As you can imagine, our house has been in utter chaos for months. It is a lot of work to manage all that is on my plate. I found myself feeling frustrated that I can never seem to get ahead. There is always a massive pile of laundry, dirty dishes on the counter, a pile of diapers to put away, toys ALL over the living room floor (and other odd places), and well, you get the picture. To add to the chaos, B-Bear has been going through a really difficult stage, needing extra attention, and has been expressing his own frustrations in not so pleasant ways.
A few weeks ago, I was worn down, defeated, and panicked that I was failing miserably at motherhood and creating a pleasant environment for our family. In an effort to save my sanity, I ordered a few highly recommended books from Amazon and started reading.
The first was “Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids“. This book is absolutely amazing, and I swear to you has changed our life. I was drawn to it, thinking “Simple. This is what we need. Yes yes yes!!”, and as I read it, I found myself repeating that thought over and over.”
The book is full of ways to simplify your life, including making changes to your environment, and filtering out the adult world, both of which I would love to get into at a later time. The part that really helped us was chapter 4, Rhythm.
I’m not talking about running a tightly scheduled household, where dinner must be eaten at 5pm on the dot, every single night. What we have done is established a certain order to our day, that is consistent from one day to the next. As Payne says in the above mentioned book, “Rhythms establish a foundation of cooperation and connection.” You’ve got that right Mr. Payne!
I spent a few days off of the computer and off the phone. I concentrated on watching our habits and establishing a daily rhythm that would work well for us. The first few days was a bit tough, but it has paid off in a huge way. With predictability and some simplification, I have noticed huge differences in both B-Bear and myself. B knows what is coming next. He is more cooperative throughout the day, seems to feel more included with daily household activities, and is also more respectful of my authority. He is truly a happier toddler.
I am now significantly less stressed out and have found myself laughing more. I have been able to lighted up and un-tense. I feel like a totally new person. Having certain times during the day for housework has really helped me to make use of my time. I used to feel that I was constantly running around all day, trying (and failing) to accomplish a never ending list of chores. Dinner was always late, and it seemed that no matter how hard I worked, I was always getting farther behind. This life style is no more! I can’t explain in words how much better things are now in the OnceUponaBaby house. In addition to less stress and more order, I am a calmer and more attentive mother.
And now ladies and gentlemen, this is the rhythm that has done wonders for us. Such a simple thing, but such a dramatic difference. Keep in mind that none of this happens at a certain time, or goes by the clock. It isn’t a schedule, just the same routine every day. I don’t include things like diaper changes or nursing sessions in this, as they happen whenever they need to happen.
Prepare for the day (shower, take B potty, change diapers, brush teeth, get everyone dressed)
Chore Time: This usually lasts around 45 minutes. The babies play together on the floor while B and I do chores. B loves helping with things like throwing laundry into the washer, splashing in the sink while I wash dishes, putting all of his blocks in a basket, putting his undies in his drawer, etc. (On Thursdays, we spend chore time running errands around town)
Outside Time: At this time the babies are getting very sleepy and they go down for a nap. Once they are happily snoozing away, B and I go outside. This happens rain or shine. I feel that toddlers need to play in the dirt and mud, pick up sticks, dig holes, find ripe tomatoes on the vine, throw grass into the air, find bugs and chase butterflies…and yes, every single day. He looks forward to this and we had so much fun during outside time. (the dog appreciates it too) Outside time normally lasts around an hour, sometimes longer.
Lunch Time: As I prepare lunch, B works on a quiet activity at the table. (ex: coloring, color sorting toadstools, lacing beads)
Story Time: B picks 3 stories and we read them together
Nap Time: by this time the babies are up, have fed and will usually nap again in the afternoon
Mamas Time: As the boys nap I either work on sewing diapers, housework, or RELAX (I’m surprised that I even have that word in my vocabulary)
Afternoon Snack: I try to have a snack ready for B when he wakes. By this time it is normally around 3pm.
Project: B and I work on a tot-school type project together. Examples from this week are apple printing, making granola bars, setting up our nature table, and finger painting.
Dinner prep: I set the babies up with a finger food snack in their highchairs, give B a fun activity (sensory tub for example) and start dinner.
Dinner Time: Daddy is home by now and we all sit at the table and enjoy dinner together. No one gets down until we are all finished and we discuss our days. B loves telling his daddy about his project, or things like the school bus that drove by our house.
Clean-up: Immediately following dinner, we clean up any mess associated with it. Mama, Daddy, and B do this together. This really helps mama out and has reduced her work load.
Family Time: From the moment that dinner is cleaned up until it is time to start getting the boys ready for bed, we enjoy family time. We spend this time doing things like playing with train tracks and blocks, or dancing around the living room and singing “Here we go loop-di-loo” with various noise makers (even the babies love that one). There is no TV during family time.
Bed Time: Tooth brushing, jammies on, bath time (if need be), reading a story, and tucking them in.
After the boys are in bed, the hubs and I either spend time together or work on whatever is left to be done around the house. Sometimes I will cut fabric or sew and he will browse blogs that he loves. Then, we go to bed. Easy peasy…and so simple, right?
If you feel that you would benefit from a little more rhythm in your home, I highly recommend Simplicity Parenting. A couple of other great books are Seven Times the Sun and Beyond the Rainbow Bridge.