The Infrastructure of Routine
The main thrust of this chapter is that the home life of anyone, whether they have children or not, needs a regular pattern of life. I read the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder aloud to my children when they were little and remember that Ma did specific things on each day of the week. It went something like this:
Wash on Monday
Iron on Tuesday
Mend on Wednesday
Churn on Thursday
Clean on Friday
Bake on Saturday
Rest on Sunday
In our modern times we still need the stability of a regular life but with the modern appliances available to us, we don’t have to be so rigid in how we implement routines. When my kids were all at home I did some laundry just about every day, something I couldn’t have done if I’d lived in the early 1900’s and had to heat water in a copper washer and wring clothes by hand.
I grew up in a large family and we all had to help out around the house. It was good training for when I left home but many of my friends weren’t required to help out at home at all and it made things difficult when they had families of their own later on and had suddenly realised they were ill-equipped to run a household. I think it’s important to understand that being at home with two, three, or more children under school age is hard work regardless of your upbringing and despite having good routines in place.
‘One of the objectives in a home or community’s routines is to ensure that those who bear the weight don’t burn out.’
Routines and habits allow us freedom from constant decision making. Everyone knows what to expect. If dinner is generally around the same time each night, the kids can have a quick bath, a story, and be in bed at a reasonable hour. My husband’s work was demanding and he was sometimes required to travel but I knew that when he came home at night, after letting him relax for a little, I’d get a break – a routine enabled us to do this. In the early days of mothering I spent much of any free time I had in the evening researching home education. 🙂
‘All of us, whatever our age, stage, or circumstances, need unscheduled-by-someone-else personal time.’
This is one area where we need to step back and give our children space – unscheduled time to themselves, even if it’s just for five minutes. Today’s mothers seem to feel that if they don’t play with or entertain their child all the time they aren’t doing their job properly, but we do our children a disservice if we are alway hovering over them. I used to think that playpens were a terrible idea and they would be if you overused them, but I started using one for a short time each day to give the littlest some time ‘on their own.’ I could see them, they were safe, I didn’t use it if they were miserable, and kept it short – five or ten minutes. I talked about the idea of Masterly Inactivity in my post on Chapter 2 and this is one way to start getting used to the idea with little children.
Mothers need to have a personal life, too, but if we are always hovering over our children we won’t have much chance to do this. By personal life we include spirit, soul and body. In the early days of raising children this can be a struggle. Susan spoke about her experience trying to fit in a quiet time in Chapter 6 and how she managed it.
I think it’s vital to find out what refreshes you. Of course, as a Christian, time in the Word and in prayer are first priority but we can be creative about this. If exercise is important to you, walking and praying may be your answer. I find now that walking actually helps me to concentrate when I pray. Getting up early before the day gets busy, hearing the birdsong that rises in the morning, seeing the dew on the grass or on a spider’s web before the sun evaporates it, may be something that could work for you. It didn’t for me for quite a few years and I’ve found that the different stages of life often require a re-think and a change of routine. In Charlotte Mason circles the term ‘Mother Culture’ refers to time a mother spends growing her own mind.
‘Mother must have time to herself. And we must not say “I cannot.” Can any of us say till we have tried, not for one week, but for one whole year, day after day, that we “cannot” get one half-hour out of the twenty-four for “Mother Culture?”–one half-hour in which we can read, think, or “remember.”
Mealtimes, relaxed and regular times together over food are, ‘The key to the day for communities, families and friends.’
This was something that happened very naturally in our home for about 28 years but it’s been very difficult in the last two or three years to have any sort of consistency – Covid restrictions, working hours, adult children in the home, and numerous other things. I also feel that we’re re-learning the art of hospitality after all the ups and downs of isolation, restrictions and friends and family needing to cancel get togethers because someone was sick. Some creative thinking required here! Susan makes an important point about mealtimes together. They should not be used as times for lectures or for attacking others – a bad habit and poor manners that shows our lack of respect for people in our family, especially children.
I was reading this morning in Amy Carmichael’s book, Thou Givest…They Gather, and I thought how well it speaks to us when we’re aware of a weakness in our lives and don’t have the strength or wisdom to do anything about it:
‘To some of us sometimes there comes such a sense of the vastness of things an of our own insignificance, that it can all but shake our faith in the truth that our Father regards the fall of a sparrow. To me, one of the proofs of the Divine in this marvellous Book is the way, continually, and as it were unconsciously, it meets just this in us, and answers it…often by a story, a simple loving little story of something that truly happened.’
She mentions Daniel being overwhelmed by a vision and John in Revelation falling down as if he were dead, utterly weak, but in both cases God touches them and comfort is given.
‘Is it not beautiful that there is no rebuke, and that there never is, for the weakness of the human?… He comforts, He lays His right hand on the soul wounded by weariness, or fear, or any kind of weakness, and He says, as though that one were the only one in all the universe, “O greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong.” And when He has thus spoken unto us, we are strengthened.’
As I was thinking on this, the words from one of my favourite Christmas Carols came to me, ‘He knows our need – to our weakness is no stranger.’
These were some of my thoughts on reading this chapter. What were yours?
How have you handled changes in routines over the years or how did you implement a new routine in the first place?
What have you been reading for your own growth lately? As the article on Mother Culture I linked to said, this doesn’t have to be a ‘stiff’ book. Think of it as storing up Interior Riches.
Are you getting a half hour out of the twenty-four hours you have each day in which you can read, think, or remember?
Is your spiritual life your first priority?
*Coloured pencil drawing of a bearded iris done by @mhudson_art