Setting a Schedule – Nitty Gritty Practical
It's important to have goals throughout all of your mothering career. And what I'm going to talk about today is especially important for all stages of motherhood.
I'm going to talk about really writing down you goals and considering how to accomplish them. Often our goals need to be examined and perhaps broken down. Sometimes they need to be set aside for when the kids are older, but sometimes they can be accomplished, it just takes more effort. Always they need to be weighed with your needs and the family needs.
But before you can get down into the goal-setting trenches you need to have time to think. You need time to work on your goals and to start accomplishing them. For that you really need a managed household.
I firmly believe that all mothers need a household that runs smoothly most of the time. There are going to be days when you are sick. When the kids are sick. When you forget to thaw supper. When there are repairmen all over the house and your baby has been screaming for the past 12 hours. And on these days, it might just be good to call it quits, order a pizza and a cheesy chick-flick so you can sit and cry at the movie while your baby bawls in your arms. These days are inevitable.
But most days you want your household to run smoothly. You want order and peace. For that you need a routine.
Like I mentioned above, this may be harder for you if you are pregnant with your first baby or you only have your baby. This is simply because the need doesn't seem so pressing. If it's pregnant you your day may be defined by work, or you may be happy at home reading and getting meals ready. If you have your first baby with you you may find days go by in a blur, but it's ok because it's just you and baby.
When you have more than one child the benefit of a scheduled day is more apparent – your older child needs attention and probably wants to have regular meals! You can immediately see why a scheduled day is beneficial.[box]
A brief aside before I move on in this article – I'm going to talk about setting up a routine that includes your baby. But I want to make it clear that I personally have never scheduled nursings for a baby. I have found that my babies grow best and my milk supply is at its best when my babies nurse on demand. However I have found that after the first few months of rapid growth my babies often naturally begin to nurse at times that work with the schedule – such as just before or after breakfast, while I'm having storytime with the children, during snacktimes, etc.
But if you're going to nurse on demand remember that sometimes nursing will interrupt your schedule. I suggest if you have a young baby who nurses very frequently that you try most of all to A . stick with regular mealtimes for yourself (yes! you need regular meals!) and family, B. be very regular about when you lie down with/rock/nurse your baby for the naptimes you'd like he/she to have, and C. honor the bedtimes of older children and yourself – if baby is wakeful and fussy in the night for a period keep the lights off and comfort baby in the dark (or with a low nightlight if you need it for safety.)[/box]
Ok. And having a scheduled day is going to allow you time to work on your goals, no matter what they are.
So where do you start? Thankfully, this is really, really easy 🙂
Start with wake up times, meal times, and bedtimes. If you don't have a regular bedtime now is a great time to e habit.
Some of this may already be determined. You may be getting up for work or to see your husband off to work, or to get older children off to school or to start a homeschool day. You may get supper ready as soon as you get home or soon after your husband arrives home. If it's already determined that's good, write it down.
If you're rolling out of the bed a few hours after your man leaves for work and stumbling around in your jammies for a bit now is the time to change that habit! Pick a time to wake up in the mornings. Don't make it too early. If you're used to getting up at 10am and you pick 6am that may not work – especially not if you're pregnant! But you can work towards it 😉
Pick regular mealtimes. If you're pregnant or have young children you need regular snack times too. These are the cornerstones of your schedule. If you have a nursing baby you may want to observe your baby's nursing pattern for a couple of days to see if it's at all regular. If it is you can possibly figure out times your baby will need you to be nursing.
Ok, you have your wake-up time, your meal and snack times, and your bed time in there (and also children's bedtimes). Next think of the things you'd like to accomplish in a day. Think of the things you'd like your children to accomplish.
Your baby will probably be happy to spend most of the day riding in a baby carrier as you do your work, or playing nearby you. Some “baby activities” you may want to work on, though, are helping baby nap at regular times and as you move out of the newborn stage encouraging baby to be ok playing/being alone for a 10 minute or so span of time (so you can shower, make a phone call, etc)
If you have older children you may want to teach them to play alone for 30 minutes daily (I have found having special toys for these times to work well), teach them to play for 30 minutes with a sibling, teach them to do an age-appropriate chore, etc.
My children's days are filled with playtime with each other, their age-appropriate chores, helping me around the house, reading stories, doing some songs and fingerplays, and some days we have arts and crafts. They also have free play time and each has a daily half hour of time to play alone.
This is just to give you an idea. Your day will probably have meal preparation and housework in it. Again I encourage you to “share the load” with your children in age-appropriate ways. And let them help you, even if it takes you a little longer. This will ease your mother's “burden” greatly as they get older and become more and more capable of helping.
If you desire time to read, sew, work on the computer, make calls, etc. go ahead and write all that down.
Whew. That's a lot. It's a lot to figure out. Now what do you do with this list? Look it over and decide what you're going to do in the first 2-3 hours of your day. Make breakfast, take a walk, read to the little ones, clean the kitchen, etc. Now take a week or so and just work on that and your meals and bedtimes. That's right – follow your schedule for the first 2-3 hours in the morning and get your meals and bedtime on time (naptimes would be good as well).
You may need to discipline yourself to follow a routine. Your children may need encouragement. If this is the case I greatly encourage you to take the confident stance of “this is the way things are now.” You are the mama, and what you say goes. In the end this is going to give the children a more calm, centered, and attentive mama – and they will be happier and more secure. But if they're not used to any schedule at all it may be tough at first. Just tell them this is the way it is. Singing often helps encourage children, and most will come running when you sit down to read or tell a story. So storytime is probably a good thing to have at the beginning of your day.
As you start to gain self discipline and work with your children you can add to the schedule. Work up to lunchtime and then add the afternoon in. You will have to work at it some. You may realize that your expectations were unrealistic or don't work for some reason. If that's the case, adjust your schedule.
If you have blocks of time in your schedule when you're not sure what to do with yourself – don't worry – I'm going to talk about goal-setting more and you're going to fit some of those goals in!
If you're not sure what to do with your children besides read books and plop them in front of movies I recommend you go to the library tonight and check out books on children activities! You do not need to be “artsy crafty” – just check out a book on simple children's crafts. Check out one on finger games (like “The Eentsy Weentsy Spider”). And check out one of classic children's songs and get some good children's stories. You can plan a craft or two a week. Then sing with them, play finger games (“fingerplays”), and read to them every day. Take walks with them and let them help you cook and clean. Allow them free play time. This is a nourishing day for a young child!
Ok. That's a lot to consider. It's overwhelming at first. Take a week or two to think over and develop a schedule and then work slowly over a few weeks to implement it and tweak it so it works for you. You'll notice a difference in your home. Now that you have time to think, meals are getting cooked, and chores are getting done you can sit down and look at your goals and find time to get them accomplished.