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.
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?