How Emerald Creates Routines
At age 22, I became a mother (of twins!), then had three more children with my first husband. Then I successfully ended a 10-year marriage, took time off, found myself, learned to love myself, and found out I'm an amazing woman! Soon after that, God brought me an awesome man who is now my husband. He brought four more children into our family, and then we had one together. So I am now a mother of ten children—ages 16, 15, 15, 12, 11, 11, 9, 9, 5, and 3. (The fifteen-year-olds are twins, and we had some of our kids the same year.) Six of these kids live with us permanently, and the other four visit in summer and on weekends and holidays.
As you can imagine, this life of ours can get a little crazy. But my biggest strategy for managing that chaos is to make things both fun and meaningful. I want to instill a lot of core values in my kids while they're young so they have that to fall back on.
Our bedtime routine really starts with dinner. The youngest four cook with me (I start that at age two). We all clean up after dinner. Then the two youngest hop in the bath and the nine- and eleven-year-olds hop in the shower. I put on music to be their timer—they each get two songs and then they're out. By the time the third song finishes, they need to be lotioned up and in their pajamas with their teeth brushed and dirty clothes put away.
Once they're done, we all gather in my bedroom. This part of our routine started after my divorce. The kids were having a hard time. There was constant bickering—they just didn't know where to place their anger. They especially had a hard time at night, calming down and getting to sleep.
So I decided, "Let's fill our minds with positivity right before bed." We started a new nightly tradition, where we choose a person and everyone shares what they like about them, and then continue until everyone has a turn. When we first started this, the compliments were mostly about physical traits, but as we went on, it would be more about personality or talents. "Mom, I love the way you cook," or "I really love how tender-hearted you are."
We do this every single night, and it has really helped them sleep better, manage anxiety and stress, and anything else they're dealing with. When there was tension in the family it just starts to dissipate. It builds positivity, self-esteem, and a friendship among the children.
Then everyone goes to bed—except for one child. Since I have so many children, sometimes they get lumped together. So each night we rotate who gets to stay up with me for 10-15 minutes and we do whatever they want to do. Sometimes they want to play dolls or Uno. Sometimes they want to pop popcorn and watch something on TV or play video games. It allows me to give them individual attention, and it really bonds us because it's something they want to do.
I choose which child gets to stay up by just going in order, so I can keep track. It took a while for the little kids to understand that they weren't allowed to stay up too, but as we got into it, they realized that their turn was coming up and they didn't want their turn to be interrupted.
Some mornings are more sluggish than others, depending on how the kids have slept. But typically, I wake them up, they brush their teeth, and then the two teenagers get the five- and three-year-olds get dressed. Then I do all the hair and we get in the car. They eat breakfast at school and daycare.
In the car, we say the Lord's prayer. I say it and they repeat it. Then each person says what they're grateful for and what their purpose is for the day. For example, sometimes I'll say, "I'm grateful I have gas in my car and my purpose today is to get more organized with my field research." Sometimes, again, it can be kind of superficial, but often it's really meaningful. There's no right or wrong, I let them think freely about what they're grateful for and what their purpose is.
One of my daughters struggles with running her mouth in class and it was getting in the way of her grades. We talked about it, and at first she would say, "My purpose for the day is to be good." But soon she started getting more specific: "My purpose today is to get an A on my math test." And then I'd follow up and ask, "What are you going to do today to get an A on that test." And she'd say she was going to study for 10 minutes that day. Now she's thriving. It's all about goal-setting and setting small goals to work toward the big ones.
After school, I have a snack ready. After that, they finish any reading or homework they have to do. I also have them set their clothes out for the next day, so they're ready. Then they usually go play outside until dinnertime.
We used to be heavily involved in a lot of sports and activities. Now I pick a sport each season. I don't like to take on too many activities, because with six children at home, we'd go nuts.
I usually do swimming in the fall, since that's such an important skill. When we do swimming, I have them bring their pajamas so they can change right after their showers. That was one fewer thing to do and one fewer pair of clothes to wash.
Ultimately, daily routines are an opportunity to build core values for who you want to become as a family. As you figure out what works for your family, you'll find both long- and short-term solutions that make these routines more meaningful.
About the Author
Emerald Austin is a fun-loving mother of 10 children. She loves to cook, especially with her children. She put her career as a veterinarian on hold to raise her children and is currently working on starting her own business. You can follow her on Facebook or Instagram @allthingsmom10. She also shares her mothering wisdom on her YouTube Channel.