Routine: that’s my favourite word.
As a foster carer, and parent, there is one word that’s right up there on my list of importance along with love and patience, and that’s routine.
It’s not a particularly sexy word, it doesn’t come with gizmos, flashing lights, or instructions; and it’s not a new fashionable parenting trend, but it does help our lives go so much more smoothly.
We’ve had a disruption to our normal routine recently as hubby had to take time off work. As M and J are in school, there wasn’t much we could do apart from taking a chunk of time off and using it to get some jobs done and have days out with Baby S.
In total it’s been just over three weeks. At the beginning that seemed to stretch ahead of us and we made plans of where we would go, what places to visit and family to catch up with. Initially we had some lovely days out, going into London to see museums we never seem to get time for and meals out at baby friendly restaurants.
We caught up with family and, as long as we were back in time for school home time, our days were our own (apart from the fostering appointments which you can’t get away from).
After the first week, Hubby reluctantly got a few jobs done around the house and tinkered with his beloved motorbike, but we found ourselves trying to fill the time and asking on a daily basis “what shall we do today?”.
I tried to fit in most of my normal baby groups and classes and Luke, the dog, got lots of long walks, but the biggest change over the three-week period was the interruption to our routine.
I’m the first to admit I’m a bit of a control freak, and I do live by my diary; it’s my lifeline to being on time and prepared for any meeting I might have for one of the three children in our household. Initially, I enjoyed the excitement of not knowing what we were going to do or where we were going but it soon wore off and I longed for my routine.
I didn’t realise how much I got done during a normal day even with baby S around and I’m not so much talking about the general household chores (such as laundry, shopping, and cleaning) but all the admin that I just automatically dealt with and filed as it came in.
Three weeks of no admin has caused a huge backlog. It’s difficult to imagine how much paperwork is generated with each Looked After Child and keeping it in order is a priority. You never know what piece of paper maybe needed urgently, or even legally.
It’s not just hubby, Baby S, or me that have had our routines turned over by the extended holiday, but also M and J. Even though they’ve not been involved as much due to school, they’ve noticed the change of routine and M particularly seems to have been affected.
I thought she was more independent and even though she has a key and occasionally let’s herself in if I wasn’t home she’s done a lot more of that in the last three weeks and I don’t think she particularly liked it.
She started to ask me in the third week if I’ll be home when she gets in from school, and I realise she’s not quite as distanced as she’d like us to believe.
Routine seems to be one of the first things that teenagers want to ditch as they get older. M wants to do things whenever she wants, and go wherever she wants but when there is no routine she flounders and struggles both on a practical level as well as emotionally.
Summer holidays, the Christmas break and half term breaks are always a struggle however much she looks forward to them. J is still comforted by the power of routine and always wants to know where we are going, how long we will be there and what’s happening on what day.
I keep my calendar on the wall with every child’s name written on, as well as hubby’s and mine, clearly marked with appointments in different colours so they can all see at a glance what’s coming up.
J still likes me to go through the calendar with him although M told me it’s lame, but I do catch her looking to see what’s under her name.
Routine, it seems, is boring but utterly necessary. Hubby has been back at work a week and although the time spent with him has been lovely (especially for baby S who only ever saw him properly at the weekend), I’m so pleased to have my normal routine back.
Hubby moaned about going back to work, but he’s admitted he likes to have his routine back and even the dog is no longer confused, as it appears even he likes routine.