Family Rhythm and Atmosphere
I've written how you can bring a schedule to your family's days. There's more to a nourishing family life than just a strict schedule, however. Having your schedule to be an actual rhythm that flows through the day is what helps you carry your home.
I say “carry your home” because it really is the mother who sets the tone for the home. You've probably heard the saying “if mama isn't happy, nobody is happy.” And it's true. If you're feeling stressed out the children will reflect that too (your husband probably will too, if he's around) The atmosphere in a home is largely set by the mother. A good rhythm will help you create a warm home.
You work rhythm into your routine. With small children it can be pretty easy. As you do your work sing or hum. Learn songs related to the work you're doing – baking songs, washing songs, etc. Most cultures have songs that have traditionally gone along with household tasks and you can find folk artists who have recorded them.
Pick a song or a nursery rhyme or verse that signals it's time to change activities. When it's time to clean up toys and get ready for lunch, a simple song about cleaning up toys can help a young child make what might otherwise be a hard transition. Songs about working together and doing chores can help make the housework go more quickly and cheerfully – and cheerfulness is something you want to instill in your children!
You may already have a bedtime routine that involves story and singing – that's a great example of giving a living, breathing rhythm to a routine. You don't just set the child in bed and turn out the light. The child knows there's a transition period where he is having a bath, reading a story, and listening to you sing a song before the light is turned out.
In my home singing while cooking is pretty much a given. It helps me as I move back and forth across the kitchen. It also helps save my sanity because I can work and sing and not have to answer the five-hundred-million questions I get asked every time I set foot in the kitchen!
Atmosphere and Nurturing
Some families open every meal with a verse of thanksgiving or blessing and this is a nice hint of rhythm to start the family meal. Other mealtime ideas include lighting a candle, setting out pretty cloth napkins, or arranging fresh flowers or produce as a seasonal centerpiece. I've read of one mother that set the breakfast table before she went to bed every night so she could wake to have the table ready for her each morning – it was something she did to give herself a little nurturing.
There may be small things you do to build the rhythm and atmosphere of your home – have everyone make beds in the mornings so the rooms have a more peaceful feel to them. I'm not doing great at this one right now – but usually I do try and make sure that my bed is made because I know Scott enjoys it. I also get his things set on his bedside table because it's a small way I can show him that I care about him – and that I'm thinking of him during the day while he's at work.
Bringing a routine and schedule to your family is vital to helping your family function and getting the things you want to get done actually done. But bringing life into your home is something completely different – and relatively simple. Sing (even if you think you can't – your kids don't care), mark transitions with a song or verse, light candles, dance while you sweep the floor – anything you can think of. It goes a long way towards bringing routine and rhythm to your children – and it brings warmth to your home life and joy to yourself.
These are just some brief ideas on creating rhythm and a nurturing atmosphere in your home (for your family and for yourself!) I may go into more detail, or if you have questions just ask in the comments. And yes, there are days when I get frazzled just like you – and my home doesn't seem quite so peaceful as I like to write about. But singing really helps those days too :p