One of the hardest parts of being a stay-at-home parent is finding some sort of routine, or rhythm, in your day. Without one, your days seem to run together and personally, I'm not nearly as productive as I'd like to be. My kids also thrive on predictability and the number of meltdowns I have to deal with are kept at a minimum if there is no question about what is coming up next. Unfortunately, when you have young children, your rhythms don't always stay steady. Different developmental phases often mean tweaks and improvements to your daily routine and it's very easy to get off-track. THAT is where I find myself now. I think Christmas and cold weather are partly to blame, but lately, it seems as though my entire day is spent trying to tackle just one or two things on my to-do list while trying to find something for my kids to do that doesn't involve electronics. So, here I am. Feeling like I'm starting all over with this rhythm thing. Where do I begin?
What HAS to be done?
Going to the gym is pretty important to me (I try to shoot for twice a week). Laundry and dishes have to be done. My kids will need to be bathed twice a week (or maybe just once is a good goal...). And at some point, I'm going to have to clean the bio-hazard that is my bathroom. Some things - no matter how much I don't want to do them - have to be done. I can't just say that they'll get done when I have time because time is really limited. I have to plan for it. I know some women who do certain chores on certain days, a.k.a. "Tuesday is laundry day," but I don't think that will work for me. Anytime I put myself into a box, the box always falls apart.
What would benefit my kids?
When I think about this, it's easy to get anxious and frustrated with feelings of mommy-inadequacy. There is never a short supply of exemplary mothers who home-school, craft, travel, bake, run home-based businesses, and birth 3 kids at a time with ease. It's easy to feel like I'm not doing enough. I need to take time to think about what I want for my kids and how to make that happen. I want my kids to have a simple childhood and develop a love of learning. If I can home-school with a curriculum and materials, that's great. But if all I can manage is a craft every couple of weeks and a rare trip to the library, that's fine too. I need to just really sit back and evaluate what things will be most beneficial to my kids and how to go about making them work. January is going to be my month to try and figure some of this out.
What would benefit me?
Finally, I also want to pay some homage to who I am by thinking about what kinds of things will benefit me. Since my husband and I became parents, we always have a horrible time answering someone's question when they ask what our hobbies are. My husband recently said that he wants to start playing piano again. I got a sewing machine last Christmas that hasn't gotten nearly enough use. I LOVE organizing and finding ways to live on less and live more simply. If I focus all of my attention on my family, I burn out really. I've got to make sure that when I plan our days, I include some "me" time as well.
There is a LOT of inspiration online about creating routines and one of my goals for January is to really make an effort to figure out what kind of routine works best for my family. Most importantly, I want to make sure that I really pay attention to the needs of myself and my family. Just because some super-mom's routine works great for her, that doesn't mean that will work great for us too. It says nothing about me as a mother or my family, but simply reiterates the fact that everyone is different. Let's hope this gives 2012 a good start.