? Check out our 30 tips to help you shape up your home at the same time as shaping up your health.