3 Easy Ways to Break Out of Routine


The pattern of raising young children is just plain repetitive. From newborn on, our days are ushered in by regular alarms–cries or beeps or {shudder} both–and are escorted out with a bedtime routine that leaves most parents I know trembling with shock and fatigue. Between each of these daily milestones exists a plethora of smaller repetitions. Do you feel like you just did ten loads of laundry? Screeched at little Mary to “getinthecar we’re laaaaate!” Scrubbed an indecently large volume of watermelon-scented toothpaste from the sink? Implored darling Joey to relocate his Lego creations anywhere but the bottom step?

That’s because you did. Yesterday. And the day before. Or was it the day before that?

Laundry pile
The self-sustaining pile of laundry.

You know the years are passing by, but you’re not so sure about the days.

Details of one 24-hour cycle dissolve into minutiae of the next until they’re all one big indistinguishable blob on the calendar. But you’re probably thinking that children need routine, right? Kids need structure. Their miraculous, rapidly growing brains depend on it. I’m totally for that. If there was a bumper sticker that said “I <3 beautiful brain development” it’d be on my car. But you know what else I wholeheartedly support? Mama’s sanity.

And Mama needs some spontaneity.

Pre-kid young adulthood is pretty much built on spontaneity. Moving to a new city! Eating out! Road trips! The pace of  change during that period is exciting. Exhilarating. Dizzying. And a little too fast for my now 38-year-old self. But capturing just a fragment of that does wonders for the psyche. Research shows that spontaneity is closely related to creativity and happiness. I bring this up now because it’s March in Vermont. If routine isn’t about to do you in at this point, then you must not be caught in the rotating on/off/on/off of boots, snow pants, mittens, scarves, winter coats, and hats.

hats and gloves
Hats and gloves. On. Off. On. Off


Now is the time to mix it up a little bit.

Here are some ridiculously easy ways to snap your brain into a different dimension, even if just momentarily.

  • Break up someone else’s routine. A few weeks ago I made a stop into MLC Bakeshop in Winooski and was treated to a gratis cinnamon roll thanks to a random act of kindness by a previous patron. I left the shop with an ear-to-ear grin and a new outlook on my day. Imagine the spark in the pastry altruist’s day knowing she had done that for five people.
  • Take a detour. Literally.  You might be surprised at what you find when you take the road less traveled. I tend to collect bakeries (not actual bakeries–knowledge of bakeries) and will often take a new route with my kids to see if we can find a sugary hotspot. I’ve discovered the Red Hen Baking Co. in Middlesex and Pourhouse Pies‘ in Underhill, among others. Nothing turns a day around like surprising my kids with a sparkly cupcake or chocolate croissant before dinner.

Lest you think baked goods are the only way to break routine, here’s another idea:

  • Letter-a-day. This one takes some pre-planning, but it’s worth it. Choose a time period–a month, a few weeks, a few days, whatever–and plan one small, out-of-the-ordinary activity each day. Write it down and seal it into an envelope. Keep the envelopes somewhere visible so the family is reminded that something special awaits them each day. The activities don’t need to be major events. For example, I did this in December with my kids and included ice marbles. They had a blast… especially when I got sprayed with water.

We all do the routine, but finding small diversions along the way means living life while we’re doing it.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here