Why I (And Not Just My Kids) Need Routine
By Natalie Ruskin
PHOTO © kundoy/Twenty20
Feb 28, 2019
I distinctly recall a conversation I had with my older sister about parenting and my routines several years before I had kids of my own. She was on mat leave at the time, and I was single in my mid-twenties, living downtown and working non-stop as a news producer.
New parents — stunned and baffled by the immense adjustment to a life caring for little ones — feel pressed to let their own healthy routines slide.
It was early Saturday morning and I was en route to my regular yoga class when my phone rang.
“Come over for a visit!” my sister cheered. I stiffened at the spontaneous invite to head across town.
“Is it OK if I call you in a bit? I need to, uhhh, meditate and get to yoga so that I don’t kill people at work this week.”
I exaggerated my words to justify the indulgence of my routine, feeling embarrassed and selfish.
“Uh, OK, Nat,” my sister hesitated. “Enjoy it now because you won’t have time for yoga and weekend life when you have kids.”
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I couldn’t tell if she was judging, jealous or just telling the truth. But, on some level, her ominous words had me putting off kids for nearly ten years until a desire for family was too strong to postpone any longer.
As parents, we are told from day one that our kids thrive on routine, but seldom do we heed this advice for ourselves. As I regain my bearings after some intense early years of child rearing, I now know how essential it is to have a routine of my own, especially during this demanding family-building phase.
'Enjoy it now because you won’t have time for yoga and weekend life when you have kids.'
New parents — stunned and baffled by the immense adjustment to a life caring for little ones — feel pressed to let their own healthy routines slide. Exercise gets postponed, dinner happens later and sleep gets delayed to satisfy a need for “me time” (a.k.a. Netflix). Suddenly, we’re not only caring 24/7 for these entirely dependent little humans, but we’ve also abandoned our most health-sustaining habits.
So how can we time-strapped parents find time to prioritize our own well-being? I encounter this dilemma on a daily basis with the working women I coach and, full disclosure, I still grapple regularly with it myself.
Here’s what I’ve found to be most helpful:
Get Honest With Yourself
Which habits best support you? For example, I know that I need a minimum of five minutes of alone time in meditation as early in the day as possible. Once I’ve taken a few minutes to get still and quiet, I can meet those around me with greater compassion.
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Get Over The Self-Judgment Piece
It is not indulgent to take care of yourself. It is vital. Put your oxygen mask on first, as my GP told me after I had my second child. Once I relinquished my own mother martyrdom, I was able to own what I needed most to stay afloat. Last week, as my kids clung mercilessly to my jacket in protest as I headed out the door for a 6:45 a.m. yoga class, I smiled and reminded them that mommy needs her yoga time to feel good. When I honour my needs, I teach my children how to honour theirs too.
Get Everyone Onboard
That means your partner, your parents, your neighbours — whatever it takes. Once you know which routines bring you optimal well-being and you’ve stopped judging yourself, get creative about how to make them happen. If you have a partner, brainstorm together how you can accommodate each other’s needs. I’m onboard with my partner heading to hockey during our kids’ bedtime once a week because I know that it’s his greatest stress buster and that he’ll be on kids-duty the next morning when I head to my yoga class.
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