When I became a mom fourteen years ago the book Baby Wise was a popular sleep training book in many new mom circles. These days there are many more sleep training gurus and methods (and I really think you have to go with your mother’s instinct on these things!) but there is a principle in that book that has applied well beyond the infant years and that is the idea of a flexible routine.
In the baby phase that means prioritizing essential things like eating and sleeping, and everything else in the day working around those two things. Of course, there are days when you get off your routine because of illness or just life, but the next day you get right back on it.
Today our routine means prioritizing and protecting essential things like breakfasts and dinners together, Sunday church always followed by a big brunch. On school days it means coming home, having a snack (sometimes a treat!), talking with mom and then doing homework. Work before play, we say.
We’ve had at least one child napping for the past fourteen years so quiet time is also part of our routine at home. Children go to their room, read a book, play quietly. And parents have a bit of peace.
I find that having a family rhythm – whatever that looks like – gives both structure and comfort, two things that children crave. Our children know what to expect and what is expected of them. But our routine is not so strict that it throws them off if we get off our routine. Like Baby Wise, our routine is flexible and adjusts with the seasons. But we are always going back to it when we can.
Bottom line:Order and routine make for a less stressed out and pleasant home!
Here are some reader questions about routines:
Q: What kind of calendar do you use?
I love a good paper planer but it just isn’t realistic for me as a mom and business owner. Or at least not a wise use of my time to try to keep up with a paper planner when so many work and school things are sent to me through email calendar invites. To be most efficient I use a google calendar and have a calendar for each child.
At the beginning of each school year I add all important dates. I add my husband to relevant things so he’s in the loop, too. Some seasons I am good about meal planning on my google calendar. For to do lists, I use an old-fashioned steno notepad: on the left I have my personal to-do’s and on the right my business.
Tip: Even though I have everything on google calendar I still put up the school calendar or a paper calendar with important dates. Children like to see what’s coming up. Even if they can’t read you can use it as a teaching tool and show them with your finger: “Look, in four days we are going to your grandmother’s house…let’s count: one, two, three, four.”
Q: How do you organize toys, books, clothing constantly?
For me, it’s more of one big “semester” prep that helps me not get so overwhelmed. During summer and Christmas breaks I usually do a big editing of the home. Having fewer things helps me and my children stay more organized. I try to be intentional about what’s in our home. Out with the junky toys and books.
On that note, it’s important to teach children how to tidy up. Show young children how to make their bed, where the toys go, how to tidy up the bathroom. You have to show them again and again but eventually they will get it. In our big family it’s super helpful to have helpful children!
Q: What did your baby schedule’s look like?
I love seeing other people’s schedule so here was a typical weekday for us when my youngest was napping twice a day:
- 5 am-6:30: I work (and get so much done!)
- 6:30-7:30: Make breakfast, help girls get dressed/do hair if they need help, read the Bible
- 7:30-8:00: My husband usually takes them to school just when Louise is waking up
- 8:00-9:00: Feed Louise and play with her while getting ready:).
- 9:00 – 11:00: Louise naps and I usually work
- 12:00: Pick kindergartener up
- 12:00-3:00: Lunch, play, maybe go to park, Louise takes a shorter nap if she has to go with me to do afternoon pickup or longer nap if my housekeeper is there.
- 3:00-6:00: Pick up girls, give them a snack, then they usually get started on their homework. Some days we will have an extracurricular, but we try not to over-schedule too much because I don’t like to be running around after school every afternoon. (But with four children that is hard!) Prepare dinner.
- 6:00: Dinner
- 6:30-7:30: Bath, reading aloud, bedtime. (My oldest stays up later.)
Q: What was the best advice you received about routines for young moms?
When I was a younger mom it was so tempting for me not to do “all the things” because there are so many good things to do (art classes, music, dance, gymnastics, choir, etc.).
But I heeded the advice of respected moms a few years ahead of me. And now I tell moms of young children the same thing: enjoy the unscheduled time you have with your children because it won’t always be this way. Not that you shouldn’t do any activities but just don’t overdo them.
Yes, the days can be long, but once you get into schools and homework and all the activities, you may wish you had savored a bit more the days when you didn’t have much scheduled (or afternoons if you work outside the home) . When you could take leisurely strolls to the playground at 4:30 or head to the zoo or the Arboretum last minute or been able to read together a lot more.
Having plenty of unstructured time not only allowed my children’s imaginations and friendships with each other to blossom, but it provided more opportunities for me to instill to in them good habits, encourage good character and curiosity and really influence them as much I could before they were under the watch of someone else for 8+ hours a day.
Bottom line: I miss those days! I try to give Louise the same types of experiences but things will be a little different for her because she has to go along with her older sister’s schedules.