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!
- Two Tactics for Simplifying with Twins - Organization doesn't come easily to Mercedes at Project Procrastinot, but here she shares what works for her.
- Balancing - Keeping a work life balance with children is really hard, in her post Balancing, sustainablemum explains how she found her balance after her children were born and how this is about to change again.
- Simplifying With a Baby - Kellie at Our Mindful Life is amused at the differences in what her first baby needed and what her fourth baby needs.
- How we simplify our family life - Lauren at Hobo Mama describes the unconventional ways her family keeps things loose and low-key.
- Flexible Structure - Joella at Fine and Fair shares how her family works to allow for flexibility in their routine to help keep things simple.
- Helping Kids Simplify- At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how she helps her kids keep things simple.