In confession a few months ago, the priest asked me if I knew what a mother’s rule of life was. I had brought before him the sin of wasting time online and thereby neglecting some of my duties as a wife and mother.
I wish I could have told him that the idea was foreign to me, but I had already refined a rule of life that worked well for me in the past – and in laziness had stopped following it.
He told me it was time to go back to it in earnest.
What is a Rule of Life?
The CS Lewis Institute explains:
“A Rule establishes a rhythm for life in which is helpful for being formed by the Spirit, a rhythm that reflects a love for God and respect for how He has made us.”
We usually associate a rule with a religious order such as the Benedictines or Carmelites. Within the walls of their monasteries you will not find random days lacking defined purpose. Instead, you find bells ringing at specific times, dictating the rhythm of their work, prayer, and recreations to fulfill the work God has assigned them.
Will the rule of a mother be as exact as a religious? Of course not. The ever changing and pressing needs of our children give far more variables to a day than a nun or monk encounters in their vocation.
There is still so much that we can mirror, however, in how they regard their vocation with such pride and dignity, and their desire to order their days towards the duties God has given them.
Every Dollar… Every Hour
Dave Ramsay has a budgeting program called Every Dollar – he knows if you don’t tell every dollar where to go in a budget… you’ll likely find them slipping through your fingers.
Time is the same way. If you don’t give your hours a general assignment… they’re likely to slip through your fingers too!
Just as a financial budget let’s your brain rest a little because the outline of spending is made, budgeting your day saves you so much brain power. Instead of seeing so much to be done, being overwhelmed, and bouncing from task to task haphazardly, you can have days with purposeful, known plans of action that help you physically and spiritually.
Much like when you follow a budget you feel like you get a raise because of the extra money that usually appears when random impulse purchases stop, so too you will likely find a little extra time you didn’t know you had in your day when you are following are allocating your hours each day.
Where to Start
I developed my rule of life and daily routine based off of two main sources:
A mix of the book A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot (find it here on Amazon), and this daily block schedule video found here from Jordan Page.
The book encourages a mother to take her duties as seriously as a religious would – not going through all our days skating by until dad gets home, not approaching our days without a plan and haphazardly letting everything happen as it may, but instead knowing our physical and spiritual needs and trying to arrange our day to meet them as best as possible.
The point of Jordan Page’s block schedule is divide our day into blocks of time, much like classroom periods, and only focus on the tasks assigned to each block. We are usually more productive when we have a plan, but we also can’t focus forever on a task. Breaking the day off into blocks helps to guide us into meeting different needs without burning out.
I merged these two ideas into something that works incredibly well for me and my family.
My mother’s rule includes things not on the schedule below – certain goals, spiritual practices, disciplines and more. How often I work out in a week, how often I eat treats, how much I read or pray are all included in my rule. I don’t want to include every last thing because your rule will be personal to you, and going through Holly’s book would be a great way to help you determine your own rule.
(You can however find my prayer routine here).
How I Developed My Rule
Holly’s book includes a focus on an incredibly detailed schedule, which she is often criticized for. Detractors say that it isn’t realistic – but different people work in different ways. That schedule is what worked for her family (and lots of other families too!) As with anything, take what works for you and leave what doesn’t.
I found such an exact schedule doesn’t quite work out for us, but her example provides a lot of information and help for the average day in the life of a Catholic housewife. Then comes Jordan Page’s block schedule video below.
Her blocks are not quite so exacting as Holly’s schedule, but provide a great overall template for the day.
(I personally strike a happy medium between Holly exact schedule, and Jordan’s big 3 hour blocks. I find 1.5 to 2 hour time blocks that are usually perfect for me).
To make my rule I started with Holly’s book.
Even if you aren’t a hyper scheduler like she is, she has so much wisdom and help in discovering what you need in so many aspects of your life, as well as helping with shape your attitude towards our work as mothers. She impresses upon you the real dignity and value of our daily tasks and with what resignation we should accept the sufferings we are called to in it.
I thought of everything that needs to happen in our lives and wrote it all out:
We need to eat meals.
I need to give the girls focused attention for some play time.
I need to pray.
We need to have quiet time.
We need to run errands.
We need play dates with friends.
We need to wash dishes
We need to pray our family’s nightly Rosary.
Then I use Jordan’s block scheduling method to plug everything in to the day. (You can find her template in the video description I linked to).
I also manage my screen time usage within the blocks. (I haven’t been following my screen limits lately and it really hinders our day when I become lax with that. I need to discipline myself with that again).
Some tasks in the blocks will happen every day – we always eat breakfast, wash dishes, pray morning prayer, pack Ethan’s lunch etc.
Some tasks don’t happen daily – we don’t do laundry, play dates, grocery shopping etc. every single day. However, if one of those things needs to happen, I know what block works best for us to plug it in to.
Balancing Work and Liesure
Because I don’t keep an absolute exact schedule, I make sure to work in balance into my blocks. I may enjoy some screen time or reading in between tasks.
I also always sit down with the girls and give them a good 15 to 20 minutes of my undivided attention reading, playing a game, or doing a craft before I go on to a bunch of cleaning, doing laundry, or some other involved task. If I invest some time into them without distraction, they’ll be far more content to give me twice as long doing something else for the home.
The blocks allow for flexibility, too. If the girls run off after breakfast, engaged in some make believe game, I’ll definitely do extra cleaning, blogging, or my online job as long as they are occupied.
On the other hand, if they’re crabby and needing fresh air pronto after we eat, we make some outside time the priority, and then I’ll tackle the cleaning when we come back in.
We still try to get everything done that should be in each block, but the order can be determined by how our day is going.
The most common thing people asked about on social media regarding this post was the chores and housekeeping.
I only have a few set things a week – we grocery shop on Mondays, and I do cloth diaper laundry on Mondays and Fridays. Outside of those tasks, I don’t have set assigned days for chores. I find our laundry basket fills at a different rate depending on how muddy it is outside or how many crafts we’ve been doing. The kitchen may be a nightmare one week with lots of baking and much less messy the next.
Instead, I build in spurts of cleaning throughout the day and tackle whatever areas need attention in that time. (When my routine says a 25 minute clean, I literally set a timer for 25 minutes within that block and work feverishly until the timer goes off. You would be shocked how much you get done with a timer like that!)
If the house is feeling out of control we do a “reset” – this usually happens after illness, a baby’s birth, a vacation etc. We get everything tidied and cleaned in a hard Saturday mornings work, and then go back to maintaining it with small chunks of work every day.
The Rule is There to Serve You
Your rule is there to serve you.
Some people really dig their heels in, much like when you suggest a budget, saying they don’t want restrictions. But in the end, you have to cook and clean and pray and play with your kids anyway. No matter what it’s got to happen in some form, so why not save your brain the stress of constantly reinventing the wheel, and instead give yourself a framework of order?
Is the rule meant to be a dictator over your life? Of course not.
If we are sick we just survive.
If Zelie woke up early and is an exhausted mess by 11 AM, do I force her to stay awake until nap time? Once again, of course not.
The rule is there as a guide. It can be as detailed as works for you, but the point is to serve you.
And it changes. I can see the photo of my routine above needs some changes. It’s been several months since it was written and the girls’ bedtime has gotten later. Our afternoon looks a little different now.
As life changes so will the rule, but that’s okay.
This isn’t a set-in-stone schedule to enslave us, but a freedom giving tool to help us use our time wisely to care for ourselves and our families as best as we can.
(For a more up close look at a day in our lives, see this post here!)