Mothering with Dignity – Part Two

Mothering with Dignity – Part Two

Creating a Stable Routine

by Leslie Ludy | September 1, 2011

Every night before tucking the kiddos in bed, I sit down in the rocking chair in Avy and Harper’s room with a book in my lap. My girls know the routine; they drag their little white chairs across the room, grab their favorite stuffed animals, and sit down to listen as I read them one of their three favorite books: Green Eggs and Ham, Knuffle Bunny, or Click Clack Moo. (Any other books just don’t go over well, and I’m wondering how long this streak will continue – I have all three memorized by now.) As soon as I get to the last page of the story, they immediately pull their chairs back to the little table in the center of the room, put their animals away, and Harper crawls into bed to wait while I rock with Avy and sing her favorite songs (“Happy Birthday to Avy” and the “I Love You” song from Barney) – and we sometimes throw in a game of pat-a-cake for good measure. Then Harper announces, “My turn!” and Avy goes into her crib while I go through the same rocking routine with her big sister. After Harper has heard her favorite tunes (“The Cheetah Went Over the Mountain” – it used to be “The Bear Went Over the Mountain,” but we made some adaptations – and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”) she climbs back into her bed as I pray for her, put two tissues under her pillow (it has to be two, not one or three), and tuck her in next to Lambie and Purple Blanket (which is actually a pink blanket). Avy then gets tucked in with her fuzzy pink and green blankie and her prized binkie collection.

It’s the exact same routine nearly every single evening. Any variance in our nighttime ritual causes all kinds of drama and distress. One thing I’ve learned over the past six years in mothering is that a consistent routine gives little ones a very strong sense of peace, order, and security, while a lack of routine breeds insecurity, instability, misbehavior, and emotional meltdowns.

Elisabeth Elliot once wrote about about the peaceful, ordered beauty of her childhood home-life. Her parents put a strong emphasis on having a daily routine that the entire family followed. Her mother made many personal sacrifices in order to create stability and security for her children:

The regularity of our schedule was one of the things we depended on, and though we did not know it at the time, it gave us a great security. Mother made it a rule to get meals on the table when we expected them to be there. Our little world could be counted on to stay the was it was; safe, structured and pretty much the same every day. Whenever we burst in the door [after school] there was Mother, and there was the hot soup. It was nice to smell the soup, and it was nice that Mother was always there for us. Always. When my father was asked to lead a tour to Palestine for two whole months, Mother would have loved to go along. She didn’t. She stayed home with us. When he traveled to Europe on business, she stayed home. It never occurred to us that is might be any other way. Today someone would be sure to point out that she “owed it to herself” to go on a cruise, or that she had “no life of her own.” Nonsense, she would have replied – what do you call this? This is my life. Who’d ask for more? She never asked, and we were much the richer for it (from The Shaping of a Christian Family, pp. 77-78).

I’ve been greatly impacted reading about Amy Carmichael’s ministry to the many temple children she rescued in India. Prior to the children coming, she’d lived in tents along the road, had a very unpredictable travel schedule, and “no certain dwelling place.” But when God brought young children under her care, everything changed. “There was no thought of staying in Dohnavur more than a year” she wrote, “but the children had begun to come. And children cannot be carted about” (Gold Cord, pg. 55). So she settled down and built for the children a quiet haven amidst a perverse, chaotic culture. And in their secure, stable environment, the children flourished in the ways of God.

Creating a stable daily routine for the family is primarily the responsibility of the mother. While the husband is the head and final authority in the home, the wife is called to be the “keeper of the home” (see Titus 2:5); the one who carefully watches over the ways of the household and governs the daily affairs, systems, and patterns in the home (see Prov. 31:27). In my own mothering, I’ve found that creating and protecting a daily routine initially requires many personal sacrifices – I can’t just spontaneously go shopping, jet off on a girls get-away weekend, or meet my friends for coffee on the spur of the moment. But routine also protects those things that are most important in life: prayer, marriage intimacy, and focused, purposeful times together as a family. It also protects the dignity of motherhood. Instead of rushing around the house chaotically every morning or yelling at my kids to get them to bed every night, a routine provides calm stability even amidst the noise and clamor of four young children.

So, we have regular bedtimes, wake-up times, and mealtimes. My kids know when it is “art-time,” “school-time,” “play-time,” and “book-time.” They even have a 20 minute period of time right after breakfast which Hudson calls “round-up time” – when we “round up all the kids” to watch an educational video in the classroom. It’s adorable to see them sitting in their four little chairs, listening intently as they learn their colors, numbers, and letters. There are not a lot of “free for all” moments in our schedule. Our kids don’t wander around the house looking for ways to entertain themselves. Throughout each hour of the day, there are clearly defined activities for each member of the family – and that is the way they like it. Whenever we’ve had unusual seasons that require a deviation from our routine, they are far more fussy, whiny, and disobedient.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote,

If everybody does that which is right in his own eyes there is no gathering together for a civilized breakfast, let alone for a quiet time in the living room afterwards. The frantic rush to find Father’s briefcase, make school lunches, put on snow-pants and boots and get everybody out the door with the right lunch bags and schoolbooks, in time to be where they need to be, destroys peace for the rest of the day (from The Shaping of a Christian Family, p. 77).

I’ve seen many mothers roll their eyes at the seeming “rigidity” of routine – feeling that it will remove the freedom and fun from life. But as I’ve said, I have found the opposite to be true. Protecting our routine actually gives me more freedom by allotting specific, predictable times each day for my highest priorities. I study, pray, and workout while my children are sleeping each morning. I work on ministry tasks while they rest each afternoon. Our family has regularly scheduled mealtimes when we can relax and enjoy being together. And during the day when I’m teaching, training, and discipling my kids, they are far more enjoyable to be with when they have the security of knowing what comes next. Children thrive on routine; and so do mothers!

Of course there are days when we do spontaneous things with the family. And there are times when ministry life demands that we set aside our routine temporarily. But when we keep life fairly predictable for our children, there is peace, order, and dignity in our home.

God’s Word says, There is an appointed time for everything, and there is a time for every event under heaven” (Ecc. 3:1 NASB).

What simple yet profound advice for running a household well. Truly, God’s ways are perfect.*

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