Creating Realistic Routines for Your Family

The following is by editor Kara Fleck.

All this month we’ve been discussing rhythm and routines here at Simple Kids. Creating a family routine from scratch, adding new elements to an established routine, or altering schedules when life situations change can be a bit intimidating for some of us.

As I hope the  contributors and I have stressed so far, there are very few universal factors when creating family rhythm and routines.  We are each unique and our families are unique.

Our needs are not all the same and our circumstances are not all the same.  What is one person’s simple solution might be another one’s complication.

When it comes to creating family routines, the best advice I can give you can be summed up like this:  be realistic, make them personal, and be yourself.

Personalized for Your Family

Many of my own early attempts at creating routines for my family were doomed from the beginning.  This was because I was trying to copy the beautiful weekly and daily routines on the blogs I was reading and of other families that I knew.

Instead of picking and choosing from their examples what would be the best fit for myself and my family, I wanted to do it ALL.

I believe my intentions were good:  I wanted the best for my family and if something appeared to be enriching another family, then I wanted my family to have that enrichment, too.

I set myself up for failure because I trying to meet the needs of my family PLUS do all of those things I saw other families doing.

It was very frustrating when what I saw working so “perfectly” in other families didn’t seem to work with mine.  I thought I was doing something wrong because the things I saw enriching others were actually exhausting to me.

The truth is, the only thing I was doing wrong was that I wasn’t being realistic about what my family needed. Has anyone else ever found themselves in that situation?  I bet many of you have, especially as new parents.

It wasn’t long before those early plans were abandoned.  I quickly figured out that an hour by hour schedule wasn’t going to work for me.  Like trying to fit the proverbial square peg into a round hole, it doesn’t fit with my temperament and therefore trying to follow that schedule was causing me stress.

And, in turn, my stress was causing my family stress.

Find What Works for You

Some families’ days are more structured and some are more free-form.  Both types of rhythms and routines can provide value to the families who count on them and find comfort in their familiarity.

An hour by hour routine may not work for my family, but for many families it works very well. Do what is right for your family.

As I’ve gained more experience as a parent, and as my children have gotten older, I’ve found myself in the position where sometimes other parents ask me how I “do it all” or “fit everything in” to our lives. When people say those kinds of things to me I want to laugh because I never thought I’d be the mom who appeared to have things together.

Saying “No” and Saying “Yes”

Now, I’m not naive.  I know I don’t really have it all together.  I realize that there are things that I say “yes” to that others would not consider.  And, I also know that we say “no” to things that work very well for other families.  I do think that today I am better able to discern what is best for my family than I used to be.

There have been seasons of life where what used to be a “yes” for us needs to become a “no” (and vice-versa).

We all have our bad days (weeks?) and there are times when life gets complicated.  That can be overwhelming. Downright difficult, even.  Those are the times when I have learned to take a step back and re-evaluate.

Accepting that life gets messy has meant I’ve had to change my overall goal from perfection to peace.

I try to be mindful of what is realistic for my family.  Sometimes that means saying “no” to things and sometimes that means saying “yes” to things that others wouldn’t dream of.

Our current daily and weekly rhythms are a result of years of flexibility, trial and error, and learning over time to apply to our routine only what makes things simpler for the Fleck family – not anyone else.

Be Realistic

It is a good thing to have an idea in mind of where you would like to be eventually, to set goals, but the routine that is going to serve your family the best is the one created based on the way things are for your family at this moment in time.

Do what will work for your family the way things are right now.

This is the time to be realistic about your time constraints, obligations, and also to take into consideration the ages and stages of your children, too. I’m very aware, for example, that things are going to change once the new baby joins our family this August.   Honor the season of life that you are in.

The “Right” Routine

It is important to be realistic and keep your routines personal.  Your family’s rhythm isn’t going to look like any other family’s rhythm.   The only “right” routine is the one which works the best for you for the place where you are today.

When I scaled back and focused on the things that were truly relevant to my family’s life, following a routine became easier. When I accepted that we need regular down time and that some things, no matter how wonderful, just didn’t fit with the place we were in life, it got easier to flow through the days.

I started to gain confidence in my own abilities to choose what was realistic for my family.
That is what I wish for you:  the confidence in yourself to know what is right for your family and the wisdom to let go of the rest.

Have you ever found yourself in an unrealistic routine for your family? How did you adjust? Did you find you had to scale back? Or, were there elements you needed to add in to your rhythms and routines to help them serve you better?

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. Yes, yes, yes!

    That is all :).
    Two Chicks and a Hen´s latest post: Spring Equinox Celebrations

  2. dilly car says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Your honesty and candor helps me realize that although it may seem like every other family has it totally together, it always isn’t what it seems. Your words have given me ‘permission’ to forge our own path, and like you said, not try to cram a square peg in a round hole,. What works for all of my girlfriends does not work for our family, and that’s O.K.! Thank you so very much. You have no idea how much you’ve helped me release my quest for other’s perfection.

  3. Our family has been caught up in unrealistic routines many times. Mainly because I try to copy another family who looks like they are doing it the “right way”. Then I try and it just doesn’t work for our family (ex:hour by hour schedule)I like what you said about doing what is right for your family. So true! Whenever I have to make a decision about extra curricular activities, what movies my children watch, or any major family decisions I always have to remember that phrase. It is very helpful and allows me to turn inward to the needs of my family. Thank you for your words Kara!
    Sara S´s latest post: Cupcakes

    • Thanks, Sara 🙂

      Yes, it took someone else pointing out to me, a long time ago, how much I actually DO get done during a day or a week. We may not be on an hour by hour schedule, but what we do – our daily rhythms and weekly rhythms – works very well for us.

      And I definitely hear you re: the extra curricular activities, etc.
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Creating Realistic Routines for Your Family

  4. This is so true. We have to realize that every family is in a different place. If you have an infant, your life will be different that someone who has 3 middle and high schoolers. You set yourself up with unrealistic expectations and you will feel a failure when you are not! Find what is realistic and helpful to your family at *this* season in your lives.
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: WAHM- The Struggle with the Juggle

  5. I’ve been thinking about family routines a lot lately (partly due to your great series) and then, when I was in my yoga class last night, I saw the following:

    Through repetition, the magic will be forced to rise. – Alchemist precept

    Isn’t that just a perfect approach to family routines? The patterns that repeat themselves everyday, every month and every year, allow the magic between us to appear.
    Francesca´s latest post: Can the use of consequences be positive discipline

  6. I love this! I think the line about “now that my children are older” is really important. Lately I have been getting so many compliments about how clean our house is, how much time I spend with my kids doing crafts and learning activities, and about handling a very part-time job along with full-time single parenting (merchant marine husband). I appreciate the compliments but really the difference is my kids are 3 and 5. When they were babies with severe colic, I was lucky if I got dressed and my kitchen floor was never clean. I’m expecting once again and I fully expect my “routine” to go flying out the window once the new one is here.

    • Yes, things change. Children grow, life changes. And, things look very different at our house than even say, a few years ago when I had a newborn and a one year old! The different seasons of our lives have different outward (and inward) appearances.

      I’m thankful that I have more confidence now, but each age is still a new time of learning and adjusting as our family grows and changes.

      (and my kitchen floors still aren’t very clean! LOL)
      Kara @SimpleKids´s latest post: Creating Realistic Routines for Your Family

  7. My youngest will be 2 in June- so I am cautiously optimistic that our routines will improve
    priest’s wife´s latest post: Choose Your Own Excuse

  8. So true. I find myself constantly tweaking routines and schedules based on what the kids need. Sometimes its stickers in the morning {for dry beds}, sometimes its an early bedtime {and fewer books to read}. The point is to do what works. Happy Mommy = Happy Family.

  9. Great article! I needed to be reminded of these points right now. I take on too much, or want to schedule too many activities for our family and we get into this busy, stressful time. For us, being realistic is key. My kids love, love, love staying home and just playing on the weekends. They’d rather not even get dressed. My husband and I are the opposite – we want to get out and have fun doing. So, we have to find balance.
    Gina´s latest post: Last Weeks Highlights

  10. This was so timely for me. I realized this week that the little “schedules” we have, (thats what we call our routines) actually do work! I really am not the “worst” at this. I had the same epiphany this week, at their bedtime I want peace, not necessarily perfection and I’ve had it for a while but was too blind to notice.


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