Learning to Be the Queen of Routine

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About a week after our son was born, I was on the phone with my mom, complaining about stretch marks. Specifically the ones that streaked angrily across my stomach, from one hip to the other. Bulging and purplish-blue, they were not invited to the pregnancy party and yet they showed up anyway, fashionably late but there nonetheless. I had never been much of a bikini girl but just catching a sideways glimpse of myself in the mirror before getting in the shower had become disorienting. Depressing. I was none of the things I thought I was supposed to be after having a baby. And these stupid stretch marks were simply expressing to the outside what I felt like on the inside.

“Use this cream everyday for a year and they’ll go away,” my mom advised. Every. Day. For. A. Year. What? No. I couldn’t think of a single thing I had ever done everyday for a year. Breathe? Eat? That was about it. I just couldn’t wrap my head around doing something every single day. Needless to say, I didn’t use the cream everyday for a year. I would use it when I thought about it. And guess what? Those stretch marks, although faded and flattened, are still there. Now, I realize there is a whole league of moms who will say, “Be proud of your battle scars! They tell your story and prove that you’ve loved and lived!” And I completely agree. I’m still not a bikini girl, but now it has more to do with not exposing the moles on my stomach to sun. Right now, I got 99 problems but skin cancer ain’t one.

But the more important lesson here is that there are things that we should do everyday. We should tell our children and our spouse that we love them. We should smile and make someone else smile. And we should take care of ourselves, especially the moms. We’ve heard a million different people say it in a million different ways: Moms never make themselves a priority. We put everyone else first, ourselves last. And as a result, sometimes we look like this…

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These are supposed to be sunflowers. I grew them from the seeds that my friend sent me after she had so carefully pulled them from her own garden. I watered them everyday for about 4 days. And then I forgot to water them…for about a month. They grew as tall as they were able and did the best they could in these drought conditions. But now they are stunted and withering. I’m going to try to bring them back, but that requires watering. Everyday. It needs to become part of my routine.

My husband is the chief conductor of the Hot Mess Express unless he’s fully immersed in his routine. Up by 6:15, coffee, the same breakfast, out the door by 7:15, the same snacks throughout the day, run Monday/Wednesday/Friday, home by 6, in bed by 10:15. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Sometimes I think, How boring…when do you ever get to eat the cupcake for lunch? But most of the time I think, At least he’s doing most of the important things everyday. It’s not that he tailspins into calamity when he’s out of routine, he just isn’t really at his best. I always thought that routines made for a monotonous life, but what he’s taught me over the past 13 years is that it ensures progress is made and goals are met. Chipping away, one day at a time. Make it part of your routine and one day you can look back and see just how far you’ve come.

So, there are things I’ve started doing everyday: flossing, using essential oils, drinking at least some water (which is a big step for someone who drank coffee until it was time to switch to wine), washing my face, eating some fruit. There are some things I need to start doing everyday: exercising for 30 minutes, drinking more water, stretching, taking time to be grateful. Each thing I do for myself takes a tiny bit of time away from someone else. And I have to learn to be OK with that. I have to learn that being the Queen of Routine doesn’t mean I’m being royally selfish. It means I can serve my kingdom better, everyday.

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