This week I’m talking about keeping our sanity and our smiles by creating family friendly routines. This is easier said than done in the face of play groups, extra curricular activities, sports, clubs, family events, church, school, and all of the other things that can be competing for a family’s squares on the calendar.
I am a mama who likes to have a general rhythm to her week and her days, as I believe it helps both myself and the kids to have anchor points. Planned activities break up the potential tedium of life with small children with something fun and it allows me to go on “auto pilot” each week. However, even a routine planned out with the best of intentions can cause problems if it is too rigid.
One of the key things I’ve learned about family rhythm and routines is to stay flexible and allow yourself to make changes if things aren’t working. This one is tough for me sometimes because I can get so mentally married to my pretty schedule and color coded system that it is hard to let go of it, even when part (or all) of it just isn’t working.
Perhaps the day of the week you chose for crafting with your kids is creating stressful afternoons because there isn’t enough time to devote to a project between nap time and dinner preparations (not that I’ve totally made that mistake or anything). Or maybe you’ve discovered that your regular library day coincides with preschool story time and the kid section is packed, which is a completely overwhelming situation for your toddler.
By staying flexible you can play around with your schedule until you find a day and a time that are a better fit. Or, you might even find that dropping the activity altogether is the best thing for everyone. It doesn’t mean you are saying no to that forever, it just means that right now you’re letting it go.
Be willing to make changes as your family changes. Family life exists in a fluid state: children grow, situations change, life happens. My life, and I’m going to guess yours, looks very different than it did five years ago, two years ago, even six months ago.
Being willing to re-evaluate from time to time gives you the freedom to create a routine that meets the needs of your family where you are right now. After-all, a routine is only a useful tool if it is helping you, not causing you more stress. The purpose of routines is to allow your days to run smoother so that your family can enjoy them.
Lower Your Expectations
Yes, you read that correctly. I said to lower them. You don’t have to do it all and please don’t try, it is a recipe for burn out and unhappiness – for you and your kids.
Remember our good friend the 80/20 rule and let some things go when life is overwhelming you. Hit that vital 20%, the essentials, and let the rest go until life is more sane. (Dear Kara, go back and read that last sentence again. Thank you.)
And don’t be such a slave to your schedule that you can’t ignore it once in a while. Sometimes you just need to play hooky, even from a schedule you made. I know that homeschoolers will know what I’m talking about here, but I think it applies to more than just that group of families. It is important from time to time to let go of your perfect plans so you can take advantage of perfect opportunities that come up.
I think one of the gifts of parenting is that sometimes my kids figuratively pry my schedule right out of my hands and more often than not the rabbit trail they follow ends up being better than my original plans anyway. That can go visa versa, too. I like to think that I’ve passed on to my kids the value of a good pajama day and hope one day they will pass that tradition on to their kids.
If no one is feeling family art night one week, blow it off and go get ice cream instead. Heck, maybe family art night isn’t even a good fit for you and you need to let that idea go and who cares if that’s what the lady from Simple Kids does, because this is about YOU and what fits YOUR family best, right?
Lets say one of the things you want to add to your routine is to start serving your family a warm breakfast every morning. Don’t overwhelm yourself by attempting a different menu every morning of the week or by preparing complex, time-consuming recipes you’ve never tried before (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience here. Ahem). Seek out something simple and tried-and-true that you already know how to make well.
Or maybe your simple goal needs to be that this week you and the kids pick out their outfits the night before or you add in the habit of going through backpacks as soon as they get home from school (vs. fanatically as the bus is pulling up the next morning). Pick a small, easy change to get you started.
I think you’ll find that a little rhythm and a basic routine can go a long way toward simpler days, especially if you remember to stay flexible and take it easy on yourself as the captain steering the ship (or piloting the mini-van, as the case may be).