Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I love our schedule!  Yes, I really do.  I naturally enjoy order and structure, so to me a schedule is a beautiful thing.  However, I'm only now learning how to use a schedule as a tool to serve our family instead of it becoming a slave master that leaves us frazzled and frustrated.

When we had two littles, one and two years old, I ran a pretty tight ship.  Bed time was early.  Dinner time was even earlier.  We had set nap times, set play times, and set times to go for a walk outside.  I thought that I was the master scheduler.  So, when our third child was born I was not expecting the schedule fall-out that we experienced.

I couldn't quite figure it out, but very suddenly nothing was happening according to plan.  I mean, really, couldn't the kids and the new baby just take a moment to read the schedule and be informed as to when they were supposed to do certain things?  How hard is it?

As my expectations were left unmet day after day I began to despair.  And so I decided that maybe when you have a small handful of kids it's important to be flexible.  I got rid of our schedule and started going day by day...then hour by hour...and eventually minute by minute.

This change accomplished much in our household.  For one thing, it added copious amounts of stress to my day.  It also multiplied the number of decisions I had to make - what do I do now?  Should I give the kids a snack?  What's for dinner and when will I cook?  The new flexible routine also gave me a lot of opportunity to practice turning to the Lord in my stressed-out state.  This was actually a good thing, and the minute by minute dependence on Him has become the strength and joy that sustains me every day.  For this I am grateful.

However, I really could have done without two years of frustration, anxiety, and discouragement.  What I hadn't learned was that in order to be flexible I needed to have a regular, dependable routine.  One that didn't change day to day, but rather stayed the same so that I knew what was coming next.  As a side note, the kids also really enjoy knowing what to expect each day.  With a plan in place I could practice true flexibility because, really, you need something to flex in order to be flexible.

About two months ago, I embarked on reinstating a regular daily routine, and it has made a night and day difference in our home.  I am more relaxed and almost never overwhelmed (I do have my moments, but they used to be all day...every day!), and the kids are able to settle in, knowing that every day they follow the same plan.  It's beautiful!

Now, I'm sure this sounds really boring to all of you free-spirited-fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants types.  It really isn't boring at all.  Because I am in charge of the schedule and it's here to serve our family, I can modify it to make room for out of the ordinary things, sickness, grumpy kids, you name it.  And let's be realistic...there are four kids 5 years and under in our house.  Boring does not exist here.

Our days vary even as we follow the same flow of events.  Today we got our school done early and went to the library before lunch.  On Fridays we regularly switch things up so that we have the afternoons off to play at the park with friends.  And the weekends always remain flexible - if we're home we follow the plan.  If we're out or we have company we don't worry about it.

And, as we've been through some rough weeks with colds, stomach bugs, and some pretty intense attitude challenges, I have become increasingly grateful for the schedule.  My tendency when I don't feel well or things get hard with the kiddos is to give in to feeling like I can't do it all and choosing to not do anything.  This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster.  Holding to the schedule on rough days has been God's grace to me and to our children.  It truly has saved us from near catastrophe on more than one occasion.  And it has taught me that even when I feel terrible, I can still accomplish pretty the things that will keep our household running smoothly.

If you don't have a daily schedule, I encourage you to consider making one.  I have been amazed that I have a ton of free time now.  Okay, so that's a wee bit of an exaggeration.  But I actually have free time and that is amazing.  Sure, we still fall behind on things.  The days never go exactly according to the clock.  And sometimes we're pretty far from the plan.  But at least we know where we're headed and that's oh so necessary when there are four small children looking to you to know what's up next...or what's for dinner!

Our current schedule looks like this.

Don't worry, we haven't gotten it perfect, yet.  We are setting some goals for earlier bed times, reinstating naps for the girls, and (for me) getting up a bit earlier than usual.  But we're still working on it.  I like to think of each day as practicing our schedule and routines.  And every day we're a bit more stream-lined...mostly.

And now, if you'll excuse me...rest time is over and we must move on before the girls sleep all the way until dinner.  Now that would do wonders for our bed time routine!  ;)

 So, how do you manage the needs of your family?  Are you with a schedule?  Without a schedule?  Trying to remain flexible and have a plan?  Is what you do now serving your family well?  Or are you a slave to the urgent or to the schedule?

No comments:

Post a Comment