When the kids begin their summer vacations, every mother’s world is slightly rocked. Yes, we’re happy to have them home. However, the increased demands of running kids to and fro, cleaning up after sandy, muddy, wet bodies constantly moving through the house, and efforts to limit screen time can be a bit overwhelming, especially when combined with mom’s full-time job or work-from-home side hustle! The good news is, the craziness can be contained with a thoughtfully ordered schedule, carefully prioritized and fluidly followed. In fact, a schedule can help moms make the most of their summers. And, when this schedule becomes a “rule of life,” it can make a mom — and a whole family — both happier and holier.
I first became familiar with the “rule of life” concept through Holly Pierlot’s book, A Mother’s Rule of Life. Overwhelmed by the demands of homeschooling and motherhood, Holly began to feel resentful of her husband’s freedoms, and found herself stuck in a spiritual quagmire until she brought order into her days the monastic way. Just as the great founders and foundresses of religious orders have done for centuries, Holly established her priorities and created a firm yet flexible schedule by which she planned her days.
Inspired, I determined my own rule of life based on Holly’s 5 P’s:
- Prayer – developing and strengthening your relationship with God. This is the first priority, from which everything else flows, the firm foundation upon which one builds the rest of their schedule and relationships.
- Person – taking care of yourself! Just like we are told to put on our own oxygen masks first before helping someone else with theirs, we must take care of our own needs – from showering, to working out, to enjoying our favorite recreations – before we can take care of the needs of others.
- Partner – spending time with and cultivating your relationship with your spouse. Just as our marriages were established before children came along, our marriages must come before the children today!
- Parent – loving and caring for our children. Yes, this is the fourth priority — not the first, second, or third. Kids have a way of making themselves come first, and moms have a way of caving. Children are happiest and best-cared for, however, when their mothers are mindful of keeping priorities 1, 2, and 3 ahead of them!
- Profession – doing whatever it is we do to provide for the needs of our families. This includes work inside the home (cleaning, laundry, etc) and outside (making the big bucks).
Holly includes great advice and input in her book, which I can only touch on here. The gist is: keep the first thing first, the second thing second, and so on. Prayerfully determine the things you’re called to do within each priority, and write them down. Then, create a schedule, starting first with the non-negotiables, like your work schedule, running kids to camp/summer school/summer jobs, etc. Next, you determine when you will fulfill the prayer aspect of your rule, next, the person, and so on and so forth.
I’ve done this several times throughout the intervening years, with varying levels of success. Some aspects have lingered (I continue to wake early every morning for spiritual reading and prayer, and to walk the dog each evening (my recreation) while praying the Rosary), while others have wasted away (I’m terrible about getting to bed at a reasonable hour, and struggle to work out as often as I should!) Regardless, I can tell you that the times when I have successfully followed my rule were among the most joy-filled and memorable, and when my house was cleanest and my family best attended to!
Hence, my goal is always to get back into a rule. The trouble is, the demands of life are frequently changing, and summer is even more fluid than the rest of the year! Still, as I face the next two and half months with a bucket list that’s almost as long as my to-do list, I’ve been feeling more and more like I need to take life back into control!
Enter Fr. Chad Ripperger on a Youtube video I watched last week. Fr. Ripperger shares that a rule of life (AKA a regimen or an horarium) helps us to develop the habits necessary to advance in the spiritual life. The rule of life becomes even more important for those who lead a very busy life (and most of us moms do!), and it is vital to building virtue and to eventually attaining transforming union with God.
“If I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it,” Fr. Ripperger says, “I’ve dedicated my life to spiritual dissipation.”
I certainly don’t want to dedicate my life to spiritual dissipation, nor do I want to provide that example to my kids! Instead, I’d like for us all to be on track toward transforming union with God!
Thus inspired, I’m re-establishing a rule of life. Having learned from past failures, I’m doing these three things differently than I have in the past:
- I’m getting the whole family involved. I’m not the only stakeholder in this rule, so I’m asking the input of each family member, allowing them to weigh in, helping them create their own rules, and publicizing my rule. I’m also making sure they understand that mom’s chauffering capacity is limited (“RIDE YOUR BIKE!”) and that no one is going to drop everything to make last minute plans happen!
- I’m delegating tasks like crazy. There’s no reason kids should be laying around watching TV or playing video games while Mom’s running around like a chicken with her head cut off!
- I’ve got an accountability partner. My friend Tina (whom you might know from our short-lived but possibly-restarting Cenacle Sisters Youtube channel) told me about the Fr. Ripperger video and we’ve decided to do this together. We meet next week to review our schedules and will continue to touch base throughout the summer.
- I’m broadcasting the notion to the world (or at least my little readership here!)
So, what do you say? Would you like to create a rule of life for your summer, as well? If so, please feel free to “broadcast it to the world” here in the comments section. I’ll be sharing my rule on Instagram (follow me here) and you might choose to share yours too. If these rules are going to make us happier and holier, why not share them and encourage others to do the same!
Photo credit: “Summer” by Matteo Angelino
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