I’ve played around a lot with my evening routine over the past two years. Out of necessity: pumping was a huge part of my evening routine for well over a year. And out of choice: working out an evening routine was part of my Abundant Mama experience. Until recently my evening routine was rigidly kept on course by reminders on my phone that would ding loudly, giving me a half hour to clean up the house and a half hour to do yoga and/or work (the breakdown was 3 nights of yoga, 3 nights of work and 1 night to do anything I wanted). This would be followed by my nighttime snack, getting ready for bed, and reading in bed. It was hectic, as sometimes the half hour wasn’t quite enough to get the house back into shape, meaning I’d start yoga or work later, meaning I’d get to bed later… and so on. It often involved long, complex to do lists that never got done. It was tiring, and sometimes I simply didn’t have the energy to do all of it. And if I didn’t do it “right,” I wasn’t very nice to myself, inflicting lots of self-scolding and guilt (so Brené Brown would probably call this shame, but I am still working through the differences and see this as guilt).
Toward the end of 2016, I was tired a lot at night, and a new evening “routine” started to emerge on its own. This basically involved leaving Levi’s room and instantly hopping into bed! The problem was that I would immediately open Instagram or start texting (usually both) and fall down one of those social media rabbit holes that lasts way too long and makes you feel kind of hungover at the end. So that wasn’t effective either, but I knew I was onto something.
At the close of the year, I decided that in 2017 I wanted to revamp my evening routine to take into account my low energy in the evenings — to really honor it by finding a way to be okay with it — essentially giving myself permission to be tired. Here is what I came up with. I call it my “evening kindness routine”:
- As soon as I leave Levi’s room, I set a timer on my phone for fifteen minutes. I very quickly assess what still needs to be done and what is the top priority. This usually means dishes or folding diapers or putting away laundry. But if (on a rare night) all of those things are done, I get to some of the things that never get attended to like organizing my office, online orders, etc (this part hasn’t happened yet, but it’s only week two…). The idea is to do whatever/as much as I can in those fifteen minutes. Things that make the next day easier are given high priority. Once the timer goes off I’m free to keep going if I have the energy and feel so inclined. However, (and here is the really important part, because it’s the part where I exercise kindness to myself) if I don’t feel like keeping going after the fifteen minutes is up, I’m free to get ready for bed and retreat there with my stack of journals, books, and coloring. This means that sometimes I am in bed by 8pm, writing, dreaming, coloring, reading (sounds like a luxurious fairy tale, but it’s now my real life!!).
- I’m currently nursing a shoulder injury, so yoga is not part of the evening routine for now. Eventually, once I’m healed (in oh so many ways), I will use that time block immediately upon leaving Levi’s room to do a half hour practice (at least two nights a week). After that I will assess my energy and see what (if anything) I can get done.
- If I don’t get out of Levi’s room until 8pm, I am free to fall into bed and dissolve into Instagram or just fall asleep.
- If I’m just totally exhausted (even if it’s not 8pm), I can just collapse into bed — none of these other guidelines apply.
- I label the state of the house as “good enough” and try like hell to mean it.
So far, so great. Most of the time I work slightly past the fifteen minute mark, but not by much. Some of the time the fifteen minutes is actually enough to get things into shape; however, I have gone to bed three times this new year with some dishes left in the sink! All in all though, I’m experiencing this magical feeling of doing more even though I’m technically doing less. I highly recommend it.
Even the break from yoga has been surprisingly good for me. For the first three weeks or so of my injury I made myself push through getting on the mat because it’s good for me. But it wasn’t. It was making my shoulder worse, and then when I hurt too much to practice, I would beat myself up over it. I’ve chosen to give myself a full month of recovery time at which point I hope to get back to practicing (or will see a doctor). But this experience has helped me to see how truly hard on myself I tend to be (something I somehow never realized before!).
Every night since Levi was born I do these “room scans.” That is, I go through each room of the house scanning it quickly to see what’s wrong with it, what needs to be done, and then fixing the situation. I continue to scan the rooms, but I’m letting things go. Last night there were toys piled on the coffee table instead of into their bins (this was after I’d spent my fifteen minutes folding diapers and getting them ready for daycare), I fought the urge to sort and stow them. They weren’t on the floor, so it was “good enough” (not really, but I’ll take care of it today at some point).
I’m feeling pretty uncertain that I will be able to hold into this perspective and this “routine” when the semester starts next week, but we will see…. Ultimately what matters more than the details and parameters of the plan is the way that I treat myself when executing it (or not). That whole “practice kindness” thing applies to how we treat ourselves too (only took me 41 long years to figure this out).