By most accounts, I run a tight ship. I have my daughter set her alarm every evening for 5:45 a.m. the next morning because I know at this point in my parenting career we need the hour and fifteen minutes to wake up enough to get all our shit done before leaving so we can make it to school on time. My kids pack their lunch the night before school.
When I pick them up from school, we do the same thing every day without any last-minute stops. I get home to make dinner or throw something in the microwave at the same time every day. We eat dinner together every day because it’s important to me that we come together for at least 20 minutes a day to have some sort of connection — even if we are all eating around the kitchen island.
After that, I prepare for the next day by writing down any appointments we need to go to, who has what practice or game on that day, and I have the kids help me lay out anything they need for the next day. Because we all know it’s not gonna happen during the chaos of the morning, which means extra running around for me while I should to be working.
All this planning and preparation drives my kids bonkers. They think I’m obsessed with prepping and eating dinner together and not letting them throw too many extra plans into the mix. But I think of it as self-preservation. I know what I’m capable of, and if I’m stretched too thin, I take it out on them without even being conscious of it. My alone time with them is too valuable so the tight routine it is.
I’m strict about bedtime too. If they don’t get enough sleep they act like assholes, and as a single mom, having kids act like assholes when there’s no backup puts everyone in a bad state of affairs (especially me) very quickly.
I go grocery shopping every Sunday, so if they don’t write down specific things they want to nourish their bodies with before then, it doesn’t make it into the grocery cart. They get pissed, of course, but I don’t have the bandwidth to run to the grocery store every damn day.
My three children hate my need for such a tight routine. They don’t like how I only do certain things on certain days and how I don’t budge much from the schedule.
But that is the only way I know how to deal with being a divorced, working woman. It’s the only way shit gets done up in here and without it, I’d be lost. The ringleader cannot be lost.
I rely on my routine like I rely on my daily diet soda: It breaths life into me while patting me on the head, reminding me everything is going to be okay when things get overwhelming.
My schedule hasn’t let me down thus far, and when you are the solo parent in your home and outnumbered three to one, you rely on the things you can control because there are so many unknowns being thrown at you. And knowing you’ll be dealing with them without another adult isn’t exactly a comforting thought.
It’s all me. If something breaks, I have to figure out how to fix it. If my kid has a shitty day at school, I need to be present. If we want food in the house, I have to go out and buy it.
Throw three teens’ schedules into the mix to shake things up a bit, and things can quickly tip off balance. It’s always nice to know behind the madness, I have a concrete schedule that makes me believe I have a little control over my life.
Maybe someday they will get it. Maybe someday I’ll feel grounded enough without sticking to my routine. Maybe someday I’ll be able to loosen the reins, throw caution to the wind a bit, and see what happens if I let more things slide, but it’s not going to be today.
My schedule and routine have been my saving grace through my divorce and all of the life changes that resulted. My kids can hate it if they want. But I know damn well they’d probably hate their life a lot more if they didn’t have their favorite food to eat and I didn’t make the effort to fit their social life in because I let the schedule go limp.
Kids need routine and structure too, even if they don’t realize it. More importantly though, they need a mother who is focused and knows what the hell is going on. I need to know when to veto something that pops up at the last minute because it would have an effect on my family’s long game — I know all too well how hard it is for me to pick up those pieces by myself.
So I’ll be sticking to my schedule — it’s one thing I’ve got going for me and no amount of complaining is going to make me change my mind.
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