Our rhythm as a family has been floundering for a while. We’ve been eating dinner at inconsistent times (sometimes even after Simone goes to bed), and picking up less-than-wholesome meals on the go. When we eat dinner late, Simone misses her bath, and I find myself cooking or cleaning after she’s asleep. Then, trying to make up for “lost time,” I don’t want to go to bed, and I stay up too late reading. Jason and I don’t get enough sleep. And the next day we try to play catch-up and wind up feeling even more behind.
After breakfast one morning last week, I looked around the house and felt completely overwhelmed. There were toys and books and clothes all over the family room. The kitchen counters were littered with dishes, both clean and dirty. There was laundry in the washer and the dryer and in baskets on the floor. The bed was unmade, the curtains were drawn, the litter needed to be scooped.
More than anything I wanted to go back to bed.
Instead, I decided to give Simone a bath. I tried not to hurry, and she played happily with her bath toys while I shampooed her hair. After toweling her off and dressing her, I took a bath myself. We then walked through the house room by room, opening all the curtains and making the bed and generally picking up, and all of a sudden I felt much more capable. It was a nice lesson: do one thing at a time.
Since then I’ve begun to put less stock in my to-do list each day. I still keep a daily to-do list, because I would be lost without one. But I don’t overload it, and I try not to write anything down that I don’t desperately need or want to get done. Anything else can wait. If it’s important, I’ll remember it.
I’ve learned to be open to the changing rhythms of life with a small child. I’m usually not very functional before I’ve showered in the morning, and our routine used to be such that as soon as Simone and I woke up, I showered. After I got out, we’d have breakfast and start our day. But lately, Simone has been a bottomless pit and wakes up starving. So we have breakfast first thing in the morning. Which really means that we eat breakfast and then Simone plays for a couple hours while I blog, clean up the house, etc. before bathing. For a few weeks I didn’t know what to do with myself before I’d properly dressed, and often I just wasted time sitting on the couch. But we gradually fell into the rhythm of Simone playing while I accomplished small household tasks, and it’s working for us. In time, this routine will change as well. And that’s okay.
“Rhythm” and “Schedule” are not interchangeable. Since I became a stay-at-home mom, schedules have only bred frustration for me. Children are rarely predictable, and whenever I wrote down a schedule, I felt like those were the rules—and found myself getting annoyed when they inevitably went out the window. So I’ve settled for gentle structure instead. We eat our meals at the table every day. We clean up after those meals. We play. When Jason gets home, we have a snack. We read picture books on the sofa. After dinner, we give Simone a bath and put her in pajamas and prepare for bedtime. These small habits, continuous from day to day, keep us feeling grounded.
I have also found that doing something fun and out-of-the-ordinary with Simone every day helps break up the routine and keep both of us happy. We love all of these activities as well as going to the park, playing with puzzles on the deck, going to the library, and visiting with my mom.
What are your family’s rhythms? Do you keep a tight schedule, or do you just mosey along like we do, with some basic ?