family, motherhood

When Chaos is the New Normal

The human mind likes routine. We complain about being bored, but when allowed, we tend to do things in the same way. For some people, routines are more important than others. For children, they are very important in setting up behaviors and habits that will last them a lifetime. For good or for bad.

Sometimes, for whatever reason – new job, pulling three children out of your hat, moving four times in two years – life is disrupted. If that goes on long enough, chaos becomes the new normal. At this point, it’s difficult to rediscover what ‘normal’ is, particularly if you were an Odd family to begin with. However, as tempting as it is to try and superimpose old routines on the new situation, that’s more likely to result in frustration and a sense of failure rather than achieving a return to the way it used to be. Instead, it’s time to take it slowly, analyze the new life, and create new routines that suit where you are now.

Take some time to jot notes about the ‘musts’ as in mealtimes, bedtimes (less crucial for adults, but still important), work or school schedules… And a note on this. Right now, I’m in college, which means that my schedule is, to put it lightly, erratic. So if you’re in that condition, just be prepared to re-adjust your routines about three to four times a year. There’s a reason college is stressful, and it’s not all studying. Anyway, once you have that, you have, as it were, the corners and edges of the jigsaw puzzle.

Sometimes things fall into place organically. I’ve discovered that my morning routine revolves around the children as I get them up and ready for school. The girls aren’t hard, just a matter of paying attention and being there when they can’t find things – I can sip my coffee and read my blogs and webcomics. My son requires more of my attention, so for the hour he’s getting ready, I’m in the kitchen with him, making my own school lunch, wiping up counters, and even sitting at the table with my homework while he does his. This is the sort of thing I mean – pay attention to what’s going on, and you’ll find niches of time to put your needs into.

Other times you have to be a bit more structured. I highly recommend using alarms and timers if, like me, you get sucked into working on something and lose track of time. I’m not writing again, yet, but in the past it has been the worst for looking up and realizing that hours have passed and everyone is starving to death, with attendant dramatic poses. Now that the kids are older, chore charts including meal prep do help with that problem. I also find that formally setting aside time for things… like date night! will help a lot in keeping relationships alive. It’s far too easy to get buried under a pile of work, schoolwork, kids needing attention, and not pay enough attention to the partner who is walking beside you through all this.

It’s a lot of moving parts to keep track of. But this is why routines are important, like the gears in a watch that are set just so, where they won’t interfere with one another and stop the works. I’m not a type A personality (whatever that means) so I have to consciously keep the chaos at bay, in life, and in my stories. Even on the blog!