I know a lot of people who get frustrated with routine. I get it. We all want some excitement in our lives. I don’t want to eat the same thing for dinner every day or wear a uniform or never speak to new people or travel to new places. I love trying new things, and making special memories. But…
Not having a routine to fall back on for ‘every day’ for me is a source of great insecurity. When I was a little girl, I spent weekdays with my grandparents who lived an extremely structured life. My parents were almost totally improvisational. During the weeks, I felt comfortable. I always knew what was coming next. And then on weekends, I’d be constantly anxious, waiting for Monday, when I’d get back to Gramma and Grampa’s and school. I didn’t know when I was little that what I craved was the security that came from structure and ritual and constancy, but I knew what security felt like, and it was what I felt at my grandparents’ house and school, not ‘home.’ I’m sure I’m probably in a pronounced minority of children who dreaded weekends.
The weekend before this last one, J and I took our son out on an adventure and this coming weekend, we have a date night planned, with the Boy spending the night with my folks. I like those things, and J was/is with me, so I rarely felt/feel any anxiety, and what I did/do feel was/is easy to manage. I no longer dread weekends, I long for them, because J is home from work and the Boy is home from school with me. And now, Mondays are not my favorite. I don’t look forward to them, and J and the Boy heading back to work and school. But I do like our ‘everyday’ routine.
This past Monday, I had lunch with my mom, and she complained openly about my dad (as she often does), this time about how he’s set up a routine for himself now that he’s retired. My mom has never liked routine. She always lamented at how structured my grandparents were, and she sort of backhandedly criticizes J and me for how we parent the Boy, because when he spends the night with my parents when J and I go out, he ‘puts himself to bed’ at around the same time he goes to sleep each night at home. He has a bedtime routine. My mom likes to stay up until 3 a.m. binging Netflix and stuff now that she’s retired, and she can’t believe that my retired father or my school-age son want to keep any kind of a routine now that there’s no job to go to, or on a non-school night at his grandparents’ house. (Spoiler alert: 9 out of 10 date nights? J and I also have a bedtime routine and we go to sleep about the same time we do on ‘regular’ nights…sometimes <gasp!> *earlier*). My mom rearranges the furniture in her living room pretty much weekly and has since I was a little girl. I know it seems like a nit-picky thing for me to focus on, but I couldn’t really even count on having the couch in the same place from day to day growing up. I like doing special things like traveling and finding new media and learning new perspectives on things from other people. I understand the need for newness and excitement and getting out of comfort zones, but I do appreciate my regular routine. It gives me a sense of security and stability I always longed for growing up. The sameness of ordinary days is comforting to me, and I don’t want to feel ashamed of that. Routine helps mitigate my anxiety.