Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Flexible Structure

Welcome to the July edition of the Simply Living Blog Carnival - With Kids cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. This month, we write about keeping things simple with our kids. Please check out the links to posts by our other participants at the end of this post.
One of the most common topics among new parents is schedules. Whether or not to keep one, what they should look like, and when we should start to use them. I remember being asked when my youngest was just 2 weeks old what kind of schedule he was on. Taken aback by the question, I muttered something about how he couldn't tell time yet. Just as we did after our first was born, we've fallen into a fairly regular structured routine while allowing for flexibility, now that the bleary newborn days are behind us.

In my experience in talking to other parents, there is a lot of variation in schedules. There are very rigid schedules which seem to account for every waking moment, there are schedules so loose that they can hardly be called scheduled, and there is everything in between. Our family falls somewhere in the in between. Rather than a rigid schedule, we have more of a consistent flow to our days. While we don't necessarily wake up, eat, play, have nap time, take baths, or go to bed at precisely the same time every day, we have a general order in which we do things, most days.

Our schedule changes from day to day for a variety of reasons. Some days, our children go to our sitter's house. Some days, their Grandmother comes over to watch them, and some times they go to her. Fridays, there father is home with them. We know that most children tend to well when they can anticipate what comes next, but we also know that with children, we must prepare for and being willing to accept the unexpected. So while we see the value in routine and keeping things consistent as possible, we also have the necessity for some built in flexibility.

Where on earth is the simplicity in that, you ask?

By having a flexible but consistent routine, we allow some wiggle room in our days for when things don't go exactly according to plan. We generally keep the first hour or so of the day leisurely as we make and eat breakfast and get dressed and ready for the day. Then depending on the day, the next 1-2 hours is for free play, an outing, or a play date. The hour or so after that is spent preparing and eating lunch if Grandma is coming over, or getting everything ready to go if we're going to the sitter's. The hour or so between when my husband and I get home from work is play time with daddy, during which he usually washes dishes and gets dinner started. When I arrive home, we eat dinner. After dinner, if it's a bath day, that comes next, and if not, more play time, which usually involves music or a family walk. I often do some light cleaning or some blogging before joining in the evening play time. After the kids go to bed, we take care of any other housework that needs tending to, and prep for the next day (I pack the diaper bag and make sure I have all my pump parts clean and ready to go, he gets the coffee maker ready and organizes what he needs for work.) To help keep track of which end is up on a given day, we have a large marker board calendar hanging in our kitchen so I know whether and where to drop the kids off, and my husband knows whether and where to pick them up.

By not planning everything to the minute, we are able to go with the flow and roll with the changes as they come up. If the baby sleeps late or needs an extra nap, it doesn't throw off our whole day. If we have errands to run or housework or yard work to do, we work it into a play time. We can accept invitations for play dates, parties, or plan extra outings while leaving enough time on either side to transition to and from the activities. When we travel, we work to maintain the same consistency while allowing flexibility with times.

Our method isn't perfect, and we tweak it as we go, but maintaining flexible structure in our daily lives helps keeps them simple and less stressful!

Thank you for visiting the Simply Living Blog Carnival cohosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children, Laura at Authentic Parenting, Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, and Joella at Fine and Fair. Read about how others are incorporating simple living and parenthood. We hope you will join us next month when we discuss celebrations!    


  1. We do something similarly. I call it our "pattern." Our family's pattern changes a bit, based on what we are doing and such, but generally in a given period, I can somewhat rely on the fact that my children will probably wake around a certain time or get tired around a certain time. We are in a transition phase right now, as I am noticing us stay up later and sleep in later, but the pattern is there in some format. Thanks for joining us!

  2. Our routine/rhythm whatever you want to call it is based around particular days of the week when we always do the same things, we have three of those. The other four days we have flexibility and I make sure at least one is based mostly at home as my eldest needs that to recharge. My children are old enough now that we talk at bedtime about what we have done that day and what we are going to do the next day so they know what to expect and do when they get up.

  3. We have done each of these types of schedules! When my oldest was a baby, we had no real routine. When she got a smidge older, we realized that she did best with a very exacting routine. For example, she was very happy playing but at 11:30, she would start freaking out all at once. She needed to be eating a snack or lunch AT 11:30 daily, whether she gave any warning at all, or not. She finally outgrew her rigidity and we were able to adopt a more go with the flow routine. I've always tried to keep a basic structure to our days ever since, because I realized how valuable it is to the whole family.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Ha ha — your response that your baby didn't know how to tell time yet is hilarious.

    I like your type of routine. It sounds like it gives the kids expectations and structure without being rigid. We're in a new sort of rhythm that's similar and it's working well for us so far. We tend to be very loosey-goosey but are doing pretty well with having a little more structure.

  5. You know, I thought that I had to have my babies on a schedule. EASY--as pie, right? If you couldn't do that, then there must be something wrong with you....
    joke was on me.
    Turns out, if you are crap at schedules before having a baby, you won't automatically turn into Super Scheduler after having two!

    Flexibility DEFINITELY works for us, and I think it is the best tool for new parents. Thanks for the reminder and examples!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...