Some days I feel like someone pressed an autopilot button. You know those days where my time fills with repetition from morning to evening. But as for the routines, I’m the one who usually puts them in motion. Recently, I started thinking more intentionally about my daily routines. I realized that intentional routines can actually help me manage life, and even build up my marriage and our family.
The truth is, we either live life by design or by default. When we live by mindless routine, we live by default. But when we live by intentional routine, which isn’t necessarily bad in itself, we live more by design. Then the question becomes, “Am I designing my routines to focus on me or on my family?”
For example, if my morning routine is to get up, have coffee, and read the news on my tablet, that’s all fine. If I add the extra expectation that no one should bother me, then I’ve created a routine that can hurt my family, a little bit, day by day. Our family life has been full of routines. I try to get up and make coffee for Susan every morning. For many years when they were younger, I always took the kids to school before work. Other families have routines to tuck kids in bed at night and read to them and pray with them. One of my friends always makes breakfast for the whole family every Saturday. If your time has come to rethink your daily routine, to see if it is helping your family, keep these five important factors in mind.
1. First things first
Remember that the first things you do communicate where your priorities are. Your morning routine when you wake up, your routine when you come home from work, your routine when you pick up the kids at school, anytime you are beginning your interactions with your spouse, kids, or co-workers, think about what you’re communicating to them. Are you focused on connecting with your family or what you need to get done? Are you grabbing the remote or staring at your phone when you get home from work or engaging with your spouse and kids? Are you ignoring your spouse or tuning into how she is feeling that day? Are you going to the shed/garage or playing with your kids? Your presence communicates your priorities.
2. Words matter
Think about what words you’ll say regularly to your spouse or family. What are your verbal routines? For example, coming home you may find they’ve had a great day, or maybe their day was even worse than yours. If your first words are always harsh, impatient, inconsiderate, or demanding, you might be paving the way for a rough night, or a rough life if it becomes a habit. On the other hand, telling your family “I love you” every night before bed creates a routine that becomes a memory and a legacy.
3. Building in space
Maybe you need some space to unwind somewhere in the daily routines. Even so, taking a few moments to engage with your spouse or kids wherever they are in the house at least indicates they are a priority to you. If you need some space, check in first. If you can, make a few minutes with them the first priority action for your arrival. Don’t just default to the den.
4. A heads-up helps
Building in a routine to check in with your spouse can be especially helpful. If the day has been long, or you’re struggling with something that has you in a bad mood, give your spouse a heads-up on the way home. A polite message like “Hey, I need a few minutes to get my head on straight when I get home-love you” lets your spouse be less apt to assume the worst. It also gives them a chance to let you know if they are struggling, or to think ahead about how to be an encouragement to you.
5. Helping helps
If you do not have a habit of asking your spouse what you can help with in the evening after work, you should reconsider doing that. It may not be possible or practical everyday or evening, but if you build a reputation for wanting to help with the kids, the homework, the chores, etc. you will make your daily routines more productive for them and for you. If you never, or rarely, seek to help with anything, your spouse is apt to feel lonely, isolated, frustrated, and unimportant.
Routines can be great, but they shouldn’t be crutches. Don’t let your routines rule you, but use them to reinforce to your spouse and your kids that you love them, you value them, and you want to serve their needs, too.
What routines have you put in place to help strengthen your marriage or family? Put your helpful hints in the comments section below!