Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How 'A Mother's Rule of Life' is changing mine

I've been getting up before the kids do for the last week or so. And it is good. So, so good.

It all started back in late October when, in a blinded rage, I sat straight up in bed in the predawn light, my sheets dripping with the secretions of multiple preschoolers, and ordered our bedroom intruders out, out OUT.

No more could they come busting through our doorway at 6:40 am, 6:24 am, and finally (damn you, daylight savings) 5:45 am, yelling out breakfast orders and flinging themselves bodily upon our defenseless sleeping forms, bulging Pull Ups oozing overnight urine from regrettable 8pm sippy cup refills.

No more.

Marching the offenders back to their room, I pulled the door shut and slid to a sitting position in the hallway as the prisoners rained punches and kicks down upon it. Their shrieking protests soon woke the baby in the adjoining room, and so at 6:04 am, all three progeny were roused and ready to wreak havoc on the day, and I was ready to give up before sun up.

It feels crazy to write this, but this is basically how the last 4 years of life have been, give or take a few children.

And I didn't know I could change anything about that.

It's stupid, but it was a stupidity born of inexperience and, I think, a lack of discipline on my part. Both in dealing with the kids and, maybe more importantly, in structuring and scheduling my day.

But I honestly didn't know how to fix that.

Every single day I fell onto the couch or our bed after the bedtime antics finally wound down, exhausted to the core of my introverted soul and craving alone time, decompression, and distraction. And soon enough 11:35 pm would roll around and I'd still be up. And from that point on it was just an anxiety-riddled countdown until the first kid woke me for the day, only to repeat the cycle again. And again.

I needed more sleep, and I needed more structured, scheduled time in my day to recharge before I found myself drained and dead to the world.

Enter A Mother's Rule of Life.

I know it's cliche to say a self help book changed your life, but I'm going to say it, nonetheless. It could be a matter of timing and circumstance, but this book got me, and it got me good. I'm about to flip back to page one and start re-reading it from cover to cover, because I need it all to sink way, way in. But it's already starting to effect positive, tangible changes into my life and my motherhood. And in case any of you out there are drowning the way I was, I wanted to highlight some of the best takeaways I've gleaned from my first reading:

1. Order your day to reflect your priorities in life. So it should really look something like this: prayer, care for self, care for spouse and children, care for home and work, and finally, leisure.

My days formerly looked something like this: screaming/shower maybe? probably not/sweeping/frantic scrubbing/yelling/drive somewhere - probably Target/trip to park/zone out on internet/write/work/make dinner/yelling/snuggling/fighting/bedtime/tears/wine/internet/bed. And maybe a rosary somewhere.

2. Make a schedule. A schedule is not restrictive, it is liberating. 

Liberating because you are now free to walk past that full dishwasher and that pile of stuff on the floor because you have scheduled time to address those specific areas of concern, freeing you to hit the gym, the classroom, or your knees for whatever task is presently at hand.

I have resisted a schedule my entire life because I loathe the idea of being trapped in a routine. What I had somehow failed to realize all along was that a routine of my own creation was immensely freeing - it was completely mine to design. I'm having fewer and fewer moments of that panicky feeling when you think you should be doing w, x,y, or z and end up doing NONE OF THE ABOVE because you can't do them all at once, and you have no sense of the urgency of any of them because EVERYTHING FEELS URGENT. And so the opportunity slips away, unrealized.

3. You, as mother, are the CEO, the COO, and the CFO. So you'd better act like it.

And you'd better be spending good chunks of time with your advisory board (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) during the workday, because things do not go well otherwise.

I was fitting prayer into my life rather than the other way around, and wouldn't you know it, it was usually the one thing I could somehow never find time for. Funny how that works...

Now rather than rattling off a 3 minute Divine Mercy Chaplet on the treadmill when I remembered to, I'm spending the first part of my day with Scripture and some spiritual reading (and some coffee) before the kids are even allowed out of their rooms. And it is so life giving. I can say that even now, after only one week. It is giving me new life.

4. You're the boss. Nobody else is going to boss these kids for you. So you'd better learn how to do it.

I'm a little unclear on the origin of this particular heresy, but I somehow got it into my head that somebody was going to come and whip these small hellions into shape for me at some point along the journey of motherhood. I keep looking around and waiting, but so far nobody has come knocking offering solid advice on character formation, training in virtue, and schooling in laundry-folding. So, ahem, I guess that leaves...well, me.

Me. I'm the one. I have to figure out what it is that will get through to each of these small creatures, and then to approach them with my message of peace, love, and unwavering obedience. Because if I do not have the latter from them, our household cannot dwell in the former.

Now, I'm not claiming to have had any big breakthroughs in behavior here, except that we've been trying mightily to do the thing where we say what we mean and mean what we say...and then follow up on it. Every time.

Do you know how exhausting it is to follow up with preschoolers and toddlers? All I can say is, I hope it pays off. I've heard it does. I'm taking it on faith at this point, and so far, all I can show for it is the hopeful trend that for 5 straight days, the man cubs have stayed in their room until their alarm clock went off at 7 am, at which point the 7 on the clock matched the giant 7 drawn on the poster on their wall.

I really cannot say enough good things about this book, and about the effect that not living every day with my hair on fire (if wet hair, unstyled hair could catch fire) and feeling singularly persecuted by my delightful children has had on me. And on us.

Anyone else have experiences like this with A Mother's Rule? Or another life-changing read or piece of advice?

Now I've got to run, because laundry and bathroom scrubbing are actually next up on my schedule. But don't worry, the day ends with some quality wine time on the couch penciled in. Win/wine situation.


  1. My husband and relatives hate my routines for my son- leaving early from parties to make bedtime, not going to the park at the same time as other mom's cause it naptime. But without this routine- I would not be in charge, my kids would be tired and it would make my marriage harder.
    Routine can be hard but so worth it!

  2. I have been doing this for years now! I even start my weekends with scripture and prayer. I have not doubt this is the sole reason that I am not in the looney bin! God really does bless you when you make scripture and prayer a priority!

  3. I've been curious about this book for a while - sounds like I need to find a copy. I've come to the relaization recently that a lot of the standards of my house rest on my shoulder. If I'm lax about housecleaning my husband will be, if I'm diligent he tries harder, etc. It's a lot of pressure, but also freeing to know where that balance of power tips.

  4. Yes, yes, yes! I read that book a few years ago & it really is a game changer. When I'm out of sorts in my life my first 3 go to resorces are: Seven Habits (life saver!), Mother's Rule & Fulwiler's post about being ahead of the curve (I'm not sure if that's how she worded it).

  5. I wonder if my 2 year old could be "bossed" into staying into her room until 7am. I am one of those people who cannot get through the day without showering in the morning and I have been waking up somewhere between 4:30-5am to do it since our 8 week old was born. That be crazy. A shower, prayer and a coffee before my toddler wakes up....I can't even imagine. It would be amazing though. One thing I have done, on those days when we don't leave the house, with the cold weather coming are going to be more frequent, is taking back the t.v...meaning we don't watch cartoons all damn day. I am ashamed to say that even if it is on mute and we are doing other activities odds are Curious George or the Cat in the damn Hat were on. I partially blame this on open concept living spaces. The t.v is in view even while we are eating or sitting at the kitchen table colouring. About a month ago I just started turning it off. We will listen to a podcast of my choice and sometimes it's just off and we listen or watch nothing! Why was I doing that? To avoid confrontation with my 2 year old. Anyways, I think I need to read that book also.

    1. I realized I used the "D" word twice in comment reply. Sorry I can't edit. One seemed suffice. I am very passionate about cartoons apparently.

  6. I need to re-read that book. Probably every season of life - because when the kids get to a different stage, I need to re-vamp

  7. This is why I love that I started my babies on a sleep "schedule" it wasn't something carved in stone, but it helped put me into a rhythm for the day from the beginning since I've had kids. I'm still trying to work in more prayer since quiet time is nonexistent now that some are too old, but it's a great way to give you some sanity.

  8. I read A Mother's Rule when my oldest was a baby. I remember thinking that it seemed to be full of good things, but I think I wasn't deep enough into this parenting gig to really appreciate how much I needed it. But lately, after hardly hearing of the book for years, I've been hearing it mentioned again and again and... I think maybe that's a clue that I should do a re-read. ;)

    And I've been thinking lately about how good a schedule would be for me anyway -- especially if it helps me get more sleep and get up before the boys. I'm chewing on the things I'll want to include on it.

  9. Oh my goodness, this is so timely! Thanks, Jenny!

  10. I so need to read this book! I know that time to myself in the morning with prayer and scripture could make such a difference in my life. I already get the Blessed is She emails every day. I could be looking at them first thing in the morning instead of naptime and be starting my day off on the right foot. And I really need to read this book. Did you check it out of the library or buy it? I try to only borrow books unless they are for a bible study or to keep for reference, but I know that I'm probably missing out on a lot of good Catholic books that way.

  11. I've been getting up an hour before the kids are allowed out for almost three months now. Life. Changing! I'm totally failing in the prayer department and spending all my time on the breakfast making department. Thanks for the reminder of what's more important.

  12. I am reading that book (less than halfway through) and it rings true to me, but I also find it frustrating because I feel like there's no way I can implement it yet. My twins turn 1 on Saturday but between the two of them I am still up sometimes 4 times a night and, well, I just don't have it in me to set an alarm. :-P I also feel like with so many littles (I also have a toddler) the likelihood of me being able to stick to a schedule each day would be pretty low some days.

    But I have hopes. Including the hope that I can implement at least some of this soon. The reminder of *priorities* (pray, self-care, family-care, work/house, leisure) is especially needed!

    1. I feel similarly, but I think even just having a rough framework for your day can be helpful. For me I generally just get up when my boys get up. I pray during my baby's first "awake" nursing session of the day. We have lunch some time between 12-1. Etc. There are parts of my day that are scheduled and help keep me anchored. I also have a (very) loose cleaning schedule - vacuum on Monday, change and wash sheets and towels on Tuesday, etc, etc.
      Even just starting with having set times for prayer can be very helpful!

  13. I had to read that book as part of our marriage prep. It seemed crazy then but I have reread it once since kids have come and I'm due for another reading!

  14. I yearn for this. But I have to admit that I feel defeated just thinking about it (the devil, I'm sure) because like another commenter said, my almost one year old is still keeping me up half the night. I just don't have it in me yet to get up at the crack of dawn for personal time when I was up with the baby at 5 am trying to get her to go back to sleep again. This is a terrible comment, and probably a pathetic cry for help but I do think there was a reason that I read this post when I did... I am feeling so discontented with our days lately and I know my priorities need a shift. Maybe I need to find this book

  15. I love this! You're so right!
    I read that book when I was prego with my first who is now 5 months old. I got super inspired by it and made a schedule for my future self. And of course it hangs on my fridge and gives me a good laugh every morning as I remember how naïve I once was (I also bought a cross stitch pattern to work on after the baby comes "cuz I won't be working anymore" and could do it in my "downtime"....bahahaha�� I know, I know...)
    So yeah, I need to revisit the book, get reinsured, and make a schedule that I could actually live by now that I know what motherhood is really like.

    I do have a question tho... Do you have little Genevieve on a schedule to where you even HAVE a schedule? That's my problem. I live minute to minute or hour to hour and one day she might go down at 8 and nights like tonight she doesn't go down til 11 and has to be rocked for an hour before she will. I want a well structured daily regimen. I need structure and discipline as well. But I don't know how to do that with a baby who changes every day.

    1. Um... Re-INSPIRED that is...

      Not reinsured. Ugh. Cursed phone.

  16. Oh man, could a post ever hit closer to home?! Into the Amazon cart this book goes :) Thanks for the suggestion!

  17. I have this book, and haven't read it because I thought it was about homeschooling! I'll need to crack it back open. Another book that helped me when I was a young mom (oh to be young again!!) was the Fly Lady - Sink Reflections. It really ordered my house cleaning skills (or lack thereof)!

  18. Oh man if this book can help me keep my toddler and baby from waking up before 6:30, I will buy it seven times over.

  19. Oh my gosh, are you me?? Are you in my head?! Clearly, I need this book. Thank you for this post!

  20. Thanks for the reminder to actually finish this book! I really, really want to get in the habit of getting up before the kids. We just enjoy our alone time in the evening so much that we often go to bed too late to make that happen. Things start out good on Monday morning, but by Friday its a different story...

  21. This book is what inspired me to try to enjoy some errand/productivity/guilt free time out on Saturdays and THAT has been the most life changing tweak to my week. Knowing that I have a good chunk of time to decompress at the end of the week has been working really well to help me extend my patience levels with the Friday I'm taking deeeeep deeeep breaths but I know that I just need to be patient and use my nice mom voice for ONE MORE DAY and then I can eat several meals and cups of coffee in peace and won't have to assist anyone but myself with bowel movements ;)

  22. just convinced me. Requested from the library. :)


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