I’ve never been drawn to the idea of routine and structure. When our first child was born, everyone kept telling us to get her on a scheduled routine but I knew it wasn’t the right path for me as a mom. In fact, something in me rebelled greatly against the notion. The idea of taking a plan from a baby book and trying to get a baby to stick to the plan just wasn’t going to work for me or for my sanity.
This inner rebellion insisted I trust in my own instincts, and it taught me something about myself. Through it, I recognized I had a genuine need to go with the flow. I saw that following my instincts wasn’t just a preference for me; listening to my intuition was, in fact, intrinsic to who I am. I’m a feeler and I like to lead with my gut. And, the way I see it, you can’t schedule feelings or instincts but you certainly can stifle the hell out of them with too much routine.
I like to make choices based on the moment, the people involved, and the situation at hand; that is what feels right to me. It is how I best function. And, interestingly, though the life of a parent can be somewhat routined, I’ve recently noticed the little ways I’ve been subconsciously nurturing my need for freedom while living a somewhat routined life in suburbia.
When I actually thought about it I recognized that I do not have even one system for the things I do, daily. I mean, I drink coffee every morning. This is one guaranteed action that will occur every single day. YET even the way I drink coffee keeps the variety-seeker in me, at ease. Sometimes I add milk, other days it’s flavored creamer or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Sometimes I like to drink my coffee black, sometimes I like it with Baileys.
Even the act of lunch-making looks different every time I do it. Each day, I produce lunches for the kids to take to school. Sometimes these lunches are made at night, sometimes they get done in the morning, depends what I feel like doing. I also give myself a leeway day, where I don’t have to make lunches, at all. Instead, I toss in a few snacks and I drop the kids off a sub or some pizza at lunchtime. The leeway day is chosen solely based on which day works for me each week. Ahhh, sweet freedom! (Well, within the confines of what needs to get done.)
Showering happens most days. But not at the same time, everyday. And not even in the same way. Sometimes, I hop in while the kids are brushing their teeth and getting ready for bed, other times I wait until they’re asleep. Or, because I work from home, I sometimes shower in the daytime. I always have a few soaps in there to choose from. Then I can ask myself if I’m feeling a lemon, orange or lavender vibe. If I feel like it, I shave my legs. Sometimes I use my husband’s razor. Sometimes I wash my hair, other days I don’t. If I want to dry my hair, and I have time to, I’ll make it straight. Lots of times I let it dry on it’s own and it goes super frizzy. I also wear a lot of hats.
Variety, even in the little day-to-day actions, keeps me content.
My husband, on the other hand, thrives on structure. He is a super productive, goal setting guy. For him, routine makes him feel in control and this suits his personality and stage in life. Like me with my need for variety and space, his need for structure is intrinsic to who he is as a person. He has a few systems that he adheres to on a daily basis. He is health-minded and consistently makes time for the gym; always first thing in the morning. He eats the same lunch, pretty much everyday: an egg white omelette with peas or mushrooms. Routine is how he best functions. It works really well for him. Even his bowels are in on the plan. Unlike mine… apparently, they too reject routine.
And somehow, though total opposites, my husband and I co-exist quite peacefully under the same roof. I’m sure there are plenty of couples just like us, too. What works is mutual respect and boundaries, right? (Okay, okay, I’ll buy my own razor). Also, my guy travels for work a fair amount so I get to do things my way while he’s gone.
I do think it’s important to recognize our own needs and to find little ways in our day-to-day living that nurture those needs. We must be careful not to downplay the importance of allowing time and space to connect to our intuition and natural pace of life. I know it’s easier said than done, as a busy working parent. But, being overly routined may be killing you… slowly. I know, I’m being dramatic but I’m kinda not kidding.
For some, structure is what genuinely works. But what if living a structured life is what you think you need but in fact, what you truly need is to trust in your own flow? It may look less like a marathon and more like a sprint and it may be unlike what society, or your parents, or your spouse thinks it should. But it could be just what you need. Take the time to find out how to nurture your needs. Because: YOLO!